Operational Technology (OT) vs Information Technology (IT)

OT and IT: What’s the Difference?

Information Technology (IT)

Information Technology (IT) is a familiar concept to most modern office workplaces encompassing the products and networks providing data-centric computing, supporting various business functions such as finance, personnel, management and administration. This has grown to being fundamental to corporations large and small, and continues to rapidly develop in scale and capability.

Operational Technology (OT)

By contrast, Operational Technology (OT) is understood by utilities, transport, manufacturing and other industrial sectors, as encompassing an array of systems engineering, event monitoring and process control to facilitate operations. Historically, the technologies and products used to implement the required infrastructure have been bespoke and separate from other corporate systems.

The growth of standardisation

With the explosion of computing devices, the internet and communications generally, the underlying IT hardware and software have become ubiquitous and standardised. The majority of businesses now deploy products and networks which are interchangeable with most other global corporations, bringing overall costs down, increasing ease-of-use and enabling global inter-operations.

In recent years, there has been a trend to capitalise on these developments by seeking to replace old OT bespoke systems with widely available and deployed IT products.   

The problem with convergence

Despite the advantages brought by a move to using IT technologies to fulfil Operational infrastructure needs, there are some draw-backs. 

Although no-one wants systems to fail, and high performance is often a key requirement, in traditional OT systems, there is an emphasis on availability, reliability and ‘mission-critical’ operations, dictating deterministic technologies which standard IT products are not designed to provide. The packet-oriented ‘best-efforts’ nature of TCP/IP networking solutions is not sufficient to provide the performance required. Some operational systems have specific timing requirements, utilising PDH and SDH TDM-based technologies to deliver signalling and tele-protection information. 

For years, ‘security’ against ‘remote attacks’ was not an issue, because most OT systems were regionally based and not connected to the wider world. And even those with remote monitoring and control tended to use bespoke equipment which was not widely understood or utilised by non-specialists. With a move to going ‘on-line’, and utilising ‘standard’ IT equipment to fulfil OT requirements, this is no longer necessarily the case. Which brings the possibility of outages due to system or denial of service attacks. ‘Cyber-security’ in recent years has needed to become part of the considerations for OT infrastructure, learning from the experiences of threats to IT systems and ‘denial-of-service’ attacks. 

And whilst modern IT communications bring gigabit data bandwidths, OT data needs have remained modest, often to fulfil the unchanged monitoring requirements for an enormous existing deployed network of slow-speed kilobit data devices, such as pumps, valves and actuators. 

In short, the needs and desires of businesses for computing devices, networking systems and global communications to provide ever-increasing bandwidth and application support continues to diverge from the requirements of industrial operations, requiring availability, compatibility and mission-critical performance.  

Future trends

Whilst vendors of networks, computing and communications continue to develop advanced technologies to meet the growing needs of IT for businesses, the desired ‘convergence’ to replace OT systems continues to be a work-in-progress.

OT systems tend to be built with longevity as a priority over cost of ownership, due to the challenges of replacement once in continuous operation. Whereas IT products are often ‘written down’ and replaced over a much shorter timescale, with a view to taking advantage of continuous developments to provide higher performance and productivity.

Consequently, technologies that are considered ‘legacy’ by IT professionals continue to be maintained and even further deployed as trusted and proven OT systems to fulfil operational needs. 

Your operational systems requirements

@YellowsBestLtd would like to know your infrastructure goals, deployment experiences and maintenance challenges and how we may assist you to fulfil your OT and IT requirements, for both new and existing operational systems. We look forward to understanding your needs for technical support, solutions sourcing, repair services and equipment spares.

Repair Services – is it B.E.R.?

Equipment repair decisions – the Customer’s right!

Customers with critical infrastructure networks have elements that fail from time-to-time. These can usually be swapped out with items from a spare parts stock, to return the system to operational service with the minimum of disruption to overall system availability. 

The question then arises of whether the failed item can be repaired. In most circumstances, it is possible to restore parts to working condition, but sometimes they are classified as ‘Beyond Economic Repair’ (B.E.R.). This can be a somewhat contentious issue.

