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What Price Should You Expect for SCADA Systems and Maintenance?

By Andrew Erickson

June 17, 2023

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Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems are crucial components in a wide array of industries. This includes telecom, energy, water treatment, manufacturing, and more. These sophisticated systems allow businesses to control and monitor their operations, making them more efficient and reliable.

SCADA systems are not cheap, but their ability to enhance productivity and efficiency absolutely makes them worth the investment.

Understanding the total cost of ownership associated with SCADA systems helps you budget more accurately. You'll also learn to appreciate the importance of investing in quality from the start.

Always remember that a well-designed system, while expensive, is significantly more cost-effective in the long run. Compare a high-quality system to a cheaper, poorly designed one that needs constant repair and redesign.

The costs associated with SCADA systems are substantial. This starts from initial purchase price. It then also includes ongoing maintenance and tech support costs. You also have potential costs associated with recovery from a poorly designed system.

Let's take an overview of all of these expenses now.

Consultation/Design Cost

The first step in implementing a SCADA system is the design phase. It's not uncommon to hire a consultant for this task, given the system's complexity and the specific requirements of each individual business.

The cost of hiring a SCADA consultant can vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the system required, but you can generally expect to pay anywhere between $100 to $200 per hour, depending on their level of expertise and location.

Initial Purchase Price

The initial purchase price of a SCADA system can be considerable, depending on its complexity, the number of devices it needs to connect to, the hardware required, and the type of software licenses you'll need.

For a small to medium-sized system, you could be looking at anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000. Larger, more complex systems can run into the millions.

Ongoing Maintenance Costs

Just like any other complex piece of technology, SCADA systems require ongoing maintenance to stay reliable and keep running smoothly. "Maintenance" can include software updates, hardware replacements, and regular system checks to prevent failures.

Depending on your system size and complexity, annual maintenance costs can range from a few thousand dollars to several tens of thousands.

Cost of Recovery from a Poorly Designed System

The price of rectifying a poorly designed SCADA system can be significant. If the system fails or is compromised due to design flaws, the costs will skyrocket. There are expenses associated with downtime, loss of productivity, potential regulatory fines, and the price of redesigning and re-implementing the system. For substantial SCADA systems, these can easily reach into the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. This underlines the importance of investing in a well-designed system from the get-go, even if it requires a higher upfront investment and more time in the planning stages.

Tech Support Costs

Tech support is a vital aspect of managing a SCADA system, and the costs can vary widely. Some manufacturers or consultants will include tech support as part of the initial purchase price or as part of a yearly maintenance package.

If you are billed separately, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $150 per hour for support, depending on the urgency and complexity of the issue.

A Full-Service Manufacturer: A Smart Investment for SCADA Systems

When considering the purchase of a SCADA system, it's not just the upfront cost that you need to factor into your decision-making process, but also the potential for unexpected expenses down the line.

One way to mitigate this risk is by purchasing your system from a full-service manufacturer. This might come with a higher initial price tag, but it can prove to be very cost-effective in the long run.

  • Full-service manufacturers provide more than just the hardware and software components of the system. You can also get additional services like:
  • Design consultation
  • Reference information from prior projects
  • Implementation help
  • Ongoing maintenance and extended warranties
  • Tech support

The consultation and design phase with a full-service provider is typically more cohesive. They have an in-depth understanding of their product's capabilities and limitations. This leads to a more efficient design process and a system that is optimized for your specific needs.

Full-service manufacturers also usually provide factory training for your team on how to use and troubleshoot the system. Some even provide free training a few times a year if you're able to visit their headquarters. Training like this can reduce the need for outside tech support and lower your overall operating costs.

Full-service manufacturers often offer annual maintenance contracts, ensuring regular software updates and system tune-ups. For reference, DPS Telecom maintenance agreements include ongoing software updates for our T/Mon master stations. They also extend the device's hardware warranty for the duration of the agreement.

Good maintenance via a maintenance agreement can prevent SCADA system failures. This minimizes the cost and impact of network downtime or process shutdowns.

Full-Service SCADA Manufacturers Stand Behind Their Products

Much more commonly than with buying cut-rate devices, full-service manufacturers stand behind their product. In the event of a problem, they have the resources to respond quickly. This is either at a reduced cost or even for $0 when covered under the warranty or a maintenance contract. This gives you the peace of mind of financial predictability. You won't need to worry that you'll be hit with unexpected costs.

Working with a full-service manufacturer also ensures you're always dealing with experts familiar with your specific system. This eliminates the time and cost associated with third-party technicians trying to understand a system they didn't design or install.

While the initial costs associated with full-service manufacturers may seem higher, the long-term financial predictability, comprehensive support, and streamlined service they offer make them a good choice.

This approach allows you to better plan for your future budget years. Your SCADA system will be a reliable asset rather than a source of unexpected and unbudgeted costs.

Call DPS to Discuss Your SCADA Project

Remote monitoring and control (SCADA) is our singular focus at DPS. Our off-the-shelf devices aren't right for 100% of possible scenarios (customization helps in many cases), but we can point you in the right direction 100% of the time.

Just call DPS at 1-800-693-0351 or email us at sales@dpstele.com

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Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...