OUR GREAT MINDS

    by Audrey Bedard

    Is the cloud a good solution for Non-Destructive Testing?

    Nondestructive testing or non-destructive testing (NDT) is a wide group of analysis techniques used in science and technology industry to evaluate the properties of a material, component or system without causing damage. In the energy industry, NDT is an integral part of operations and understanding how it interrelates with the internet is a pressing question for this era.

    A recurring NDT/INTERNET question that comes up in business these days is:
    Are clouds adapted for Non-Destructive Testing?
    What is the best solution for our needs?
    To answer that, we need to understand that NDT has its specificity.

    What could be quicker to manage files in the field than automating the process with Bluetooth and Wi­Fi technologies?

    Nothing!

    A lot of NDT professionals are reluctant to opt for a connected solution, and it is understandable. Public cloud solutions or online services are often attacked; for example, in October 2016, LinkedIn has been hacked. This, for a company that has a contract to honour and schedule to respect, is an unacceptable situation.

    When we analyse it, we discover that the biggest security failure in the technology and automated process is the same as traditional file management: the human. In both cases, the user is the source of file manipulation errors, and everyone will agree. The more manual operations in a process, the more chances to make a mistake.

    The way people use technologies influences the security of a system.


    Which connection are they using: a private one or a public one? Do they opt for solutions with encryption or not? What is the destination of the transferred files: a cloud or a secure private server? The answers to all those questions explain why and how a connected solution can be secure or not for a company.

    Firstly, the type of connection used will definitely influence the security of the transferred data. In fact, free network access is, most of the time, unsafe because data is being spied. To keep your data safe, it is better to get a data plan. Usually, the price for this is $75 per month. Depending on the solution you are using, this amount will be quickly reimbursed with all the time saved by using a connected solution. 

    Secondly, the encryption is an additional security for data transferring. In the case of file management, the file transfer is a peer-to-peer application with 2 private solutions at both ends. The communication between the 2 peers can be encrypted; this brings the risks to a minimum. The encryption protects the integrity of the transferred information and also makes the data uninteresting to anyone that would like to use it. The Nubitus USB cloud key offers you the possibility to use your own encryption method. When investing, it is always to change for a better solution.

    Thirdly, the destination! The choice of the server you are using will substantially affect the risk of failure of your system. When you opt for a cloud, it is as if you are sending your information to the computer of someone else. That is why it is always better to get a secure private server or a properly secured solution.
    What can be another source of security failure? An employee who loses his USB key. The connected solution is way more secure than a lost traditional USB key containing all your data. Because all data will be transferred to the server of the company even if the key has been lost. And with a well-connected solution, it is possible to get options to delete every file once they are transferred or 10 days after the acquisitions. Some solutions also have the option to use a unique ID for each file transfer.


    The traditional file management workflow involves a lot of manipulation.

    When a file is manually transferred, it goes through a long process. Errors can happen at any step of it. With a connected solution, the file management is done in only one step. By automating this process, the risk of errors decreases considerably. The most important thing to think of is to always use a private connection and preferably a private server. All other options are interesting but must still be evaluated considering a balance between price, benefits, and risks. If you still are not sure, Amotus can challenge your security system or help you improve it.

    Techniques and technologies used to achieve operations are diverse; liquid penetrant, ultrasound, magnetic particles, eddy currents, and more. No matter which technologies are used, inspection data will have to be transferred to a company server. Regardless of the process used to transfer data on the server (automated or manual), data will end up on a private server or a cloud solution.

    From there, a question might be asked: Can a cloud truly simplify file management and is any cloud solution adapted for the NDT?

    There are three fundamental service models of cloud computing:
    IaaS (infrastructure as a software),
    PaaS (platform as a software) and
    SaaS (software as a service).

    Remember that private and public servers are two possible avenues. NDT was an early user of the private server even before it was called a cloud. Overall, the main idea is to optimise the operation process to reduce OPEX (operation expenses) to increase productivity (up to 12%), availability, traceability, and accuracy of data.

