Data sovereignty comes into play when an organisation’s data is stored outside of its own country and is therefore subject to the laws of the country in which the data resides. Why does it matter? Well, unfortunately, data protection laws are far from consistent across the world and there is no single mandate or agreement that provides one blanket set of guidelines for everyone to follow, creating technical and legal challenges for companies who wish to move their data from being stored on-premise to the cloud.

Privacy and data-hosting laws vary wildly by country, and some are stricter than others. For example, some countries have laws that require data to be stored within that country i.e. the United States, so when a company has multiple plants based across the globe, ensuring that its data is stored both conveniently and in accordance with its country’s laws can become a minefield.

Here, cloud-based services can offer manufacturers significant advantages. From a cost, maintenance and deployment standpoint, the cloud can deliver applications and data to help manufacturers move faster and be more competitive, without the additional IT burden. However, lack of awareness of data laws is, for some, creating a barrier to unlocking the benefits of cloud storage.

Brexit has also muddied the waters, with many people adopting a ‘wait and see’ stance because of concerns over which data laws may change once the UK leaves the EU. The reality, according to most experts, is that very little will change, particularly in the cloud industry. However, those concerns remain and are delaying the implementation of cloud offerings that can provide manufacturers with a low-cost data storage option that is easy to deploy and maintain.

This is a challenge that must be overcome as IT/OT convergence is becoming an increasingly important part of the digital transformation that is happening on the factory floor. The need for data to be accessible, shareable and available for analysis from the plant floor to the boardroom is crucial for manufacturers who wish to unlock operational efficiencies and become more profitable and competitive.

So, what’s the answer? A hybrid cloud solution offers a convenient halfway house for those in the industrial space, allowing them to leverage both on-premise and cloud systems in a way that sees the two working together securely and in accordance with standard IT practices, without relying on cloud as the sole storage solution.

There are certain critical dependencies that only make sense to be managed on-premise, in order to guard against interruptions to production or public exposure to intellectual property, and to meet certain aspects of regulatory compliance. As a rule, anything that is directly related to the physical output of the production process should stay on-premise. Anything that is not critical to the process, but rather is complementary or is a supporting component, can be a good candidate to be hosted on the cloud. For example, optimisation, analysis, reporting, alerts and notifications, simulation, testing and development — these activities traditionally have little or no impact on safety, legal or financial risks, are tolerant of latency, and can safely be cloud-hosted.

Crucially, a hybrid approach allows you to separate the two whilst leveraging your existing investment in software and infrastructure, speeding up the time taken to unlock the value of the cloud with zero implementation costs and minimal provisioning time.

Wonderware Online, which has multiple data centres across the globe, including one based in Europe, leverages Windows Azure cloud services. It is a fully managed solution for collecting, storing, visualising, and analysing industrial data for faster, smarter business decisions. It consolidates disparate data for complete visibility into how your business is performing and enables users, throughout the enterprise, to access data and information from anywhere.

Andy Graham

Andy Graham