SCADA systems help the oil and gas industry improve operations by managing equipment remotely and overseeing critical processes of the modern...
Pros and Cons: Things to Consider Before Choosing Internal or External SCADA
Choosing your SCADA is an important decision, and it’s critical to determine whether an in-house SCADA platform or an outsourced system is right for your business.
The decision to incorporate a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system into your operations can seem like a daunting one, especially when you consider the time and money it can take to implement.
However, once it's in place, SCADA systems can help companies save money with their efficiency and data acquisition capabilities. Some organizations even report hundreds, if not thousands, of man hours saved per month, in which their teams can focus on other productive tasks.
But once the decision is made to utilize a SCADA system to manage your critical infrastructure, another question arises: should you host your SCADA system in-house or outsource the product?
To help answer that question, we’ve weighed the pros and cons for you.
One benefit of building your own SCADA system is that you can customize the product exactly how you want. Your business would have complete control over the developmental life cycle. Many outsourced software are limited on design capabilities and changes that need to be made over time. Build it how you want to, when you want to.
That being said, having the entire developmental process on your team’s shoulders could be a double-edged sword in terms of project management.
Successfully creating your own internal SCADA system requires a large amount of technical/developmental/engineering experience and skill. Does your team have the knowledge base to take on such a project? Will creating an in-house SCADA project affect resources by pulling team members from their regular duties?
Other questions to consider:
- Does your company have the resources to manage such a project?
- Can you complete it on time?
- Will you have to upskill your personnel from an engineering/development standpoint?
Building your own SCADA system may be tempting from a cost-perspective initially. After all, you’re not paying another company, you’re not spending money on third-party engineers or software developers (assuming you have those positions in-house already), and you’re not spending money over time to implement changes you want made to your software.
Take into consideration the cost of software licenses, automation software and hardware, computers, servers, ongoing software updates, etc. Not to mention the costs of data acquisition and storage or the cost of training your employees to use the system. But we’ll get to that.
Software Updates and Security
Hosting an internal SCADA system also requires the continuous task of updating your software and keeping up with the latest cutting-edge technology to limit cybersecurity attacks. While operating an internal SCADA system can ensure the updates are made when you want them, these updates and equipment enhancements can be costly and add up over time. Not to mention, once you’ve made an update to your software, you have to make sure your employees know how to use it.
Your company knows your product and processes more than anyone. As the producer, you have more knowledge on how everything should operate and where you could incorporate SCADA to operate more efficiently. An internal system may be advantageous from this standpoint.
But as mentioned earlier, creating this system requires an advanced knowledge of communications. Will you use radio, satellite, or cellular service to communicate? Or all three? How about communication protocols? Learning as you go and training other operators to use the software can be costly and time-consuming if it’s not user-friendly.
Data is crucial for making smart operational decisions and reporting. One benefit of developing your own system is getting to determine how much and what kind of data you store, where it’s stored, and how to view it.
But like most disadvantages of in-house SCADA, this can be expensive. The responsibility of hosting all that data and the construction of a data center can add up. The low cost of outsourced SCADA services is one of the primary benefits: software development, data center construction, and maintenance typically falls on the shoulders of that outsourced provider. In which case, many customers are using the same services thus spreading the cost among numerous customers and lowering the cost for everyone.
The total cost of SCADA implementation is determined by a wide variety of factors. Knowledge and skill base, software and security updates, hardware installation and upkeep, initial project management, customization, etc.
However, you don’t have to go through the trouble of developing an in-house system to get everything you want, how you want it. For example, consider utilizing a SCADA or ICS provider who offers security and software updates for free to their customers. This will ensure your operations are powered (and protected) by the latest technology, while negating the need for you to hire or assign internal developers to program these changes.
Additionally, some vendors provide ongoing training. If you're considering outsourcing your SCADA, ensure that you ask if they include customer service/support and training on the system when you need it. Some will include this at no cost, but others might consider this an "add-on" feature, requiring additional payment from you before providing time with a representative.
In short: you can have it both. A SCADA system that fits your needs and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg for the most up-to-date software and unique capabilities.
For example, SitePro’s platform puts the power back in your hands while taking the expense and maintenance into ours. Our no-code software allows you to customize how you want your site to look and operate. View real-time data to make smart, operational decisions and historical data to see how your business has done over time.
If you're ready to learn more about outsourcing SCADA, or if you have questions about how the cost might compare with the development of your own platform, click the button below to chat with us. We'd love to learn more about your ideal solution.