Strategic Network Design: When Good Enough isn’t Good Enough Anymore

Network

 

In most manufacturing facilities, there is a point person everyone turns to for their shop floor network needs. When a new device needs to be plugged in, a change needs to be made, or a problem is encountered, they rely on their de facto architect and keeper of the Frankenstein Network. For the purposes of this article, let’s call him Tom.

 

Tom possesses a mental catalog of the devices included, what has been added over the years, and what not to do when it comes to the network. When a snafu occurs, he’s likely to know how to untangle it in the moment. Tom has overseen the growth of the network over the years, and has supported business requirements as new devices and systems have been added. Tom’s a great guy, and everyone on the shop floor has come to rely on him over the years for issues related to their operational technology (OT).

Although Tom has great deal of knowledge about the inner workings of the shop floor network and knows all the reasons why the environment is the way it is, Tom may be the first to tell you that while he has a handle on the operation of the network today, there really isn’t an overarching, top-down strategy for designing, managing, ensuring the security, integrating OT and IT, and scaling the network into the future. And by the way, Tom is scheduled to retire in less than two years, taking all of his network knowledge away with him.

This is a scenario that we at Applied Technologies see playing out in manufacturing facilities every day. Many of these companies are looking to seek a more strategic approach, to have a deliberate design for their network for better management and scalability to help bridge the gap between IT and OT which can allow organizations to reach their goals. Companies looking for a strategic network design are the companies that will be the industry leaders of tomorrow.

 

The Journey to Strategic Network Design

It may seem like an overwhelming task, but the Applied Technologies team employs an organized and systematic process to pick you up wherever you are in your journey. The most successful implementations involve the following steps:

1. Alignment across the organization

There is a common belief that the shop floor network is strictly an engineering and operations technology department function. You select the devices and programs that will keep your plant floor operations running.

Today companies, have recognized that both their operational and informational technology teams can play a critical role in reaching key business goals. It’s a top-down approach in which leadership establishes the objectives, assembles a team to develop the right strategies, and rallies the organization around the achievement of these objectives. In essence, it’s a big culture shift which aligns functions, such as OT and IT, which traditionally are held in separate silos. When leadership conveys the vision and successfully builds these alliances to leverage the valuable data that exists on the shop floor with the top floor, the results can be quite powerful.

2. The Network Assessment

To know where you’re going, you must first know where you are (and embrace the idea of starting where you are). Applied Technologies makes this possible through the Network Assessment. Through this process, you’ll learn the actual, real-time state of your shop floor network:

  • A catalogue of all devices on your network
  • Various software running
  • A basic analysis of your network traffic
  • A topology of how the network is currently, setup and configured
  • A list of low, medium, and high problem areas
  • Existing segmentation, if any

In most cases, the person in charge of the network is surprised to learn everything that he or she didn’t realize is occurring on the network. There may be unknown devices, outdated pieces of software, and even a great deal more traffic than originally anticipated. Regardless, the assessment gives us a baseline to begin identifying a plan for the future – starting exactly where you are and phasing it in as budgets and plant capacity allows.  It’s the stepping stone to ultimately achieving Manufacturing 2.0 or IoT.

3. The Security Assessment

Every business is a target for a security breach, and manufacturing facilities are no different. Any breach can cause a disruption in operations, and some can spell disaster for the company involved. Furthermore, a manufacturing company can find itself at greater risk due to the Frankenstein network. This ad hoc network approach can create a wide range of vulnerabilities and exposure.  It can be as simple as outdated software versions or unintentional access points in the network design or architecture.  Other challenges can quickly arise when there is no cohesive plan for the network.

A Security Assessment from Applied Technologies follows a two-pronged approach:

  • The Diagnostic Assessment… we’ll plug a special diagnostic apparatus into your system to identify issues and specify which components may be in need of attention. This helps us get a quick snapshot, with hard, real-time data, of the status of your network function and vulnerabilities.
  • Analysis… we’ll dig deep to fact find, learn about your goals and concerns, examine your workflow, and develop a comprehensive report to calculate your risk score, present the vulnerabilities that exist by area and device, highlight deviations from industry standards on network accessibility, and more. Our reports are customized for each Applied Technologies client.

The final report serves as a blueprint for implementation of security measures that will help protect against a breach and integrate seamlessly into your overall network design and strategy.

4. Strategic Network Design Plan

It’s typically not realistic to overhaul an entire shop floor network at once. That’s why the Applied Technologies team creates a plan that will prioritize the various areas of your network and build them into manageable segments, until we’ve covered all the ground.

