Challenges of Monitoring and Maintaining a Growing IoT Network

By: Denise Reed | September 14, 2020

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system built by interconnected wireless devices that can be used in almost any industry. These devices are used to make processes more efficient, reduce costs, improve response times, and benefit customer service - but only if they are working as intended. A service-led business model can differentiate among competitors by providing improved customer experience and continued loyalty, unmatched product and service bundles, and new business models and revenue streams increasing profit margins.

A manufacturer of construction and excavation machinery can use IoT to remotely monitor both the location of its assets as well as the condition of the equipment and availability of spare parts. A commercial heating ventilation and air-conditioning manufacturer can provide guaranteed service level agreements, by remotely monitoring their equipment and environmental conditions.

As the network of interconnected devices grows, monitoring and maintenance become a greater challenge for IT personnel. Each device comes with its requirements for software updates and security protocols. Asset-intensive industries face a range of challenges to ensure their mission-critical plans and equipment operate at maximum efficiency and uptime. The smallest disruption to service can lead to costly penalties and churn.

Security Vulnerabilities of a Growing IoT Network

IoT technology has been rapidly changing the way devices and tools work across homes and offices. For example, when a shared printer is low on ink, it can order replacement supplies by itself before affecting anyone's workflow or printing experience. But this same printer can pose a major cybersecurity risk

IoT networks handle vast amounts of sensitive data and customer information, which makes security a priority. Each new device presents a new potential entry point for network intruders and any compromised device can leave a business's entire network vulnerable.  Securing authentication using unique credentials on every device, establishing an organizational-specific root of trust, and the continuing ongoing device security & management process are all top priorities.

Creating a secure and reliable network is a common challenge for both new and existing IoT networks. Integrating new devices into an existing ecosystem requires securing current protocols and designing new ones to be flexible and scalable to best protect the network.

Discover ways to gain hypercontext awareness and microsegment the managed and unmanaged devices on your network in real-time through ANS's partnership with WootCloud.  WootCloud delivers network segmentation and secure NAC-less access control to infrastructure devices and users at IoT scale delivering centralized security for all locations.

Monitoring and Maintenance Challenges

Managing a network of IoT devices can be difficult because of the sheer scope. IoT for businesses is a growing frontier with projected market growth of over $1,000B by 2026, but implementing the right technology and procedures remains a common barrier.

As the number of devices on a network increases, the necessity for a comprehensive management process rises with it. While IoT systems provide businesses with irrefutable benefits, challenges result from the sheer scale of the network such as:

  • Scope of the resources needed to monitor the systems
  • The complexity of connections between devices
  • Speedy resolution when identifying problems and delivering a solution.
  • Securing every device within the network against new and existing threats
  • Expanding the network and integrating new devices

When IoT monitoring and maintenance is managed in-house, the IT department can quickly be overwhelmed, left to sort through the massive amounts of data being processed and be responsible for identifying which pieces of data point to performance issues or larger network-level problems. Even for small firms, the amount of data and devices connected to a network can be overwhelming. Businesses must understand how their devices are performing so that they can both optimize their use and anticipate any issues or failures forthcoming. The costs associated with reactive maintenance are detrimental in today’s fast-moving world thus taking critical time to discover the fault leading customers to the point of frustration.

Solutions

Connectivity to the IoT is all around. From Bluetooth to 5G, the connection to the global networks exist in most personal devices. But for companies, specific range networks can provide the connectivity needed to keep all necessary systems online but with added protection and management protocols.

Wide Area Networks

A wide area network, or WAN, is essentially a network of networks. There are two main types of WANs: LPWANs and SD-WANs. Each type has its benefits and limitations, so choosing the right one is an important decision that each company has to make for its IoT solution.

LPWAN: These low power networks are best suited to situations that can function on low bandwidth and require long-lasting battery life. Usually, devices on this network will only send data intermittently and they will not be waiting for a response. This type of WAN will perform simpler tasks that SD-WANs, making them ideal for agricultural or warehouse applications.

LPWANs are also lower in cost and can operate at wider ranges; they will require less monitoring and maintenance due to their simplicity. A few examples of applications include temperature sensors, soil or water quality detectors, and smart parking meters.

SD-WAN: Software-defined WANs are made by design to support IoT devices. SD-WANs have the potential to reduce costs and complexity of IoT network environments by reducing the demand for devices at any particular site. These WANs are built for complex applications with high bandwidth needs and they are designed for high security; they incorporate firewalls and various forms of threat detection and software to minimize the risk of successful attacks against a device.

Although WANs offer many benefits, they also have their limitations. Wide coverage and multiple devices leave WANs more vulnerable to security breaches than smaller networks. Skilled network administrators are required to maintain the network once technicians have set it up. Issues that arise with these networks are also more difficult to solve due to their complexity.

Management Portals

An IoT management portal can securely and intelligently interact with users, machines, and devices in real-time. Remote monitoring and predictive maintenance provide a solution to the many challenges of IoT management.

Management portals provide a single pane of glass to view multiple devices and networks, allow you to dive into individual network components, analyze and inspect your data, and automate operations, among other things. Management portals essentially give you total control on your devices and data without the hassle of monitoring all the collected data points or accessing individual disparate platforms.

Management portals integrate with the existing network to track, monitor, and manage IoT devices. A management portal can be a cost-effective solution to equip an in-house IT department with the data they need to respond and resolve device issues or connectivity issues while protecting sensitive data and maintaining system administration.

IoT data integration enables lower costs, reduced time to repair, and possibly new business models and revenue streams which all give businesses a competitive edge in today's world. Remote monitoring allows a business to upgrade and control products in the field at an ease. A connected smart product can be designed with cutting edge capabilities such as downloading new features thus avoiding a service call. Not to mention that different product parameters can be remotely adjusted thus providing stellar performance.

Remote monitoring combined with predictive analytics can reduce outages and improve uptime. Engineers can remotely identify possible faults quickly and react predictively to reduce the time to repair or rectify them completely. Operators can view when a problem occurs in real-time as it begins, allowing them time to dispatch the closest engineer/tech to the fault, based on GPS data before the customer's awareness.

Finding a Solution Provider

IoT device management is essential for authentication of new devices, the configuration of new and existing devices, as well as diagnostic testing. Monitoring of the IoT network environment is crucial for performance and managing issues before they become major problems. Proactive as appose to reactive monitoring and maintenance is not only cost-effective but creates a non-disturbed customer experience and continued customer loyalty. Whether you need to strengthen security protocols or diagnose connectivity issues, effective monitoring and maintenance processes can help any company manage its growing IoT ecosystem. 

To find out more about IoT networks or IoT device management, contact ANS Advanced Network Services for additional information, guidance, and support.

Posted on September 14, 2020 , updated on September 14, 2020

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