Secure Remote Access in the Industrial/Manufacturing Sector
It’s become increasingly common in all industries for employees to get their work done outside of the office – using a variety of mobile devices including laptops, tablets, and even smartphones – instead of sitting at a fixed workstation. In some cases, employees may even be performing business tasks using their own personal devices (known as BYOD), as few people like to carry more than one device.
The industrial and manufacturing sectors are no exception to this trend. According to a recent article from Industrial IP Advantage:
The tight integration of technology and production systems has given rise to a new way of working. Employees with access to business and production systems can deliver greater productivity and value to the manufacturer throughout the day. The accelerated adoption of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones in the consumer world has been a catalyst for change in the manufacturing industry.
The Industrial Environment
The untethered workforce, which includes people working from home, from the road, on remote job sites or while walking around a factory floor, presents challenges for any industry; yet there are some special challenges for manufacturers and other businesses in the industrial sector.
These companies need to seamlessly allow a large variety of users with diverse needs to access specialized line-of-business (LOB) applications and critical business data across various production sites, often at sub-optimal levels of network connectivity. In some cases, tablets and other mobile devices may be used to control and monitor critical pieces of industrial equipment or create highly exacting diagrams and blueprints.
Moreover, many factories and industrial plants operate 24 hours a day; if something fails outside regular business hours, a supervisor or manager may get called at home to consult on what to do. In these circumstances, they may need access to equipment controls or other digital resources while away from the office.
Alternatives for Remote Access
Manufacturers have two basic choices for allowing personnel to access industrial data and equipment remotely: dedicated apps or remote access to resources that are hosted on a company desktop or server.
Dedicated apps may offer an elegant user interface tailored to a mobile device, but there are a number of security and cost advantages to using a remote access solution. For one thing, using a dedicated app to access equipment means there’s an additional piece of software that needs to be installed, configured and supported across a multitude of devices and operating systems. Moreover, mobile apps present a number of inherent vulnerabilities that can be eliminated by using a secure remote access solution instead.
WhiteHat Security recently identified the “Top 10 Vulnerabilities in Mobile Applications.” These include compromised devices, inadequate encryption, weak or insufficient authentication, and insufficient code obfuscation.
Advantages of Remote Access
The benefits of using a secure remote access solution to access industrial equipment include:
- Enhanced security: Not only does a secure remote access solution eliminate most of the vulnerabilities cited above, it also ensures that there is no data stored on the remote device. This ensures that no sensitive data can be accessed maliciously in the event a device is stolen, hacked into, or simply lost.
- Lower IT overhead: IT & helpdesk staff don’t have to install, configure or support such a wide variety of different apps across multiple devices and platforms. Instead, applications can be deployed and managed across hundreds or even thousands of devices from a single, centralized console.
- Easier for users: Users don’t have to learn an additional interface, they simply log in to the system once and then work with their applications exactly as they would do from a fixed workstation at the factory.
- Heightened compatibility: Legacy LOB software may not be supported across every device and OS. With browser-based remote access, however, any device with a modern browser can be used to run even specialized software, instantly.
The industrial/manufacturing sector has unique requirements when it comes to providing employees flexible, mobile work options. A secure browser-based remote access solution can provide manufacturers with savings in cost, time, and user productivity, as well as offering better security than many specialized mobile apps.
Ericom’s secure remote access solution enables industrial and manufacturing companies to easily and cost-effectively deliver desktops and applications to all users, on any device. Click here to learn how one multi-national company is reducing the cost and complexity of remote access with Ericom Connect.