In theory, the term should be only applied to items where the repair cost would exceed the price of the purchase of a new or refurbished replacement. However, on the one hand the term can be used to label something that physically cannot be restored e.g. due to fire or water damage. On the other, it’s often applied to items where no repair facilities exist or it’s not possible to easily source the required components to complete the remedial work. So in other words, the term is used instead of the negative-sounding ‘repair not possible’.

The reason why this can become a source of frustration is because some customers rightly insist that they should be the “one who decides” if the item is ‘B.E.R.’. Maybe for reliability statistical reasons or version compatibility, it is sometimes desired to retain the original part even if repair costs are high. Sometimes, legacy replacement spare parts are in very short supply, and so it makes sense to retain and refurbish items rather than scraping and losing them forever. Even if the short-term associated costs are greater, for products that are no longer being manufactured, the available ‘spares pool’ is finite and diminishing over time and so the decision to repair may avoid longer-term supply issues in the future.

Reduce – Reuse – Recycle

Most customers have implemented their private network infrastructure systems over a number of years, and for many their operational requirements have not changed. Consequently, it makes more sense both financially and environmentally to maintain these systems rather than embark on complete change-outs.

@YellowsBestLtd helps Customers with their operational needs, and one aspect is to #Reduce the demand for avoidable whole-scale replacements through a combination of #Reuse of refurbished spares and repair of system elements. When removal and disposal of no-longer serviceable infrastructure parts is necessary, we can also assist with the resale and #Recycle for ‘value recovery’ of valuable materials.

We can assist by supplying critical and hard-to-find spare parts and hardware repair services, even when the systems have been declared ‘obsolete’ (i.e. no longer in production) by the O.E.M. And we will endeavour to ensure that repair options are always available and the question of B.E.R. is up to the Customer to decide. Please let us know how we can help; we look forward to hearing from you.


Three years milestone

Three years completed; onward in our fourth year!

@YellowsBestLtd has now reached the significant milestone of completing three years of trading; something often useful to be able to state when qualifying for opportunities and registering with business customers.

Our aim continues to be “Keeping Customers Operational”; understanding requirements and fulfilling them by providing a range of management services and solutions, including:

  • consultancy, such as business development planning3_years_services
  • technical support, e.g. day-rate engineering, NMS assistance
  • systems supply, including legacy IT servers / workstations
  • spares for infrastructure, in particular telecoms and CCTV cameras
  • repairs at module and component level, e.g. LED displayboards
  • value recovery through reverse logistics, resale and recycling

As we move forward in year four, we’d very much like to discover what else to provide to our existing Customers, as well as what would be of interest to potential clients. We’re always keen to enhance our range of #business services, increase the #enterprise infrastructure we support and expand our mix of #sustainable solutions we offer for supply and maintenance of new and legacy #technologies and products.

Please get in touch to discuss your challenges; whether you’re implementing new systems or maintaining existing infrastructure to serve your operational business needs. We look forward to hearing from you.

“TESTERS” – Test Equipment to suit all deployed technologies

Customers who own infrastructure systems usually require some form of test equipment to assist with the build, operation and maintenance activities.

Given the mixture of old and new technologies now deployed, consequently the range of available test equipment options has grown considerably. And like the infrastructure systems themselves, new functionality demands and obsolescence issues also affect the associated test equipment needs and availability.

@YellowsBestLtd assists Customers by sourcing the required test equipment, supplying either modern or legacy units. Often refurbished ex-hire equipment in excellent condition and at commercially attractive prices makes sense over leasing. This ensures the continued availability of sets of the appropriate specification, which may become discontinued by the manufacturers over time.

If necessary, we can also arrange the repair of existing units, especially those that perform very specific functions that cannot easily be replicated with more recent equipment.

There follows a brief description of many of the types of test equipment available; we would be very keen to hear from you to understand your specific requirements, so please get in touch!

Calibration Checkboxes

Calibration checkboxes, or electrical checkboxes, are used for routine observations of test equipment and allow users to maintain accuracy in between official calibration procedures. Suitable for use with PAT testers and with other testers and instruments.

Calibration Checkbox
Calibration Checkbox

Component Analysers

These test the efficiency and status of components including transistors and capacitors. An essential instrument for development engineering when specific components are used in product design.

Component Analyser
Component Analyser

Earth Loop Testers

Loop impedance testers, or loop testers, verify the loop impedance of a live electrical circuit without disconnecting from the electrical supply. Most testers include non-tripping RCD technology as standard to prevent unexpected outages.

