Accessing the Far Regions of Automation

Sept. 28, 2020
As more organizations invest in remote access capabilities, providing information technology support can come with a few issues when it comes to troubleshooting and connectivity.

Sometimes it seems like circumstances conspire against us and thwarts our efforts to help our customers. In particular, I’m thinking of a couple of our customers that we do break/fix support for. Since they don’t have strong information technology (IT) infrastructure, any changes or troubleshooting has to be completed remotely. While it’s not that far to their location, because we have to deploy to engage, we are often called in onsite when they have no other options. That means the customer needs to fully identify the issue as accurately as they can, have different internal resources take a crack at it, and then bring us in. While that may all happen in less than a day’s or shift’s time, that period of downtime the facility faces versus the five minutes it sometimes takes us to get them up and running feels way too inefficient.

We love to take advantage of our customers’ infrastructure to engage remotely. Whether it be troubleshooting an issue, providing post-installation support, analyzing data for trends and recommendations, or even testing and/or developing in the customer’s environments, the more connected we can be with the end systems, the more value we are able to provide our customers.

In the past, we were limited to what the customer could provide. IT departments have a lot on their plate when it comes to ensuring proper security and reliability on the infrastructure, resources, and systems they provide. Secure, remote access across an organization can be costly and time consuming to implement, and that’s not the only thing IT departments are charged with. And so, we would make do with what we had and fill in the rest with travel and on-site time.

But with today’s technologies, we are finding more and easier ways to provide remote connectivity with our customers. By utilizing third-party devices that allow secure connection via virtual-private network tunnels to a micro network, we are able to provide remote access to customers that didn’t have the capabilities before in a way that IT can feel comfortable about. We are now able to support customers in a quicker and more cost-effective way than ever before.

How do you manage remote support? What challenges have you encountered when establishing remote connectivity where you haven’t had it before?

Brian Fenn is vice president of operations at Avanceon, a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Avanceon, visit its profile on the CSIA Industrial Automation Exchange.