  • Segmentation: As we examine the shop floor and all of the processes that make up the operations, we can begin to identify where walls must be constructed within the network. Segmentation is driven by processes, so a picture emerges that allows us to see which areas should be addressed first versus which are more long-term endeavors.
  • Organization: Applied Technologies follows a defined process for organizing the network, labeling the various connections and components so that it’s easy to identify which process, which line, or even which building each piece lives in.
  • Deployment: One-by-one, and based on the plan we’ve developed, the migration of devices from the existing, flat network to a newly created and segmented environment will begin.
  • Network Topology/Blueprint: Applied Technologies will develop a new network topology of how everything should be connected based on findings from the assessment phase
  • Deployment Process: Applied will work to develop a phased approach on the best way to start implementing the new network topology.
  • Management: Because everything that exists on the network is organized and well documented, managing and troubleshooting the network becomes simplified and much more efficient. When there is a problem, it’s isolated to its appropriate segment, so you know exactly where to find it. In this environment, impact to other areas of the plant if something goes wrong (or if there is a security breach) is minimized. When a new device or connection needs to be added, there is a process in place to identify it and document the change.

 

The Impact of Strategic Network Design

Once we roll out the first segment, the effects are quickly felt. That portion of the shop floor network runs smoothly, like a well-tuned car on a freshly paved highway. You probably didn’t really notice the chugs in the engine or the ruts on the road that developed over time. But once they’re gone, it’s a completely different experience. It leaves you anxious to pave the next stretch so that you can continue your journey in a better place.

But that better place isn’t just for your comfort and convenience. That better place is what will facilitate the achievement of your company’s goals through efficiency and the harnessing of valuable data from the shop floor. This is where your industry’s leaders of tomorrow are operating, and you can too.

Applied Technologies is ready to help you begin your journey. Get better insight into your shop floor network. Create a more efficient, organized and secure network environment. Be a leader in your space. For more information, please call us at 314-274-8000 or contact us at sales@appliedtech.pro.

 

Propel Your Business into the Future with a Network Assessment from Applied Technologies

 

The Frankenstein Network

 

Most of us are familiar with the story of Dr. Frankenstein, a determined young chemist who brings a creature to life that’s not quite what he intended to create. While his intentions were good, the ultimate reality of his creation brought a host of unintended consequences.

 

At Applied Technologies, we’re often reminded of Dr. Frankenstein and his creation when we examine plant floor networks.

 

The Current State of The Plant Floor Network

Building a plant floor network and adding components along the way isn’t quite as straightforward as it may seem. Like Dr. Frankenstein, those on the plant floor know all of the fundamentals and have a pretty good grasp on the various switches and components that are plugged in. However, there is a lot going on behind the scenes that isn’t immediately obvious to those who are in charge of managing the system. These things can impact the operation of the network in other areas and result in unexpected situations. In fact, when we plug in to get a handle on the traffic moving through the plant floor network, it’s often astonishing. Most don’t have a full understanding of how much traffic is moving at any one given time, or a full inventory of everything they’re dealing with.

What causes this high volume of traffic? We’ve found that most industrial networks have been built in a flat, open manner with components plugged in over a span of decades as additional functionality is required. Everything is running on the same highway, and all machines can see every other machine on the network. It’s a situation that isn’t necessarily “broken” – like Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, it can “walk and talk” – but it sure does leave the door open for problems. Think of the 1,000-plus devices that are plugged into your network. When left to play in the same space, they not only can cause unintended consequences for other devices on your network, they can open up security issues that you may not be aware of.

If this sounds like your plant floor network, you’re not alone. And if you’re inclined to think that this isn’t applicable to your network (everything is working, so it’s fine!), you may be surprised to learn what’s happening behind the scenes. In fact, an ad-hoc, “Frankenstein” network is the norm in most situations. The Applied Technologies team has worked with industrial clients for more than 30 years to build and maintain organized, efficient networks. The process begins with a comprehensive Network Assessment.

 

When You Should Start to Consider a Network Assessment

Companies understand the need for more efficient design and management of their networks. They are looking for greater efficiency, increased security, and the ability to leverage data to progress towards their overall business objectives. The Frankenstein network doesn’t work for them. It won’t drive them to the future or allow them to excel in a competitive environment.

Many customers begin thinking about the health of their network at key points of their existence. Perhaps they have a new device or switch that needs to be plugged in. Maybe there is a piece of software or hardware that’s due for an upgrade.  Regardless, in most cases, they don’t have a strategic plan or full picture of the network. Some know this, and others don’t. We’ve found that there are four predominant mindsets in the management of plant floor networks:

  • The unaware … these are the folks that live in bliss. Their network is working, so everything must be OK.
  • The confident … those who believe they know exactly what is happening in their network, and what will happen when that next device is plugged in.
  • The worriers … they know something catastrophic will happen one day, and they’re anticipating the pain that they’ll go through when it does. They pray every time a new device is plugged in that nothing will go wrong.
  • The duct tape masters … they’ve become the experts of putting in a little patch here and there to keep things running. In most cases, duct tape masters have been around for a long time, and no one really knows where all their patches are. Which may be OK today, but when they retire or leave the company, they take that knowledge with them.

The Network Assessment from Applied Technologies is the primary step in pulling back the curtain on your plant floor network. Through this process, we can show the unaware and the confident all the things they may not know. We give comfort to the worriers and identify all the patches made by the duct tape masters over the years. Our goal is to help our customers build their networks so they can be efficient, productive, and excel in their industries.

