How to Integrate Cloud-Based SCADA with Existing Systems and Devices
Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems have been standard technology in the industrial sector since the 1960s. Businesses employed this emerging technology to monitor production lines at their facilities. The first generation was a closed system with wired sensors sending data to a central terminal.
Technology has made great strides in the past 60 years, and cabled systems have transformed into wireless systems in most locations. Cloud-based data sharing represents the latest generation of network connectivity. However, connecting older devices to a cloud-based SCADA system can present a challenge.
What is Cloud SCADA?
The design of cloud-based SCADA remains the same. SCADA devices connected to the system send real-time performance information to a central database. The system can carry out automatic control procedures or alert managers about issues depending on the conditions.
In a cloud-based system, the information does not sit in onsite hardware. Instead, the system sends the data to remote servers maintained by a third party. This design makes data and alerts directly available to more employees. For large systems like water utilities, maintenance crews in the field can access information on a remote device.
Integrating Existing Systems and Devices into Web Based SCADA
Modern web-enabled devices integrate easily into a cloud-based system. When connected to the network, they can share information. Those responsible for the SCADA system must ensure that devices transmit data in a format that the whole system can understand. The system design team may sometimes create a database that allows smoother data integration.
Incorporating older technology involves a similar strategy. Data from SCADA devices must be accessible to be useful. Without communication, facilities can end up with two separate networks and siloed data. The SCADA system designers must look at how legacy devices report data and find a way to transfer it to the cloud-based system. Working with legacy hardware may mean a series of periodic data drops instead of real-time updates.
The Benefits of SCADA in the Cloud
Cloud SCADA has the potential to transform operations across industries. Data-driven facilities can respond faster to changing conditions and make more accurate predictions. A cloud-based SCADA system delivers several advantages.
The needs of facilities and systems change over time. A cloud-based SCADA system can incorporate new sensors and other devices as a facility expands. Because data storage happens in the cloud, the facility does need to deal with the challenge of making more room and allowances for onsite servers.
Real-time information allows facilities to respond faster to alerts. They can often identify and address maintenance issues before they cause a service disruption. The cloud-based design also means managers can receive critical information at any time and location.
Reduced Operating Costs
SCADA in the Cloud opens several avenues of cost savings. Reducing the size of onsite IT infrastructure lowers electricity and cooling costs. A data-driven maintenance plan means facilities will have fewer emergencies that involve overtime repair costs. Real-time performance data also leads to more accurate usage and supply predictions for less waste.
Creating a Secure Cloud-Based SCADA Environment
Security is an important consideration when moving to a cloud-based system. Engineers designed older systems based on the technology available, protecting the equipment from outside intrusion. Employees did not need to follow strong protective protocols.
Moving to web based SCADA creates an avenue for an outside attack. However, most successful cyberattacks result from poor security practices rather than a direct hack into the network. The system becomes most vulnerable when employees use weak passwords or fail to log out of a remote device. Some safety precautions to consider include the following:
- Requiring strong passwords
- Two-step verification
- Role-based access
- Basic cyber safety training
Experienced Cloud-Based SCADA Design
A professional design team like High Tide Technologies can provide the integration services necessary for a comprehensive cloud-based system. We have successfully met the SCADA needs of many clients who work with municipal water collection, treatment, and distribution systems. Contact us today to learn more about our cloud-based approach to SCADA technology.