Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition

What is SCADA ?

SCADA, which stands for Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition, is the graphical user interface for an automation control system and is a critical piece of infrastructure that allows the plant operator to efficiently monitor and control the automated process.

So imagine the chaos when the SCADA system suddenly dies! The operators are left blind and unable to properly control their plant. This is why it is absolutely critical to have a Disaster Recovery Plan for all SCADA systems.

It is not a case of IF a system fails, it is a case of WHEN. SCADA systems are computer based and even the best system will fail at some point due to various reasons. like :

Hardware Failures (disk failure, power surges etc).

Software Failures (viruses, operating system errors etc).

Accidental System Changes.

Network Failures.

Signals Control Systems Are Designed to Efficiently and Accurately Deliver Data and Controls to Our Clients

Monitoring real-time information, SCADA shows how process equipment is performing. Sensors on equipment send the info through RTUs (remote terminal units) and PLCs. Doing so, a SCADA system can pinpoint anomalies in a process, comparing real-time data against the data collected, creating alarms to alert the operator to control by taking action to address an issue, permitting maintenance personnel to make more informed and efficient decisions. The data acquired can easily be presented in reports and documentations.

Applications and Functions

SCADA systems are used in various industries, particularly in manufacturing, building/facility environment automation, mass transportation, traffic signals, electric power generation, water distribution, and of course in the transmission and distribution of natural gas.

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Oil and Gas Gathering, Transmission and Distribution

Tank Farm Monitoring

Renewable Resource Research

Asset Management

Advanced Protocol Conversion

Downhole sub Pump Monitoring

Meter Stations

Compressor Stations

Valve Stations

Your SCADA Disaster Recovery Plan should start with asking a few questions to identify what sort of system you have;

SCADA Critical Importance

The first step in setting up your SCADA disaster recovery plan is identifying the level of critical importance for your system, which is determined by how long your plant can go without your SCADA system running. If your plant is controlling a highly sensitive process like an electricity power plant or high-pressure boilers, then your SCADA critical importance is high. Alternatively, if your plant is controlling a low sensitivity process like a packing line or pumping station and you can afford to do without your plant running for a while then your critical importance is low.

Disaster Recovery Budget

Once you have identified your SCADA system’s critical importance, you can then work out what sort of budget you can afford to implement and maintain your disaster recovery plan. Disaster recovery for a SCADA system with high critical importance is generally more expensive to implement and maintain due to the extra equipment required, alternatively the low critical importance systems are cheaper to implement and maintain.

There are several types of disaster recovery plans available and your budget will go a long way in which options you are going to utilize.

Disaster Recovery Plans

Selecting your disaster recovery plan is an obvious choice between the functionality of each option, your SCADA system requirements and your available budget. There are several options available with each one having different pros and cons that you need to carefully consider.

Full Redundancy Plan

Configuration Backup Plan

System Imaging Plan

Spare SCADA PC Plan

SCADA Virtualization Plan

The best part of these various disaster recovery methods we have discussed above is that you can use several methods together to create a tailored solution that suits your needs. You might want to have a SCADA virtualization plan with the virtualization software preloaded on a Spare SCADA PC, or you might like a Full Redundancy system with System Images backing up all your SCADA servers and workstations to the cloud for off-site disaster recovery protection.

In any case, we cannot emphasis enough how important it is to back up your SCADA system, it's absolutely critical. The SCADA Disaster Recovery Plan is easily the most overlooked part of any plant's maintenance routine, and failure to have an effective plan in place will have disastrous repercussions down the track when the entire plant is brought to its knees because the SCADA system has died.