 

The Network Assessment covers the following areas:

  • Network traffic analysis
  • Inventory of all devices, switches and hardware installed on the system
  • Security assessment to identify vulnerabilities
  • Network stability
  • Recommendations for network segmentation

With the insights delivered through the Network Assessment, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about how to scale your network moving forward, how to get the greatest level of efficiency, stability and security, and how you can begin to leverage smart manufacturing in your business.

Every company can benefit from a Network Assessment.  It really doesn’t matter your company size, number of years in business or your industry.  No company is immune to problems if they don’t have a well-designed and documented network.

Don’t wait until something breaks to assess your network. Contact Applied Technologies today at 636.274.8000 or sales@appliedtech.pro, and start seeing the benefits of moving away from a Frankenstein network. Once you uncover the possibilities, you’ll experience a great, worry-free ride.

NetApp HCI Meets Public Clouds to Simplify Storage and Processing

 

In order to compete in today’s business environment, companies strive to identify ways to simplify processes to create efficiencies and speed up their go-to-market time.  While there are many process and technology enhancements that can contribute, there is a fundamental way that organizations of all types and sizes can change the way they approach their IT infrastructure – that solution is hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), taken to the next level with NetApp Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure (HCI).

 

NetApp HCI is a revolutionary way to manage data and applications leveraging an on-premise cloud environment. NetApp HCI has changed the traditional model of hybrid cloud storage and made it possible for a company to have a system that combines on-premise and cloud functionality in the three major public Clouds.  It serves as the fabric that holds all of the pieces of your overall architecture together, allowing for seamless movement of data and workflows from one to the next, and back again.

 

How is NetApp HCI fundamentally different?

A NetApp HCI can scale compute and storage independently. Users now have the power to run applications and maintain efficient storage space needed for the workloads. Previous HCI architectures combined those capabilities, which consumed valuable resources both from an infrastructure perspective and a financial one. The traditional architecture was clumsy; NetApp HCI streamlines infrastructure solutions and makes application environment options simpler and more efficient.

A user can mix and match different storage nodes without making any changes at the compute layer and vice versa. This is incredibly powerful when it comes to expanding storage capacity or compute resources one node at a time. NetApp HCI was developed for large enterprises, so it can be scaled in a large corporate scenario, but it is accessible enough to be easily and efficiently deployed in smaller organizations and even the Edge. This makes NetApp HCI an agile technology that any industry can benefit from regardless of size or scope while achieving enterprise-grade levels of resources, performance, and protection.

Why utilize NetApp HCI?

Any corporation facing a new technology development or looking to expand their storage or computing capabilities can benefit from NetApp’s hybrid cloud architecture:

  • Speed … the system provides the highway for information to move more quickly through your organization. This means that your internal and external customers have the data and services they need more readily available as there is a smooth conduit in place to facilitate on-premise and cloud communication – regardless of what cloud your data and workflow reside in. NetApp HCI delivers an elastic hybrid cloud infrastructure that enables customers to start anywhere, run anywhere, and manage everywhere from Edge, to Core, to Cloud.
  • Scale-on-Demand … need more storage space but not more processing power, or vice versa? You can quickly scale your system, on your terms, to meet your specific needs. Due to the modular nature of the system and included automation, it is quick and easy to add or reallocate what you need as your requirements change ultimately reducing TCO.
  • Security … you can have the best of both worlds with a cloud-operational environment located on-premise, maintaining a hybrid cloud, while still securing your applications with built-in security features such as multi-factor authentication, data at rest encryption, and FIPS 140-2 Level 1.
  • Control … there can be layers of complexity when it comes to fully managing your IT in the cloud. You can gain the control and governance you need with a NetApp HCI solution.
  • Flexibility … NetApp HCI is multi-cloud and supports multiple hybrid-cloud solutions such as those from VMware, Google, and RedHat delivering an agile foundation for your private and hybrid cloud infrastructure.
  • Guaranteed Performance … in a traditional environment, you may find processes competing for resources at the same time, in different areas of your production workflow. The NetApp architecture allows you the visibility into these resource demands in order to allocate them for maximum speed and efficiency while guaranteeing performance for all of your applications through three-dimensional QoS capabilities.

 

How is NetApp HCI Implemented?

Discovery & Goal Setting: The discovery process begins with a meeting to determine your company’s overall objectives and the storage and compute needs that will be required to achieve those objectives. The goal of this process is to gain an understanding of the resource requirements needed in the environment. The team leverages assessment tools to gain a thorough picture of what is already running in the environment, what modifications may be in order, and what the key objectives from leadership may be. This might include striving for a reduction in complexity or cost, or a move to a new environment for example.

Easy Implementation: The time needed to implement is dependent on how large the cluster is, but in general it is a streamlined and consolidated process depending on the following factors:

  • If a customer already has VMware in the environment and the network is determined to be in appropriate working order, HCI can attach to an existing vCenter, so it can shift to the new infrastructure with VMotion.
  • The only migration required is moving the VMs to the new hardware, which is done through VMware’s typical mechanisms.
  • If there is no VMware present, the process entails more planning in order to implement.
  • After implementation, if you need more compute or storage, you may easily add either (or both if needed) through the NetApp Deployment Engine. The beauty of the system is that you can scale independently, using the new available nodes which are easy to absorb into the cluster.

