This article was originally published by Automation World.
Software companies introduce new operating systems every 5-7 years, but maybe you haven’t had the time to upgrade or don’t want to make the switch due to financial or safety concerns during a pandemic. Letting your software reach its end of life has ramifications beyond missing out on new functionality. Failing to update will leave you vulnerable when patches and critical security updates are no longer available. Putting off updates will leave your plant susceptible to increased downtime and lost productivity.
But there is good news; these essential updates can be done remotely and for less money, if you find the right company to help you.
At a certain point, hardware must be updated or replaced alongside the software. As operating systems become more sophisticated, they need compatible computers. You need to stay up to date with software so that, in the event of computer hardware failure, you can replace it and be up and running again with minimal downtime. The difference between a two-hour downtime fix and one that takes two days is significant.
Consider these questions:
- How much is your product worth?
- How much availability do you have in your production schedule if downtime occurs?
A plant that runs 24/7 making a high-value product can’t afford to be down for very long. Scheduling your downtime is a lot more cost-effective than waiting for something to break.
Planning and implementing upgrades
An upgrade requires the plant’s process to be down so any old computer hardware can be replaced with new hardware. The new applications already tested offsite will be installed and tested at the plant as production starts again.
Virtual computer systems improve the downtime window, reduce the risk of upgrades, and are ideal for testing new systems. Not every upgrade requires new hardware. With virtualized replacements, servers are used and have a longer life span. Some server hardware can even be replaced while production remains running.
Programmers can use VPN access to offer remote support for process problems or minor updates like remote OS and application upgrades.
If your plant doesn’t allow outside contractors on-site or keeps visitors to certain, restricted areas, remote upgrades to combat software or hardware obsolescence are a smart choice. Engineers won’t have to travel to your location and avoid quarantine protocols which save money and time. Scheduling is more flexible with remote upgrades, as well. As long as you have someone at your plant to facilitate the upgrades, a remote option is a good one. Make sure you choose a company that has targeted experience and longevity in obsolescence replacements.
Addressing software obsolescence is about risk mitigation. Weigh whether you can handle the risk of a piece of hardware going down and not being able to replace it. In a day and age where this can all be done remotely, it’s simply smart business to keep on top of upgrades and avoid downtime.
Jason Anson, Automation Manager