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Section 3: How to Evaluate SCADA Systems and Hardware
SCADA can do a lot for you - but how do you make sure that you're really getting the full benefits of your system? Evaluating complex systems can be tricky - especially if you have to learn a new technology while still doing your everyday job.
Making an informed decision is critical, because the stakes are incredibly high. A SCADA system is a major, business-to-business purchase that your company will live with for maybe as long as 10 to 15 years. When you make a recommendation about a permanent system like that, you're laying your reputation on the line and making a major commitment for your company. And as much as this type of system and automation can help you improve your operations, there are also some pitfalls to a hasty, unconsidered implementation. You can spend a fortune on unnecessary cost overruns. Even after going way over budget, you can STILL end up with a system that doesn't really meet all your needs. Or just as bad, you can end up with an inflexible system that just meets your needs today, but can't easily expand as your needs grow.
So let's go over some guidelines for what you should look for in a well-planned system integration.
Although you need sensors, control relays and a communications network to make a complete system, it's your choice of a master station and RTUs that really determine the quality of your SCADA system.
Sensors and control relays are essentially commodity items. Yes, some sensors are better than others, but a glance at a spec sheet will tell you everything you need to know to choose between them. An IP LAN/WAN is the easiest kind of network to work with, and if you don't yet have LAN capability throughout all your facilities, transitioning to LAN is probably one of your long-term goals. But you don't have to move to LAN immediately or all at once to get the benefits of SCADA. The right system will support both your legacy network and LAN, enabling you to make a graceful, gradual transition.