Partner Collaboration: Partnerships are key in ensuring the success of NetApp implementations. NetApp Partners, such as Applied Technologies, hold the valuable experience and intimate knowledge of each customer’s needs, goals, and challenges. These insights allow for the creation of a comprehensive technology plan that can include the NetApp HCI solution working in concert with other hardware and software platforms for maximum performance and advancement towards the customer’s goals.

NetApp HCI’s innovative design combines the best methods for managing data and applications. You no longer need to pay for extra storage or compute you don’t need while still benefiting from an enterprise-grade infrastructure with guaranteed performance. The bottom line is, NetApp HCI creates more flexibility, eliminates complexity, and drives costs down while accelerating new services for faster time to market speeds.  As a preferred NetApp partner, Applied Technologies will help you understand how your company can leverage the system which is scalable, delivers the speed you need, and allows for the security and control you’re looking for.

To begin the conversation contact us at sales@appliedtech.pro or call 636.274.8000 to discuss your business requirements with one of our Account Managers or Practice Leaders.

Helping Customers Adapt to a Remote Workforce Environment

Working Remote

 

Applied Technologies is available and ready to help your organization support business continuity during these challenging and unprecedented times.

 

As many companies move to a remote workforce environment, in response to social distancing guidelines and requirements, it is important for employers to keep remote workers secure, connected and productive.

 

While Coronavirus (COVID-19) remains a threat, our top priorities remain the satisfaction and support of our customers, as well as the health and wellbeing of the people who work for, and partner with, Applied Technologies. We have taken several precautions for our employees to stay healthy, productive and available to support you and your organization by delivering technologies that address both your current and future business challenges. In fact, most of our employees are equipped with the same technologies we provide our customers – which allows our team members to work remotely and provide you with continuous service and support.

Applied Technologies experts are available to help you navigate these increased demands in networking, collaboration, storage (cloud and hybrid-cloud) and security.

We are prepared to support you and ensure we keep business strong for our communities and country. We remain confident in our ability to respond to these new technology challenges.

Please contact us at 314.736.0500 or sales@appliedtech.pro with any questions or to discuss any immediate technology needs.

Make Your Smart Manufacturing Initiatives Even Smarter

Assessments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selecting the right partner for your Network Services is a crucial choice.

 

Without one, your manufacturing network can become the sticking point for the rest of your business, leaving the IT and OT sides of your network poorly connected and your network open to threats. It’s not just a matter of finding an IT company, especially now that so much of the shop floor now have cloud-based technology.  It’s about finding a partner that can help you operate more efficiently and impact the bottom line.

 

A partner should be able to integrate your enterprise and plant floor networks seamlessly, provide the remote access users need, and protect your company against security breaches.  At Applied Technologies, we have a team of industry-certified professionals to find the best and most cost-effective solution for you.

 

Finding the Right Solution

Applied Technologies’ Network Services start with facility and security assessments. We offer several assessment options to identify areas that may expose your business or have an impact on your processes. These options include security, access (network), and structured cabling assessments.  After we review both IT and OT infrastructure, we provide our analysis with a high-level summary so you can effectively prioritize the most important first steps.

Security

Security assessments are particularly important. As the possibility of cybercrime continues to increase, security attacks are inevitable. However, with the right security services, a network breach doesn’t have to be. We partner with you to ensure we understand your policies, practices, and processes as we design solutions to keep your business secure. Our security options include:

  • Compliance: Includes Payment card industry (PCI), International Standards Organization (ISO), and more
  • Assessments: Includes IT risk assessment, penetration testing, social engineering, and threat analysis
  • Information Technology: Includes next-generation firewall (NGFW), advanced malware protection, and email
  • Incident Response: Includes detection, testing and training, digital forensics, and more

Visit the Applied Technologies website for a complete list of our security options.

Remote Access

Every network is different, as is the level of remote or mobile access your users may need. What remains consistent is the importance of keeping that remote access safe and reliable. We have extensive experience in both designing and implementing core and edge devices, as well as the cable plant design needed to support them.

Structured Cabling

Assessing the physical set up of your network is just as important as assessing how the network could be compromised and attacked. The Applied Technologies team works with manufacturers to plan, implement, and manage structured cabling solutions, including assisting with developing requests for RFPs. Whether it’s third-party testing, finding the right contractor resources, wireless network design, or power protect, Applied Technologies will be with you every step of the way.

Are you ready to get started with network services to make your manufacturing network safer and more efficient? Contact us today to get started and find the best solutions for your company.

Network Security and Your Medical Cannabis Facility

Medical Cannabis

 

If you’re starting a medical cannabis business, you may be swamped with various considerations. “Where should it be located?”, “What staff will I need?” or “How will I set up the facility” are all important questions best answered by those with experience.

 

When considering network and physical security and your ability to meet and/or exceed compliance requirements, Applied Technologies offers a complete solution for your operation. We have the technology integration solutions and team of certified professionals to ensure you are secure, competitive, and can make informed business decisions.

