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Modular Process Capabilities

Ask an Engineer: Remote Access to Industrial Equipment

Should I Install Remote Access to my Industrial Equipment?

Question: Should I add remote access to my industrial equipment for my automation provider? They keep telling me it will save me money in the long run but I’m not convinced it’s safe.

A plant operator utilizes remote access to industrial equipmentAnswer from EPIC’s Industrial Automation Engineers:

Remote access solutions do provide a lot of advantages from a cost standpoint, your provider is correct about that, especially if you don’t have your own in-house maintenance or IT staff. Setting up a remote connection can provide your OEM and machine builders access for remote maintenance and troubleshooting services. If you do set up remote management, the company that performed the integration and controls is the best resource for addressing future problems with your network. Remote access allows them to do so, without incurring the costs of travel or shipping. It also means your problem will be addressed much faster – a matter of minutes or hours rather than days. In the long run, you will save a lot of money, especially because it’s relatively inexpensive to install.

The thing that turns people off about remote access is usually security concerns. The concern is that it makes the network vulnerable to access by unauthorized users from the outside. While it’s true that it allows someone to access that control system from outside the network, this access is limited only to the party to which you have given access.  Remote access can also be isolated from the rest of the network. In other words, you can put in stringent security measures that only allow access to that particular control system. In fact, usually, you can completely disable the remote access – unplug it from the wall even – until a problem needs to be addressed. Any reputable automation integrator should be able to set up an industrial IoT (IIoT) network that is both secure and easy to access for whomever you choose to remotely monitor your industrial equipment and process systems.

Ideally, your IT team or provider and the integrator should work together to make sure the remote access doesn’t create any security concerns. In most cases, the time and money invested up-front in installing a secure remote access system are much less than time spent in the future trying to troubleshoot from a distance. You can see costs rise quickly if someone has to take a plane trip and stay overnight to address your problem. We’ve also seen where clients have tried to ship the problem to us, and it took weeks to arrive or couldn’t get through customs. Response time is so much quicker if we can establish a secure remote connection.

To get an answer like this from an EPIC engineer, submit your question here.

For additional reading on remote access, check out these articles:

Cisco Guide To Secure Remote Access

Rockwell Automation: Remote Access

EPIC Industrial Automation Design

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