Earth Loop Tester
Earth Loop Tester

Earth Testers

These verify that electrical current paths are safely earthed. Earth spike testers, high current loop testers with earth stakes and leads are available.

Earth Tester
Earth Tester

EMF Meters

EMF meters are used for verifying the presence of electrical magnetic fields given off by electrical equipment. Ideal for use in heavy-duty electrical applications and laboratory testing conditions.

EMF Meter
EMF Meter

EVSE Testers

EVSE testers are purpose-built for the installation, testing and maintenance of electrical vehicle supply equipment and are an essential for use by electrical vehicle charging point installers, manufacturers and anyone else involved with EVSE equipment.

EVSE Tester
EVSE Tester

Insulation & Continuity Testers

A wide range of insulation and continuity testing instruments which include Megger insulation testers, insulation resistance testers, Fluke testers and insulation meters from Amprobe, DiLog, Seaward, Metrel, Martindale, Kewtech and Extech.

Insulation and Continuity Tester
Insulation and Continuity Tester

LCR Meters

LCR meters get their name from their testing capabilities – they can test inductance (L), capacitance (C) and resistance (R).

LCR Meter
LCR Meter

Multifunction Testers

Ideal for use when completing or testing an electrical installation. The huge range of MFTs include the Fluke 1600 range and Megger installation testers.

Multifunction Tester
Multifunction Tester

Optical Fibre Inspectors

Quickly find and inspect the right port. Like having a built in flash-light so you can see in dark areas and dense panels. Pause button holds the image for viewing when it’s hard to get it just right. Bright backlit display. Screw-on probe tips to support most connector types.

Optial Fibre Inspectors
Optial Fibre Inspectors

Optical Fibre Visual Fault Locators

Locates fibres, finds faults, verifies continuity and polarity. Locates visual faults including tight bends, breaks and bad connectors. Easily verifies polarity and identifies fibres. Features continuous and flashing modes.

Optical Fibre Visual Fault Locator
Optical Fibre Visual Fault Locator

Optical Power Meters

Multimode and Singlemode Power and Loss Measurements. Multiple kit configurations with light sources for single mode, multimode and PON fibre optics. Min/Max capability automates tracking of intermittent power fluctuations.

Optical Power Meter
Optical Power Meter

PAT Testers

For Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) routine safety checking of electrical equipment, including dual insulation test voltages and portable RCD lead testing, with adjustable PASS testing limits and substitute/mains powered leakage testing procedures.

PAT Tester
PAT Tester

Power Quality Analysers

These provide a comprehensive snapshot of how power is being used in your facility and verify where energy is being lost. The latest power analysers and power analysis tools include those from Fluke and Hioki.

Power Quality Analyser
Power Quality Analyser

Production Line Safety Testers

Perfect for laboratories and product design applications, the equipment in this category can be used to verify electrical safety, service equipment using multiple electrical parameters and to simulate PAT conditions.

Production Line Safety Tester
Production Line Safety Tester

Proving Units

An essential accompaniment to a voltage tester, proving units verify that the tester remains accurate both before and after testing. Both the NICEIC and NAPIT strongly recommend using these regularly when testing.

Proving Unit
Proving Unit

RCD Testers

For testing RCD trip time and overall residual current device safety/efficiency. Available are handheld RCD testers, Megger RCD testers, RCD analysers and multifunctional RCD testers which also measure loop and PSC.

RCD Tester
RCD Tester

Socket Testers

These testers are placed into a socket to assess faults with the wiring using audio/visual feedback.

Socket Tester
Socket Tester

Telecom Datacom Analysers

Ideally suiting traditional telecommunications networking requirements, typically providing testing at V.24, V.35, V.11/X.21 interfaces at rates up to 2 Mb/s.  Also a full range of BER/BLER measurements, control-circuit timing analysis with transitions diagrams and storage in text and graphic form.

Telecom Datacom Tester
Telecom Datacom Tester

Voltage Testers

Voltage Testers

These verify the presence of voltage, and allow full test of voltage levels. Instruments are available from the leading test equipment manufacturers such as Fluke, Kewtech, Martindale, Amprobe and Megger.

Voltage Tester
Voltage Tester