 

Medical cannabis facilities can be various sizes and configurations depending on the company. They include a greenhouse for growing the seeds, and a manufacturing facility for processing the product. Each will want to protect not only their operations, but their proprietary intellectual property that provides a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Companies also of course will include a dispensary or retail storefront, where patients can buy medical cannabis. While the stigma around cannabis is being addressed on the side of the patients, it’s also important to address it on the manufacturing side, and how best to produce medical cannabis.

Manufacturers will need a doctor’s letter of recommendation to apply for a state medical card, but keep in mind that regulations and HIIPA requirements may change as medical cannabis becomes more mainstream. Sellers will need to collect some identifiable patient information, and state and local governments are still settling on what the best regulations for security will be moving forward.

These will connect back to the state, so that is an open portal that must be considered from a cyber security perspective. Depending on the compliance rules decided on, that security may be audited on a yearly basis. Not only will you need a strong firewall on Security Information Management (SIM) monitoring and IT staff, you’ll need to routinely check in with employees and educate them to ensure the human-run side of your business data is protected from threats like phishing.

Medical cannabis facilities are not necessarily more susceptible to network breaches, but it’s important to remember that hackers are not interested in if you’re compliant or not. In addition, simply being compliant may not be a high enough level of security to protect your facility.

Technology Compliance

 

How does Applied Technologies help?

You may be new to the medical cannabis industry; many are. Even small computer issues could be enough to shut down your facility, so it’s important to ensure you have someone on your side with experience and proven solutions. At Applied Technologies, we have staff that are experienced not just in physical and network security, but also in cannabis growing and compliance regulations.

New rules are being released regularly, so it’s important to have a partner who can read them and interpret what they will mean for updating security measures.

Applied Technology Setup and Management

Applied Technology helps you map out a complete digital security and network solution, including both physical and cyber security. Our design experience will ensure your environment is secure and that you can run your business uninterrupted. Applied Technologies will:

  • Assess the floor plan
  • Review facility goals
  • Identify the plant capacity for the facility
  • Identify security camera placement
  • Set apart network storage areas
  • Ensure IT and infrastructure are included in the budget
  • Check compliance regulations

When becoming licensed, remember there are a limited number available, and you’ll need to accept your license within 48 hours of receiving your email. State compliance officers will be working with facilities across the state to enforce the rules, approximately four times the number of officers as those covering all bars and liquor establishments. While it’s still a business like most others, ensuring compliance regulations are met is essential, and being proactive is the best way to stay compliant. It’s also important to remember that even with a well-secured network, it can be breached due to human error managing it, so employee education is critical as well.

During initial planning for your facility, keep in mind that you’ll either need staffing or consulting for physical and database SQL concerns, which is a six-figure salary. One of the most common mistakes we see new cannabis businesses make is not budgeting enough for the set-up and management of their network infrastructure and security. Many simply don’t know the depth and complexity of what’s required, and the level of expertise needed to manage it all.

High speed internet is also necessary for one of these facilities, so keep that in mind when considering a location. It’s tempting to pick a rural location for the space and lower priced real estate, but it’s not always an ideal choice when it comes to internet connectivity. Be sure to check on whether this type of infrastructure is available in the location you’re considering, or budget appropriately so that you have an alternate plan in place.

A partnership with Applied Technologies will help manage your facility and build a team to make your facility succeed. Learn more about how we can support you at www.appliedtech.pro/grow or contact Krista Salvatore, Director of Sales at ksalvatore@appliedtech.pro or 314.736.0500 for more information or to discuss a technology assessment.

Going Beyond Video Security with Bosch

Bosch

 

The importance of video security cannot be understated in the current technology landscape. That’s why Applied Technologies has partnered with Bosch to not only help companies meet their security requirements, but to go beyond video security to increase ROI and improve efficiencies.

 

Why physical security is important

When it comes to network security, are you also considering your physical security? Video systems, intrusion alarms, and access control systems are all key pieces of a network security plan. Having the right products and systems in place ensure your business remains safe from physical threats as well as network threats. Bosch provides award-winning technology that goes above and beyond the highest security demands of today to ensure you are prepared for whatever comes next. Bosch systems support a high-level of encryption, cloud-based services for monitoring and configuring devices, and secure networks and protocols.

However, security cameras equipped with built-in Video Analytics can be used for more than surveillance and liability reasons. Minimizing crime is a benefit of security cameras, but now they can also be used to maximize efficiency.

Beyond security

The average video security system simply records, and only 10% of that video data is ever used. The vast majority of what’s recorded loses its value the moment it is generated. Bosch offers cameras that are more than devices for capturing video images.

Bosch’s intelligent technologies for video security allow you to make use of data for better efficiencies and opportunities. The cameras feature built-in Video Analytics to enable them to analyze scenes for reasons that go far beyond security and deliver smart data to help businesses improve safety, increase efficiencies, and reduce costs.

