7 reasons to consider a cloud SCADA system

Many times municipalities find it very difficult to keep up with the maintenance of the equipment required for their operations. In today’s age, this equipment also includes the technology used to monitor and control their process. The technology that I am referring to is the automation platform and SCADA interface (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition). Having said that, plant automation is essential to efficiently operate any water or wastewater treatment system. However, a cloud-based solution can often replace the burden of maintaining the SCADA portion of a system. Let us look at some reasons to consider a cloud SCADA system to enhance or replace your existing SCADA interface.

1. Convenience

If you have no central operations, or are unmanned part of the day, then consider this:

An operator, who is working for a small municipality, has many responsibilities. Often they are the water, wastewater, and streets department. For this reason, they are never in one place for any length of time. In contrast, a mid-sized municipality may have a dedicated operator, but no one is there during the night. For these scenarios, it makes sense to be able to see and control their process from a remote location at any time. A computer at a central location is not optimum, when no one is there to look at it.

The first reason to consider a cloud SCADA solution is convenience. A cloud SCADA solution allows the operator access to this information from anywhere at any time. Additionally, it can be accessed throughout the service area, and during the unmanned part of the day. (see case study…). Cloud SCADA works for these applications because the amount of information an operator needs to manage one of these facilities only requires a few key metrics.

2. Cost savings

Distributing the costs and benefits of a cloud SCADA system amongst many clients

Cloud SCADA solutions are an accepted way of managing and monitoring information throughout the world. They have come a long way in the last 10 years alone. Part of the popularity comes from their ability to leverage the technology over a wide base of users. Not only are the costs of development spread over a large number of users, but the benefits are as well. This allows new features to be released as needed, often at no additional cost. Which gives us the second reason to consider a cloud SCADA solution, cost savings.

3. Ease of use

Clouds solutions require little or no technical knowledge to administer

On premise, SCADA software is expensive to own and maintain for most small to midsize municipalities. The software is complex, which makes it intimidating to internal personnel and owners to work on themselves. For this reason, it requires an outside contractor who understands the software, to implement and maintain. Consequently, some smaller municipalities have abandoned the SCADA after it failed. They have opted not to repair or replace it, feeling it is cheaper for the operators to manually control than to fix the SCADA. They rely on the current staff rather than spending the money on the technology (see case study… ).  

A cloud SCADA solution has a lot of technology development going on all the time, in order to deliver the best possible user experience. Therefore, providers that specialize in these solutions, spend most of their time thinking of ways to improve the user experience. Operators can easily use and understand a cloud based solution. You may ask why that is. The answer is simple; they built it that way. Working with these solutions is intuitive, and we use these interfaces in our personal lives every day. Users are not as intimidated, knowing that they are not going to take down their system with the push of a button. The third reason, to consider a cloud SCADA, is ease of use.

4. Frequent updates at no additional cost

Upgrades for a cloud solution are continuous

Upgrades have become a part of owning a piece of on premise software.  If a client wants, or needs a new feature, they must upgrade to the newest version of software. At minimum, the client knows they must upgrade their current software with every new operating system. This requires not only money for the software itself, but also, money for the expertise to upgrade the software. In many cases, this requires a third party expert to do the project.

With a cloud SCADA solution, updates are continuous, using feedback from clients to develop the product. This, in turn, allows the least technical people to easily understand and administer their information. The best part is that the clients do not have to purchase the updated software to get the enhancements. The ability to roll out new features to the client without a large capital expenditure on the part of the client is a huge advantage over on premise solutions. This brings us to the fourth reason, to consider a cloud SCADA, continuous upgrades at no additional cost.

5. Access to new features

Immediate access to new features help you stay compliant

A cloud SCADA solution allows the client to stay up to date. Client needs are continuously changing, especially when it comes to compliance in the water and wastewater industry. By default, the cloud provider must change as well, to meet the client’s needs. A cloud solution, specializing in your industry, will keep up with the changes in compliance requirements for you. Specifically, you do not have to wait for your on premise software update and the associated cost. As a result, you have more time and money to focus on other critical activities.  Moreover, they do not have to wait for the approval of next year’s budget. Therefore, you can continue to run efficiently through the year with no additional costs. Number five reason, to consider a cloud SCADA, access to new features.

6. Security

Cloud SCADA focuses on security so you don't have to

Most clients have no real understanding of the technology that they are using for remote access or how secure it is.  Often these clients assume that the system is secure because they trust the person who installed it. Unfortunately, the person, who has installed and now maintains their system, may be an expert in plant automation but not cybersecurity, having said that, nothing is 100% secure. This is the same as talking about safety; nothing is ever 100% safe. 

Remote access to your information is becoming more important all the time and so is the cybersecurity associated with it. Security has many more layers than just firewall settings, username, and passwords (see blog…). Many solutions allow clients to access their information remotely and claim to be secure. Security is about vigilance. As a result, it must be constantly maintained and monitored. After implementing an on premise solution, users tend to forget them until there is an issue.

Nothing provides a more secure and reliable experience than a great cloud solution. By the nature of the technology, cyber security comes before all other things. Since the security does not reside on the client side, there is very little that the client is required to do in order to maintain a high level of security. Truly, it is in the hands of experts in cyber security. This is a sixth reason to consider a cloud SCADA, security.

7. Works with existing system

Cloud SCADA Solution adds redundancy

When considering a cloud SCADA, keep in mind, it does not need to be a replacement to an existing on premise solution, the right one can be an enhancement to it as well. There are many cloud applications for an on premise solution that make sense. One of these is when a client wants remote access and some redundancy, if the on premise solution has an issue. In these situations, adding a cloud based component can offer a level of data backup, as well as monitoring and control of key processes, in the unlikely event that the on premise system is unavailable, is being serviced or has an issue. Therefore, the final item on my list of reasons to consider a cloud SCADA is as a backup to an existing system.

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