How to care for your control system
While the best control systems* are as future-proof as possible, the galloping pace of development does mean that upgrades will (eventually) be needed. Luckily, you can put off the expense and disruption of this for longer than you might think. Getting the best kind of control system in the first place* will (obviously) help enormously, but you can also save yourself a lot of trouble simply by learning to maintain your system once it’s installed. Here are some tips which may help…
KEEP YOUR COOL
Computers may not be organic, but that doesn’t mean they don’t ‘suffer’ in a bad environment. They are particularly bad at coping with hot and/or wet conditions. We have, by now, all learned the hard way not to spill cups of tea onto our electronic systems – but the heat thing is less obvious. Basically, the warmer your cabinet or computer, the more the components inside will suffer. This isn’t to say you should pop your cabinet in the fridge, but do keep an eye on the ambient temperature, and regularly check your system’s cooling mechanism. On which topic…
Clearing dust out of your cabinet and components is a chore, but it’s important. Dust not only clogs up moving parts, it also acts as a shockingly effective insulator. Even a thin layer of dust will trap heat inside your casings, raising the system to damaging temperatures. Dust can also sabotage cooling systems by gumming up fans and so on. Keep your system as free from dust as possible.
Well, bad power does, anyway. A strong, reliable, and uninterrupted power supply is essential for keeping your control system tickety-boo. A UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) will keep your system alive and happy for longer.
BE KIND TO YOUR NETWORK
Networks get a bit of a raw deal. People never really stop to think about them. In fact, networks have a tough workload, and they sometimes need some TLC. It’s their job to carry data across complex digital terrain, so they need to be surprisingly hardy. Keep your networks robust, and make sure that their layout is both as strong and as user-friendly as possible. You’d be amazed how far we’ve travelled to deal with ‘dead systems’, just to find that someone stepped on a cable, or touched the wrong switch…
DON’T GET IT WET
Come on, you know this by now. Moving swiftly on.
SORT OUT THE HUMIDITY
Humid = Damp. See above.
GET A PLAN B
Virtualisation is becoming increasingly viable for most systems. Virtualising your system gives you a backup if your hardware fails. Less hardware means fewer physical things to go wrong. A virtual system is not (yet) a full substitute for a hard control system, but it can keep you going if your hard system breaks down.
You know the old one about the broom? Its handle and its head have been replaced loads of times, but it’s still the same broom? Well, with a control system, this adage actually kind of works. The components within your system will wear out, but, if it’s is well-designed, the system itself can run for years and years. You just need to watch out for ageing components. Hardware, controllers, computers, and the rest all need to be replaced when they’re no longer fit for purpose. At times, as connectors and so on become obsolete, this may require minor adjustments to the network and/or the system itself – but, overall, up-to-date, clean-running components will keep your system nice and healthy into the future.
Technological development being the speeding rocket that it is, you definitely can’t plan for everything. There’s always going to be something new hurtling out of left-field to knock your plans askew. However, it’s still a good idea to plan ahead for upgrades, replacements, and contingencies. It’s also worthwhile building mitigation strategies into your system. Think about thin-clients (no, not diet-conscious customers - weeny computers which run remotely), and migration paths.
Of course, even the most painstakingly-maintained system will only take you so far. You need your system to be good in the first place if it’s going to work properly. You need something tailored precisely to your needs. Something built with expertise, an eye for detail, and with durability in mind. You need a control system from MASK Control Systems. Get in touch, and let us add value and efficiency to your business.
*If you're old school, and followed the asterisks instead of the hyperlink, I'm plugging MASK Control Systems here (also, I applaud your traditionalist approach to text).