Examples of the advanced analytics capabilities include:

  • Intelligent Tracking of objects in motion
  • People counting
  • Detection of health and safety risks, like blocked emergency exits
  • Video-based fire detection
  • Geolocation
  • Tamper detection
  • Queue detection
  • And more!

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s take a real-world example of a grocery store before a snowstorm. If there’s only one person at a register, they won’t be able to keep up with the long lines. However, the POS system will only show there was a steady stream of customers, not that customers had to wait in long lines to checkout. Bosch cameras can detect the number of people standing in line to alert store managers that another cash register needs to open. They can also count the number of people entering and exiting the store to help you determine peak days and times when you’ll need more staff to improve service and generate even more revenue.

Cameras offer so much more than security now. The goal is to reach 100% utilization of the cameras for security and beyond.

Bosch engages in day-to-day business with you to ensure that you can get the most out of your system. Their camera systems also integrate with their mass notification systems, which make it ideal for an emergency like a fire.

We’re proud to partner with Bosch because of the value they contribute to businesses and society as a whole. If you’d like to learn more about what might be the right product for you, reach out to us today!

Virtualization Benefits in Manufacturing

Virtualization

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtualization Benefits in Manufacturing

 

Virtualization is the next step forward in plant environments to minimize server downtime and increase ROI. Traditional servers have numerous single points of failure.  Having servers without virtualization can be costly and inefficient PCs and HMIs are prone to failure and can take considerable time to recover with can further reduce OEE.  While virtualization has been more common in the office space, plant floor technologies are now being virtualized to further improve operational efficiencies.

 

What is virtualization?

Virtualization creates a virtual version of a device or resource, such as a server, storage device, network or even an operating system. It began gaining popularity a little over a decade ago but was primarily used in the IT space. However, manufacturers see how virtualization can be applicable in plant floor space as well.

Prior to virtualization, the best practice was to have 1 workload per physical server – because a lot of cross chatter and different patterns with workflow and read/write perspective could interfere with apps. This means on average only 5-10% of the server is fully utilized at one time. Virtualization can serve as a traffic control cop making sure resources are allocated and supported between fewer servers as needed. In a virtualized environment, CPU and memory are resourced more efficiently. This shrinks your physical footprint tremendously, saving power consumption and helps reduce labor and infrastructure needs.

Physical resources are still needed for virtual servers; however, they are much quicker and easier to backup and restore which reduces downtime. The resources are also monitored so storage, memory, and CPU can be directed where they need to be when they need to be. It’s also not just limited to servers and can be applied to desktops with Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

Why switch to virtualization?

Using virtualization can for example reduce 30 servers with multiple risk points each to 3 servers, with few risk points. By running plant floor applications virtually, recovery time is seconds, not days! This results in fewer refresh cycles, a significant return on investment, and a smaller technology footprint. Virtualization can be scaled as the business needs change and allows the business to allocate storage and memory as needed.

The switch to virtualization in manufacturing is important to stay competitive and adapt as a new generation of tech savvy workers are entering the industry. Virtualization also increases ROI and makes it quick and easy to calculate the benefits. The redundancy built into virtualization also ensures no downtime by allowing the system to continue to work even if something breaks.

What does the process look like?

Before you begin starting the switch, Applied Technologies will first evaluate your current system workload. We have tools to capture all activity ideally for a 30-day minimum to correctly size the plant floor environment. Next, we analyze the physical servers and run diagnostics to determine what specific applications, files, software and tools are being used.  We evaluate your current hardware requirements and recommend how we can scale back hardware to run the same plant floor processes in a virtualized environment.  We also review your future technology requirements and how you can best use virtualization to scale up as business needs change.  Once approved, we set-up the hardware and virtualized environment, test all processes and schedule the migration with your IT/OT team.  We have a wide range of pre-sale and post-sale services to help ensure a smooth transition and offer ongoing monitoring of your virtualized environment.

Many companies are virtualized in the “carpeted space” but may not think they can do it on the plant floor. However, virtualization is not new technology, and is simple to implement across both IT and OT spaces.

Why choose Applied Technologies?

At Applied Technologies, we have knowledgeable data and networking engineers who have been helping businesses make the switch to virtualization since the technology originally launched   in 2000. We have the know-how to properly transition to and maintain virtual servers, including remote monitoring. Applied Technologies understands the OT space, and how they work in a virtual environment.

Virtualization can bring incredible advances in efficiency and ROI to the plant floor. It can often cost more to recover from downtime than it does to switch to virtualization, meaning the transition quickly pays for itself. If you are interested in virtualization, contact us today so we can discuss the best route forward for you.

Network Technology Summit Review

Network Technology Summit Review – Laying the Groundwork for Efficient Networks

 

Did you attend our recent Network Technology Summit? If you didn’t have the opportunity to join us, or if you did and could use a refresher, we’re creating a two-part blog series to recap what we and our manufacturing partners covered!  This comprehensive, day-long session reviewed best practices for business systems improvements, equipment upgrades, cost reduction and increased profitability for manufacturing facilities. Having a robust, secure plant floor network is becoming more and more vital for manufacturing, and our summit focused on the best services and products to improve yours.

