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A SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system software refines, distributes and presents the data gathered by the SCADA RTUs in real-time. SCADA software is also known as a SCADA HMI (human-machine interface).
SCADA software solutions are important in many different industries that need to monitor and control remote networks. They help support the company's efficiency, they also gather and process important information and data, and let you know of issues that could affect your system's uptime.
There is a huge variety of SCADA software options in the market today. However, before making a decision, you need to know how to price SCADA systems. This way, you'll make sure that you are paying for a remote monitoring system that will be the perfect-fit solution for your requirements.
Let's dive in.
When talking about SCADA, we have two main price tiers: low-cost and higher cost.
Low-cost SCADA software will not have a big impact on your budget but don't expect the best visibility over your system. Normally, manufactures need to cut costs in order to offer cheap software and remain operational, so this means you won't see many features.
If you only have a few simple monitoring needs, or maybe you are a hobbyist, or maybe only want to practice working with a SCADA system, a low-cost software (or even free) might work for you.
On the other hand, if you need to have accurate visibility and control over your revenue-generating equipment at remote sites, you need to have a software you can trust. Medium priced or more expensive SCADA software usually are more reliable and can provide you with complete features to help you protect your network.
There are many aspects that will affect your SCADA software pricing. It is important to know them so you can make informed decisions and get the most value for your money. Some of these aspects are:
The first aspect that will impact the purchase price of a SCADA software is the hardware material it will come with.
You can get a software-only option, and not pay for the hardware case at all. But, remember that if you choose to run your SCADA software in a common computer that you have at your office, you are putting your system at risk. Most computers are easy to hack and software-only options usually lack key features. However, if you just want to get a "feel for it", this can be a good alternative.
If you need a more reliable option than simply installing software in your Windows PC, make sure to invest in dedicated hardware that is a durable metal box using a stable OS. Make sure it features a web browser that is able to have multiple users connected at the same time.
This option will be more costly, but it leverages your reliability and efficiency.
How many devices do you need your software to be able to support?
Depending on your needs, you can find a SCADA software capable of supporting thousands of remote devices with multiple inputs and outputs. You can also find software with small capacity, supporting just a couple of remote devices.
Obviously, the more capacity your software has, the more expensive it will be.
Many SCADA vendors implement recurring costs after the sale. These costs include things like licensing and maintenance fees.
You need to be careful with those, as they can bring a huge impact to your budget later on. Types of recurring costs can be:
You pay nothing up front, but there will be a contract stating that you will need to pay a monthly "rent" for as long as you need to use the SCADA software.
You pay a moderate initial purchase price, but also pay a small monthly fee for as long as you use the software.
You pay the purchase price and fully own your SCADA software.
Many companies choose the third option. It can look more expensive at first glance, but at the end of the day, you will be saving a lot of money in the long run.
Do you have a unique network that needs unique software capabilities? If so, chances are you will be better suited with a customized SCADA software.
This option will be more expensive than just getting an off-the-shelf product. However, it might save you large amount of money later on. Off-the-shelf monitoring and control systems usually will not meet your requirements by 100%. This leaves room for error and a lack of visibility over your mission-critical equipment and processes - which affects your revenue.
On the other hand, when you choose a manufacturer that is able to customize their software for your scenario, you won't be paying for more than you really need or (even worse) for less than what you need - you be investing in a perfect-fit monitoring solution. You only need to keep in mind that you should leave room for possible future growth within your network.
It is almost guaranteed that you will need at least one of these services after you buy your SCADA software. So, it is critical that you take these factors into consideration.
Unfortunately, the most affordable software options will not be able to provide these services for you for free. Normally, this is where these companies make their profit. By charging you for each of these post-sale services (considering that they are able to offer them at all).
Especially if you are starting to work with a SCADA system for the very first time, you'll need to have your vendor's support. If you don't want to find yourself paying a per instance or an hourly fee every time you need some kind of support.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that these post-sale services, if included in your purchase, will affect your costs. So, make sure to discuss that with your potential vendor.
If you have an older network that still uses legacy equipment supporting legacy protocols, having a SCADA software with multi-protocol support will be very useful to you.
Getting rid of all your operational legacy equipment in order to deploy brand new, modern gear is not feasible for most organizations. Instead, they need to work with all the equipment generations they have at their remote sites.
This usually means having multiple screens to look at, not so intuitive interfaces, and confusion between new employees.
A multi-protocol SCADA software is able to join all your equipment (legacy or not) in one unique interface. This makes it easy to keep up with multiple incompatible systems.
SCADA can even be free, but you get what you pay for. If you're a hobbyist, have fun with whatever you like - but never trust $10,000 or $50,000 or $100,000 or more to a free SCADA system. Your investment is big. SCADA is relatively cheap compared to that.
Successful clients I've visited have the right attitude toward monitoring. They don't view SCADA devices as "expensive" just because a box might cost $5000 and that's a lot of money to a single person. They understand that they represent literally thousands and thousands (if not millions) of customers who depend on the service they provide. They aim to protect the service, understanding that even a brief disruption is multiplied out to a huge number of customers.
To safeguard your mission-critical operations, you need a SCADA software you can trust. Give us a call today and see how we can give you a perfect-fit solution.