    The three principal cloud computing services are the IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.

    IaaS

    IaaS is a virtual hardware pool service for its users. With a virtual server space, a network connection, bandwidth, IP address, and load balancer the user can access the computing infrastructure from anywhere with only an internet connection.

    This kind of solution is primarily used by networker architects. IaaS gives them the opportunity to control the operating system (OS) and give them more flexibility to scale it to their needs, without having to invest in a big infrastructure. IaaS is easily scalable and includes automation of administrative task, desktop virtualization, and policy-based services.

    Users do not own the server so it might be difficult for the management and monitoring system to trace data, but it gives them data security because they are host by a physical data center. A positive point about the IaaS is that you will not have any single point failure due to its multitude of hardware resources.

    IaaS is frequently used for business infrastructure, cloud hosting, or a virtual data centres.

    Examples of IaaS:

              VMware

              OpenStack

              Chef

              Windows Azure

    Cost model: Utility style cost mode, license payment

    PaaS

    The PaaS is easier to manage and modify than IaaS, but it is less flexible because users do not have any control on the OS. PaaS allows users to develop application and services over the internet. The expertise of a network developer will not be necessary to develop PaaS but an application developer will be needed.

    PaaS features include an Operating system, server-side scripting environment, database management system, server software, support, storage, network access, tools for design and development, and hosting.

    Valuable advantages of PaaS are that the customer does not have to invest in infrastructure. It is easy to manage and develop; even for non-expert developers. Usually, you just have to go through the wanted features. It is flexible and it can be easily adapted. It requires only an internet connection and a browser. People from anywhere can work together on the same application. It also includes data security, backup, and a recovery system.

    Examples of PaaS:

              Heroku

              Windows Azure

              Cloud Foundry

    Cost model: Initial base subscription fee, license payment

    SaaS

    SaaS is generally used to manage staff or run a CRM (customer relationship management). It works on any enabled devices and there is no license payment. The pricing system is based on subscription.

    SaaS is developed for the end user for whom everything is managed by the vendor. The major problem with SaaS, for NDT, is that you must make an agreement with the providers to protect confidential data. Once you are using a SaaS, informatics migration might be complicated. Often businesses have to stay with their supplier.

    Examples of SaaS:

              Workday

              Office

              Gmail

    Cost model: Subscription fee, no licenses payment

    Implementation

    IaaS is generally used by networker architects, PaaS by an application developer, and SaaS by the end user.

    ·       With an IaaS, the user will have to manage the application, data, and the OS. The supplier will take care of virtualization, server, storage, and networking.

    ·       With a PaaS, the OS will be taken in charge by the supplier.

    ·       With a SaaS, the user will not have to manage anything. The supplier will take charge of all the components. The less control you have on your OS, the less control you have on your data security.

    Regardless of which kind of cloud you want to implement IaaS, PaaS, or a SaaS; private and public servers are two possible avenues.

     Overall the main idea is to optimise the operation process to reduce OPEX and to increase availability and accuracy of data.

     The objective is to help you choose a cloud solution that will help you easily access your data, simplify your file management and, even better, automate it. There are secure solutions to simplify your work and some are compatible with any kind of clouds or private servers.

    When you opt for a cloud you should go for a solution that will simplify the work of your team and that will be easy to adapt, access and respect your security engagement. So, in consideration of these criteria, there is not only one good solution; the good solution for you is the one that you will choose. Each company has its own reality. Before choosing or developing a solution that will be your server, you must keenly analyse your needs and, if possible, work with an expert team to help you get the greatest solution. In NDT, we often see companies use Dropbox, box, or Workpad (that can manage your asset, and inspectors, show your data on a map and show you data as in a viewer.

    It is important to be conscious of their advantages and limitations. The clouds or private solutions that you will choose will impact your team, their work, and the efficiency of your company and security around the data. This article should help you to investigate your options and choose a cloud that will facilitate your work.

    To select the right solutions, consider the options:

    Private or Public?

    Iaas, PaaS or Saas?

    Generic or dedicated to NDT?

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