Network Technology Summit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clean Consistent Power | APC by Schneider Electric

Downtime in manufacturing can be quite costly, but when that downtime is caused by power interruptions, it’s also quite preventable. APC by Schneider Electric addressed this issue during their presentation on how to provide clean, consistent power with Uninterrupted Power Systems (UPS). UPS units are essential to keeping uptime and preventing damages in manufacturing and electrical equipment.

Switching to a Smart UPS can result in 47% savings in eight years. UPS systems typically work at a room level, row level or rack level, and APC offers several options to fit your needs:

  • DIN Rail UPS – Ideal backup power source for cabinet applications requiring Mission Critical Load Support. Applications include water/wastewater, mining/metals/minerals, biotech, food and beverage, AG, oil and gas.
  • SecureUPS Solutions – Ideal for outdoor field cabinet (NEMA 4) applications such as transportation, oil and gas pipelines, water/wastewater pump stations, utility substations
  • Galaxy VS – Compact design with 97% electrical efficiency, simplifies multiple UPS offers into one platform
  • Smart-UPSTM with APC SmartConnect – Cloud based monitoring feature that provides automatic notifications, firmware updates, and advanced support services

Network Best Practices | Applied Technologies

The typical plant network has multiple processors, a single subnet and limited redundancy. Applied Technologies dug into why plant network segmentation is a best practice, and how the plant process defines the network. This starts with defining the plant process areas, the sub-process areas within the line by identifying the PLC(s) within the process area, the drives, IO, HMI connected to the PLC, and the risks/timing of the process.

To implement network best practices, Applied Technologies, coupled with French Gerleman, offers the following network services:

  • Network assessment
  • Network security posture survey
  • Machine level/plant level design
  • Network configuration mock-up
  • Server setup, virtualization and configuration
  • Network troubleshooting
  • Managed services
  • Simplified design, quicker deployment, reduced risk

Virtualization | Applied Technologies

Virtualization is the next step forward in plant infrastructure. Applied Technologies highlighted how virtualization creates a virtual version of a device or resource, such as a server, storage device, network or even an operating system. This is important because each server has numerous single points of failure, such as APPS, OS, CPU, RAM, DISK and PWR. Having servers without virtualization can be costly and inefficient, and PCs and HMIs are prone to failure and can take significant time to recover.

Using virtualization can reduce the number of servers with multiple risk points each to three, with zero risk points. By running APPS and HMIs virtually and servers in data centers, recovery time is seconds, not days! This results in fewer refresh cycles, a significant return on investment and a smaller technology footprint. Virtualization can be scaled as your business needs change and allows you to allocate storage and memory as needed and mitigate or eliminate downtime.

Test & Inspection Troubleshooting Process | AFL

What if you could get accurate results for every single fiber optic test and inspection you have?  The fiber optic test and inspection equipment market has seen a lot of innovation for over 25 years, and now AFL has launched a revolutionary approach to the Test & Inspection Product Overview procedure. Typically, this procedure has four main steps, for which AFL offers a full range of products, that can increase your accuracy and improve your process.

Step 1: Traffic ID & Continuity

Use an Optical Fiber Identifier should be used before disconnecting any fiber, and visual and Wave ID coding to determine Polarity and continuity from ‘End to End.’

  • OFI-BI and OFI-BIPM Optical Fiber Identifiers
  • Visual Fault Identifiers (VFI/VFL)
  • MFIS Multi-fiber Identification System
  • Loss Test Sets -OLTS

Step 2: Inspect & Cleaning

All optical surfaces that are intended to be mated will need to be inspected. Cleaning prior to inspection has led to debris smearing, therefore inspection is a pre-requisite. AFL provides cleaning kits which are field portable, convenient, and available with inspection and loss testing products.

Step 3: Acceptance Testing

Acceptance of fiber network testing prior to commissioning is completed based on Insertion Loss, Optical Return Loss, & Length for the system to perform based on specifications. AFL supplies Loss Test Sets to identify fiber links that can support growth of bandwidth and speeds at the time of commissioning.

Step 4: Trouble & Maintenance

Maintaining a trouble-free network starts from Planning, Testing, Engineering and Maintenance divisions engaged with current network data through a real-time cloud-based database management system. AFL has various products and services to ensure the best results:

  • FS200 FlexScan
  • FLEXSCAN®Quad OTDR Overview
  • TRM® Test Results Manager

If you’d like to learn more about the Network Technology Summit or any of the products recommended in it, please reach out to your Applied Technologies Account Manager or contact us today.

End of Support for Windows 7 and Several Windows Server Versions

 

Microsoft End of Support

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything has a lifespan, and technology is no different.

 

Software companies constantly develop new and improved versions of their products to address the ever-changing needs of users and to combat security threats, building in features and functionality for ease-of use, collaboration and mobility. As new programs are released, older versions are set for sunsetting, which means that support and security patches are no longer available. When this happens, users have the option to do nothing – which means they’re operating without support and with security vulnerabilities – or upgrade to the new version of the software.

