Backup of Business Critical OT Environments
Operational Technology and Disaster Protection
When I last wrote a blog on this topic, I was discussing why Macrium Reflect and Macrium Site Manager are so popular in business critical or industrial environments. Twelve months ago in that blog I discussed how our product development roadmaps and feature sets are being influenced by the requirement of industrial IT infrastructures for a reliable, stable backup solution that support the growing family of Microsoft Windows operating systems. Since that last blog, we have seen an even greater uptake of Macrium Software for these needs and have a better understanding of what is driving this trend.
IT vs. OT
During recent technical pre-sales discussions with a very helpful customer they shared with us how they differentiate their corporate technology infrastructure into two parts:
- Information Technology (IT); this is the corporate network and systems that supply services to office-based staff, people focused needs, data and infrastructure. IT can tolerate outages and operates within a benign office environment. Equipment is updated and replaced more frequently (2–3 years), and load is focused on the normal five day business week.
- Operational Technology (OT); describes the needs of industrial production processes that often run 24x7 in harsh environments with very low tolerance of system downtimes. Device / Machine replacement cycles are typically much slower than the PC for replacement; it is not unusual to find a multi-million dollar system controlled by a Windows XP industrial computer. Servicing and replacement are costly and will operate within a tight schedule and strict acceptance test requirements. OT needs can be anywhere in the world with unusual or non-existent network connectivity.
The different parameters and services levels of IT and OT help us better understand why Macrium Reflect is frequently selected for use in the OT environment.
What is the Need?
The OT environment often contains standalone industrial PCs or Servers controlling or monitoring part of a manufacturing process that is automated or in an isolated location. We have many examples of customers from oil and gas pipelines, radiology, dental scanning, navy ships, airport lighting, fruit sorting and lumber mills. All of these have the need for Macrium Reflect to be reliable, low maintenance, stable and provide the backup or cloning service every time without fail.
Aside from industrial strength reliability, what are the other main technical needs of OT environments and what makes Macrium Reflect Imaging the ideal solution?
- The Windows / software setup is likely to be highly customised and difficult to recreate from scratch. In case of failure, therefore, a Macrium Image backup is the ideal DR option In contrast, for office IT, the main concern is the protection of typically centrally stored, documents, not system recovery.
- Often these systems are quite old, running Microsoft Windows versions that are long out of support. For this reason Macrium maintains support for all Windows from XP (and 2K3) onwards including a variety of Windows embedded configurations.
- The backup process is designed to operate within the resource constraints found with systems of that vintage.
- If required, the backup endpoints can be centrally managed with Macrium Site Manager. This has been designed specifically to operate in the heterogeneous network topologies characteristic of OT.
Quite often the solution is required to provide a system roll-back or DR service, there might be two disks and if one fails the other takes over using an image cloned from the primary disk. In summary reliability and stability are key for OT needs along with excellent compatibility with Microsoft Windows.