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The benefits of virtualisation in manufacturing

Sophie Hand explains how manufacturers can use virtualisation to consolidate and keep track of their data

Our reliance on data to complete our work, communicate with friends and stream our favourites TV series is increasing. In fact, 90% of all data that exists today was created in the past two years. 

While not all of this data is important to manufacturers, losing any of their own data can be detrimental to the business.

As more data accumulates, manufacturers need to keep track of it and know how to access it. According to David M. Smith’s article The Cost of Lost Data, six per cent of all PCs suffer an episode of data loss in any given year. 

Losing important data can cause expensive downtime that will negatively impact the business.

In strictly regulated industries, such as pharmaceuticals, downtime caused by loss of data can impact the product. 

Losing data compromises the integrity of a product as records could be lost, meaning that the batch of product will have to be rejected.

No matter the regulations, all manufacturing companies should be aware of the implications of data loss. 

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of small to medium businesses that lose their data will shut down in six months or less. 

As manufacturers rely on more data to improve productivity, they should also consider how they can store data efficiently and safely.

Going virtual

Manufacturers are investing in more information technology (IT) to improve efficiency, quality and regulatory compliance. More IT means more data that must be protected.

Manufacturers can look at different methods to prevent data losses, particularly by using virtualisation.

Virtualisation involves creating a server, desktop, operating system or network to consolidate data. Manufacturers can then run multiple operating systems without having to change their device. They can run all operations simultaneously from one central computer system.

Consolidation

Traditionally, manufacturing facilities require many servers to collect and store all data. Creating one central location means that manufacturers only require one server to run IT software, reducing IT maintenance costs for the facility.  

As more advanced hardware becomes available, legacy operating systems can become obsolete, making it harder to find hardware and software that is compatible. 

Virtualisation eliminates this issue because the virtual host software will run on the hardware no matter the age of the operating system.

Virtualisation also makes it easier for expansion. Once the infrastructure is in place, manufacturers can add a new machine and configure it, without the need for any new servers.

Recovery

Manufacturers should be aware that a system failure is possible at any time. Any problems with controls, execution systems or automated equipment can halt production and important data might be lost.

Using virtual platforms that are independent of hardware means that a break down will cause less impact on data. Manufacturers can easily data kept on the virtual platform and access it as soon as the host machine is back online. 

Once the host machine is back online, all the information will be back and accessible. 

IT departments can also virtually test a disaster recovery failover software to prepare for any breakdowns.

Manufacturers should be careful to make sure their contribution to the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day is well organised and not at risk of being lost. 

Virtualisation allows any sized manufacturer to improve the visibility of their network and create the right platform for their business from one server. It improves how data is accessed, how it is used and how it is protected.

Sophie Hand is UK country account manager at industrial automation parts supplier EU Automation.

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