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Protect The BOM From Disaster,
From Data Loss To Earthquake

The bill of materials (BOM) is the central document to any product development lifecycle, and should be kept safe from the multitude of threats that can harm businesses today: fire, natural disaster, orwould-be hackers, to name a few. Traditional PLM and homegrown systems (Excel spreadsheets included) have one major point of failure: a company’s ability to protect their own systems. Cloud-based PLM, offered in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) flavor, will help mitigate the challenges of protecting the systems, put those stakeholders at ease, and let engineers get to actually changing the BOM for the better.

How can SaaS PLM help?

Protecting from digital threats

Keeping your BOM safe begins with encrypting the disk, or disks, on which it lives. This meansthat if someone doesn’t have credentials to access the disk, all they’ll see is a scramble of letters and numbers, preventing them from having any visibility. From there, cloud PLM providers utilize hardware firewalls that are deployed between the data center’s servers and the remainder of the Internet. When seeking out a potential SaaS partner, companies should ensure that the level of encryption begins with the disk and continues all the way to the user’s computer as they log in to the system—user credentials should be encrypted during transmission, and should be stored only as a “hash,” using an encryption function like SHA-2. This means that even if someone managed to breach the system and acquire usernames and passwords, they wouldn’t be able to translate the password into something they could actually use.

Protecting from physical threats

Companies should take time to imagine what it would take for a motivated person to access their internal infrastructure. Maybe someone needs to disable an alarm system, break a physical barrier, avoid being caught on a few surveillance cameras (more a deterrent than a real security measure, and likely to not actually be functioning), but after that, they’re in. The difficult truth is that most businesses aren’t particularly secure from physical threats, and don’t really have the time or money to install genuine security systems, or have security teams on hand.

Now imagine this: In order to access a data center, a would-be thief would need to first evade the professional security staff, which is active 24/7. Video surveillance, which is actually functioning and stored on digital media to allow for viewing on-demand by data center staff or law enforcement, will mean that the thief’s potential angles are severely reduced. In order to actually gain access to the data center, they would need to foil the “mantrap,” which ensures that only a single person has accessto the data centerat a time, and in order to even get there, the thief would have to present identification and be escorted by an authorized employee of the data center.

Sounds like something out of a thriller film, which essentially means it’s impossible. Where would you rather place your BOM?

Climate control is more than comfort

Anyone who works with server-grade hardware knows that things can get heated. Even small installations often need their ownclimate control systems in order to operate without failure. Putting that server infrastructure inside of a closet, with its own thermostat, can operate as ahalf-solution, but there still too many variables of risk. Is the companymonitoring the hardware at all times? Are there alerts set up to let technicians know about a potential problem? Are there contingencies in place to actually deal with those problems?

Data centers utilize sophisticated climate control systems and strict monitoring to automatically adjust the climate control as necessary. If the power goes out, there will be uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) for short-term issues, and generators for long-term backup power.

Dealing with fire and other disasters

One can’t prevent a natural disaster, but they can prevent it from doing too much damage to operations.Data centers are equipped with fire detection sensors that will register any threats, and heat-activated wet pipe sprinkler systems totake care of actual fires, rare as they are. But perhaps more importantis the way data centers replicate data to multiple facilities, which are built in different regions, so thatif natural disaster strikes one, it won’t affect the PLM’s uptime. Another kind of natural disaster would be for the data center to lose connectivity, so they utilize multiple vendors as failsafes in case one falls through.The data center staff is also always testing their systems with simulated failures, meaning they’re prepared to deal with most threats.

Backups are here to save the day

Let’s say that the worst doeshappen—if a business operates their own server infrastructure, what are the chances that their backup system is operating correctly, and has captured all the important data? A backup plan is reminiscent of those maybe-operating surveillance cameras—most companies aren’t sure that they actually work until they’re needed, and too often they’re disappointed by what they find. The PLM provider will utilize their own backup strategies in addition to the data center’s own replication and backup, which is usually kept off-site and on more reliable storage medium. These kinds of faults are rare, but it’s a comfort knowing that in the worst-case scenario, the BOM—and all the hours put into it—will be safe.

Many companies fear placing data in remote places, for a variety of reasons, but the benefits aren’t all that different from the reasons why we put our valuables in a bank vault. If you’re not already working with a SaaS PLM provider,it might be time to do some research. Make sure they can offer protections, redundancies, and backup peace of mind. The BOM shouldn’t have to avoid disasters and threats on its way to becoming your next big protect—give it, and yourself, the security it deserves.

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