IT and OT Convergence – what you should know

H/T: Forbes
IT and OT Convergence – what you should know
It’s under no dispute, not even debate, that the convergence of modern connectivity and data control (IT = information technology), with physical equipment (OT = operational technology) is largely a positive move.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the benefits of connecting rockets with computers, or, in a more real-world example, a fleet of ships with a data centre. Data is key to understanding a business and trimming fat, cutting waste and streamlining processes, and the introduction of IIoT, cloud computing and global connectivity methods have opened the door to collecting this data.

IT and OT Convergence doesn’t come without risk

The ability for technicians to operate OT machinery from remote locations is without question a benefit to any company in industry. It minimises costs, cuts diagnostic time to a fraction of what it would be by removing travel time, and in many cases allows for an immediate resolution to problems which would otherwise take hours or even days to fix.

But it’s not all plain sailing. What this gateway to remote connectivity also provides, however, is exposure to cyberattack. With added connectivity comes added security concerns, which can’t be simply solved by plugging in simple network and security measures like firewalls, VPNs and VLANs.

How to handle the convergence of IT and OT

The key to a smooth and (relatively) problem-free convergence of IT and OT is finding a system integrator with an in-depth understanding of the priorities of both. Building a foundation and solid preparation for the convergence is paramount, so that decisions made throughout the planning stage of a project are based on a complete understanding of the requirements of both the IT and OT sides of the coin.

With outdated operating systems and networking equipment being a key component in cyberattacks, security should be a business’s primary concern. Modern zero-trust, policy-based security tools and measures should be explored and integrated at the beginning of the project – prevention is better than cure, especially when data is concerned.

Education of staff is as important as the hardware and software at the centre of an application, as IT technicians may be (and often are) unaware of the criticality behind the 24/7 uptime requirements of OT installations.

Above all, work with a system integrator who understands the challenges of converging IT with OT, and keep in mind that greater connectivity brings with it greater security requirements.
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Sep 2021
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