Electrical utilities, stretched between requests for higher quality and lower costs are operating their assets at or close to their ratings, very often beyond their design life and with minimum maintenance. Keeping grid reliability at reasonable levels in these conditions is indeed a technical challenge, that can be won getting the most comprehensive information about assets that are of critical importance for the grid. This information, provided by global monitoring systems, once suitably processed, should be able to highlight which assets are in critical conditions and need actions to restore their reliability. Furthermore, it should be able to identify particular conditions of the network causing accelerated degradation problems as, e.g., harmonic resonances and voltage dips. Eventually, this information should be available in SCADA centres to allow, e.g., load flow and voltage regulation to be optimized, so as to minimize the stress applied to apparatus in critical conditions. These concepts fall into the Smart Grid approach, as it is elucidated first. Then, examples of global monitoring tool application are presented and discussed.