If production stops, rapid intervention is required. But what happens if the plant specialist is not on site? Thanks to digitalisation, the magic words in this case are often ‘remote maintenance’. It is estimated that up to 60% of errors can be resolved, or at least supported, by connecting to the system remotely. Weidmüller’s u-link remote access service offers a system that is easy to install, configure and manage, and guarantees a high level of security at all times.
Estimates assume that up to 60% of errors can be resolved or at least supported via remote access. Not having to send out a service technician can mean savings of EUR 1,000 or more. For these reasons, the German company Weidmüller has developed u-link, an easy-to-use remote access service.
Companies are increasingly turning to remote access applications. Remote access allows a company to access a computer or a network remotely via a network connection – on a worldwide scale across national borders. This allows users to access the systems they need, even though they cannot physically establish a direct connection. In other words, users access systems remotely via a telecommunications or internet connection.
Time-consuming journeys are no longer necessary, malfunctions can be rectified quickly and easily, which reduces downtimes, and plant optimisations can be carried out with ease.
In addition to the high security standards, the usability and flexibility of the remote access system are also important. It should be possible to carry out the configuration easily and independently. Ideally, the system offers a clear overview of the plant in the field and the connection is established with a single mouse click. The remote access devices are connected simply by entering a code.
u-link scores points with its ease of use, as the administration of the entire system is extremely clear and can be carried out by the users themselves without the need for in-depth IT expertise. u-link’s intuitive interface can be easily configured to match the system and quickly customised to meet specific design requirements. When using remote maintenance solutions, being able to work efficiently with the system is particularly important: it must be possible to set up and disconnect connections quickly. In addition, switching between different devices must be fast, to name but two of the essential criteria. Special attention needs to be paid to system security, as remote access always forms an interface to the outside world. The account should have sufficient security features, such as two-factor authentication, brute force protection and a password policy.
Devices should authenticate themselves using certificates with a sufficient key length, e.g. X.509 certificates with 2048-bit key length, and communication should only be outgoing via known ports such as 443. Depending on user requirements, other features of the remote maintenance system play a special role, such as detailed user management with organisation administration, firmware management and additional access restrictions. It is not uncommon for providers of remote maintenance solutions to outsource their cloud storage to countries whose data protection laws do not meet German standards. However, all the servers accessed by u-link are located in Western Europe and meet all the relevant security standards.
With the u-link concept, each customer receives their own u-link instance, which prevents third parties from accessing the plant. What’s more, Weidmüller is currently the only provider that can establish a secure VPN connection to China.
Access with a single click
Fast setup and effective use are some of the most important aspects of a remote access solution. For the user, remote access with u-link means a connection is established with a single click. Various steps run in the background: a VPN client is installed on the service technician’s computer, via which a secure, outgoing connection to a meeting point server (cloud server) is established. Starting from an industrial security router or other u-link-capable Weidmüller products, a VPN tunnel to a meeting point server is also set up. Both tunnels are now connected internally. The PC is now connected to the network virtually, as though it were connected locally via an Ethernet cable.
In the event of a malfunction, the system operator can decide whether and when the service technician can access a machine. Once the service technician has logged onto the u-link portal, they can see which industrial security router has established a VPN connection to the meeting point server. The technician can now connect to the router and view the plant visualisation and the parameters of the control.