Working with multiple remote sites that are not yet connected to your SCADA system? Common off-the-shelf technology can help you “see” each remote site as if it were just another local connection. Here are some tips and best practices to get you started.
Are you trying to connect a remote site to an operations center?
Here are 3 items that can help you get started:
1) Establish a VPN Tunnel
Unless you are building out a very large private network on your own, your operations center will need to connect to the Internet in order to reach other locations. The easiest and most secure method is to establish a VPN tunnel by placing a VPN server at the operations center and a VPN client at your remote site. Your SCADA system will “see” the remote site as if it were just another local connection, and this connection will be protected from unauthorized outside access. If you also need to build out the network at the remote site, a VPN router with an integrated switch can help save you space, time, and money.
2) Cellular Can Be Cost Effective
If your operation spans multiple sites that don’t have easy access to the Internet, you may consider using cellular routers or modems to connect to those sites. This can be an easy and cost-effective option for sites with no physical network connection, depending on the number and type of devices and the availability of cellular service. Most cellular routers and modems have built-in support for VPN tunneling, so you won’t need a separate VPN router at the remote site.
3) Redundancy Ensures Reliability
Since many remote sites operate unattended, it is best practice to establish an alternate means of remote access in case the main network connection goes down. This is especially important for critical operations. Some VPN routers offer more than one WAN port, allowing you to use one of the WAN ports as the primary connection and the other as a back-up. You can also use a cellular router or modem as the backup connection.
These are the basic tips to connect multiple locations to an existing SCADA system in a seamless and secure manner. Although different scenarios may call for specific tactics, you can use these basics to start exploring the available options for your specific application.
This helpful diagram illustrates the three points covered above! Interested in additional guidance?