Global Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) Market: Benefits and Threats of Cloud-Based SCADA System Confuse Companies

The basic objective behind SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) is to gather data in real time from remote locations in order to control equipment and conditions. The software application program for process control is used across a several industries such as telecommunications, oil and gas refining, food and beverages, transportation, pharmaceutical, water and waste water management, electric power and chemicals. The increasing demand for process automation in different industries is expected to push the growth of the global SCADA market at a CAGR of 5.0% during the period between 2014 and 2020. The overall market was worth US$23.20 billion in 2013 and is expected to be valued at US$32.70 billion by 2020.

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Cloud-Based SCADA: A Double Edged Sword

Cloud-based SCADA system has become a hot topic with technology firms offering some cloud-based SCADA systems as a “service”, more commonly referred to as SaaS (Software as a Service). Instead of the SCADA system software installed on local computers, the entire system and its data is maintained and stored in the cloud. SaaS companies provide their customers with services such as software applications, scalable server space, and off-site IT support. So, what are the benefits of moving SCADA system to the cloud?

Cheaper Operating Expenses: For companies, maintenance of SCADA hardware and software in-house and keeping them up-to-date is costlier than paying for a portion of the server space maintained by a third-party hosted cloud service. 

More Server Space: Instead of buying additional databases and web servers, a company can opt for getting more space on a virtual cloud-based server without the need to install and maintain additional hardware. 

Remote Sharing and Accessing of Data: For managers, it becomes increasingly easy to remotely access and share data stored on a cloud server.

But Is Data Safe on Cloud-Based SCADA System?

For large industries such as manufacturing, information such as analytics, reports, and configurations can be ideally stored on cloud-based SCADA system. Though the benefits of moving to the cloud are many, there are certain risks that are restricting the industries to proactively adopt cloud-based SCADA system. These are:

Security: At the end of the day, the information stored on a third-party cloud server is outside the internal network of a company. In case of an accidental leakage of data, outsiders including competitors, hackers, or spies would get access to valuable and confidential information about a company. For example, in 2011, Sony and Citigroup experienced security breaches that exposed sensitive data about their customers. This has made companies to think twice before storing data on cloud. 

Reliability: Crashing of virtual cloud servers and connection failures can easily make the cloud-based SCADA system loose its functionality. In such cases, the companies have to depend on the service providers to fix the problems as there is no direct access to the virtual server. 

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Performance: Cloud-based SCADA system is dependent on the network bandwidth of the service provider as well as the client company. Bandwidth overload will adversely impact the performance of the cloud-based SCADA system. 

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