 

Such is the situation that users of Windows 7, Exchange Server 2010, Windows Server 2008, Hyper V Server 2008, and SQL Server 2008 will face starting January 14, 2020, when Microsoft support for all of these platforms will end. Applied Technologies answers questions users will need to consider as they prepare for this transition.

 

Question: Why do software companies sunset packages?

Answer: Software companies are always introducing something newer, better and faster, and because of these advancements, they encourage users to migrate to new versions. When they add versions to the mix of offerings, they have to make a decision and draw a line in the sand in terms of when they’ll stop supporting older versions. It’s simply not possible to support multiple companies on multiple versions dating back an unlimited number of years. Instead, they focus their attention on identifying vulnerabilities and areas for improvement in the most current package while looking forward to the next new development to best meet the needs of users.

Typically, the lifecycle for any program is a maximum of ten years, while anything less than five years old will receive mainstream support. That five to ten year mark is a bit of a gray zone in terms of the level of support and attention a program will receive. Today, Microsoft is encouraging the migration to Windows 10 and Microsoft/Office 365 which offers a great deal of enhanced security and mobility for users.

 

Question: What do users need to know?

Answer: The most important thing for users to know is that they will be at a greater security risk if they are still running Windows 7 and Server 2008 or SQL 2008 after January 14, 2020. I can only imagine that hackers everywhere have this date on their calendars, just waiting for the opportunity to see what vulnerabilities they can capitalize on. If a company doesn’t upgrade, they may have a hacker waltz in through a back door they’ll never know about – and one that Microsoft will never patch. Just one machine not properly upgraded can put a company’s entire system at risk. Putting people’s data at risk can also result in serious fines, a major PR crisis, and erode public trust. Companies should not put themselves in this situation and can avoid this by upgrading.

We work with many IT managers who went through what I call “the big change” that happened with the migration from Microsoft XP to Microsoft 7. There were many compatibility challenges that arose, but the great news is, the upgrade from 7 to 10 is much more seamless. Most of the challenges arose from third party software programs which simply were not compatible at the time of rollout. This is not the case with this migration, as Microsoft has worked hard to make 99% of applications compatible. In fact, Microsoft has a site which allows IT managers and users to check the compatibility of programs they’ll need to run on Windows 10.  Reference: https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/ready-for-windows/#/

 

Question: How does a client go about upgrading?

Answer: The first step in the process is to perform an assessment. Applied Technologies will review all applications and the network environment (including all hardware) to identify if an upgrade is possible with the current setup, and to help us develop the best plan of action to execute the upgrade and roll it out to all users.

There are many options available for this particular upgrade. For example, on the server side, you can move Windows and SQL servers to Azure and Microsoft will continue to provide security updates for 3 years.  Or we can upgrade the operating system and then leave it on premise or move it into the cloud. This provides the opportunity to get the data off of hardware in internal data centers and move towards virtualization of servers and combining SQL databases to reduce risk. There are many opportunities between virtualization and business processes in the cloud, especially if we’re dealing with older hardware that is due for replacement. In many cases, we find that it’s better and more cost efficient to move to the cloud.

 

Question: What are the key decisions to be made, and considerations to factor in?

Answer: We’ll typically look first at where the highest risk exists. What is the most risk that we need to mitigate before end of life? This could be at the server level or on various desktop machines throughout the organization. Once we mitigate this risk, we can tackle the other things.

Assessing hardware can also be a primary decision point for many companies. All desktop machines and devices must be compatible and have enough space and memory to house the new applications. In most cases, if a computer is running Windows 7 most of the time it can run Windows 10, but we must make sure the machines have enough capacity. A rule of thumb for the lifespan on hardware is three to five years, so if we’re dealing with a client whose hardware is nearing its own end of life, we must address what upgrades must be made to manage this migration.

We’ve also found that in the smart manufacturing world, hardware tends to have a longer lifespan because manufacturing applications don’t keep up with the leading edge of operating systems. In these cases, we’ll build firewalls around the systems or take them off the local networks so there is no risk of security breach. This secures the machine so that the overall environment is not at risk, and the facility can operate as usual.

 

Question: How long does the upgrade take?

Answer: This depends on the environment. A large number of PCs can be upgraded quickly if they have standard software. We typically begin with the assessment, and then create a clear schedule and process for the rollout. It typically can take six to eight weeks to plan, especially with desktop migrations where we’ll touch all machines. We tackle the easiest parts of the rollout process first and allow time for the more difficult applications that require additional planning and analysis.

Applied Technologies is currently working on a number of client upgrades, and we’re encouraging everyone to take this upgrade seriously to avoid the security vulnerabilities that will exist after the end of support date. It only takes one hacker and one vulnerability to compromise a company’s network. Doing nothing equates to the decision to leave the door open should a hacker come knocking.

As with all of Applied Technologies services, we focus our efforts on making our clients feel confident, knowledgeable and secure with their company’s IT. Our support for helping clients navigate this important migration is just one example of this commitment and we welcome any questions on this topic.

Please reach out to the team at sales@appliedtech.pro or 636.274.8000 with any questions.