Why remote maintenance for your plants is worthwhile

Remote access to systems was relevant for companies long before the coronavirus pandemic. And as equipment is increasingly connected and security requirements grow, remote maintenance for IoT devices is becoming a more interesting option for equipment operators. After all, using software and hardware to provide access to external technicians outside the location of business is an essential step in the journey to Industry 4.0.  

We can distinguish between two different remote maintenance business models. The first is the more common approach to date: When a problem occurs, a notification is sent to a technician who links into the system remotely. This procedure is quite similar to an on-site maintenance, minus the technician’s travel. In the second and more modern approach, connected systems are continuously (automatically) monitored and any problems are automatically reported to the service provider, who immediately develops and implements a solution.

Increasing system interlinking may seem difficult. But we believe taking this step is worth the effort – because remote maintenance both improves cybersecurity and brings economic advantages.

One way that remote maintenance can boost cybersecurity throughout your company’s system landscape is by enabling ad hoc responses to incidents, as technicians worldwide can take on requests at any time. As a result, even complex problems can be solved quickly and efficiently – if first-level support is unable to provide a fast fix, experts can be easily called in remotely. Without this capability, a technician would have to schedule a second appointment for repairs on site. The fact that no external service workers need to enter your facility also improves your physical security. Furthermore, work can be performed on more than one end point at the same time. For example, security patches can be efficiently implemented, and developer teams can roll out new features on short notice – even for normally hard-to-reach systems in areas such as energy and water management. Ideally, equipment linkage also makes continuous monitoring possible, enabling fast identification of not only security problems, but operational issues as well.

The economic advantages are primarily on the cost side. Since maintenance work no longer needs to be performed on site, no costs for technician travel are generated. Additionally, fast responses to problems can reduce downtime. Better security infrastructure can also prevent cost-intensive security incidents, assuming the right solution is deployed, and it is configured correctly.   

In our view, implementing IoT remote maintenance involves four steps:

1. Take inventory: First, you need to determine which systems should be covered by the solution. Making this decision requires a clear view of all machinery, sensors, HMIs, PC, and other equipment.

2. Set the scope: Once the devices and systems to be included have been chosen, it’s time to specify what functionalities the solution should provide. For example, is the ability to install updates remotely the only goal, or should full remote access be possible?

3. Select a provider: Based on the requirements identified in step 2, you can identify a provider or set of appropriate solutions

4. Upgrade legacy systems: If the scope includes older devices that have not been connected to date, you should work with the provider to clarify whether it’s necessary (and possible) to upgrade or replace them.

We as CyberCompare regularly help our clients to find suitable providers for remote maintenance solutions, and we would be happy to support you in your search as well. Our proven approach involves six steps:

Is cybersecurity a topic of interest for your company? As an independent entity with a portfolio of proven security providers, CyberCompare can provide you with comparative offers at no charge and with no obligation. Reach out to us or use our diagnostic to learn more about your cyber risk profile.

Please remember: this article is based our knowledge at the time it was written – but we learn more every day. Do you think important points are missing or do you see the topic from a different perspective? We would be happy to discuss current developments in greater detail with you and your company’s other experts and welcome your feedback and thoughts.

And one more thing: the fact that an article mentions (or does not mention) a provider does not represent a recommendation from CyberCompare. Recommendations always depend on the customer’s individual situation.