Often times the connectivity for OT systems is done on a one-off basis to meet the needs of the specific OT initiative.
In other words, a custom solution is created for each system or project, however this often results in complex and cumbersome access across a company’s spectrum of OT systems. What if you could easily access and control most or all of your OT systems whether you’re on-site, on the road, or at home?
We have talked to hundreds of companies about their OT environments and we believe most are faced with one or more of these scenarios.
IT may be saying NO to connecting OT to the corporate network! Common scenarios:
1. No OT is allowed on the corporate network! The security for Point of Sale and other customer transactional systems is too high for IT to add all OT on the same corporate network.
2. You have one or more OT systems aready on the corporate IT network, yet your access is limited and remote control or vendor access is limited. If you need more access, the answer is most often no, citing security risks or restriction on remote access.
3. Some OT vendors have provided a proprietary “black box” that’s installed at each site to provide a work-around for remote control, troubleshooting or data collection. The ongoing costs and especially the security of these is often unknown!
4. Modems. Remember them? There are still everywhere. Many vendors used modems for remote access and they can be installed any equipment, like trash compactors, solar arrays, generators, and lighting systems. (ps – remove a couple of these and you can easily pay for an always-on dedicated network!)
So what’s the big deal?
First, more systems require some form of access in order to run them efficiently and sustainably. These already include building controls for heating/cooling/air handling, lighting, solar, electric/gas/water utilities, security cameras, elevators, and fire/safety systems to name a few. As separate access is often developed for each system, it becomes more and more challenging to troubleshoot any problems. Is a server down? Why is the utility bill 2x normal? Do I have to roll a truck to diagnose most issues? When I talk to customers who have been experiencing this for an extended period of time, they are generally pretty frustrated! 😊
Every year, it takes more and more time from overworked OT professionals to troubleshoot issues across this increasing array of OT systems – it would be much easier to simplify access with a low-cost, dedicated OT network where you can have visibility to all your OT systems!
Second, it is confusing for the teams on the ground to manage. Think how much easier it would be for support teams if they could access most or all OT systems from one secure login regardless of the system or vendor? Plus, as an added bonus, you could strictly control who can access each device AND where they can access it from (sorry no overseas cyber-criminals!). When you multiply the reduction of troubleshooting time, even if it is minutes, times the number of people who should be spending time on productive tasks, the cost savings add up quickly!
Third, costs are mounting! As you start to add up the cost of all the separate connection costs in a given building, you would probably be surprised to see how much money you can save with a dedicated OT network. Sometimes the costs are invisible because each modem and the hosting is built into the monthly bills for all those systems. I strongly suspect that if many companies got serious about finding those hidden costs, they could reduce overall costs and afford improved access with all the bells and whistles and support they desire!
Finally, are you ready for the future? Over time the demand for access and the potential business benefits of access will grow. Do you have access to all of your OT data or do you have to purchase YOUR data from many different vendors? New Sustainability imperatives will drive the need for data collection and analytics across systems and vendors; do the various one-off networks prevent you from easily collecting data? Can you switch vendors or add vendors at the speed of business or does the network inhibit future projects?