By Chris Ladas
Building management systems (BMSs) are the core of most facility operations. They are computer-based systems that can be used to monitor and manage electrical and mechanical operations, like temperature, ventilation, and energy consumption to create an optimal environment for occupants. Typically, a BMS is run on operating systems like those that come from Microsoft or Linux, and these systems provide the foundation and functionality that allow the BMS to communicate with and control the various technologies and equipment within a building.
However, continual advancement in technologies can make system hardware and software obsolete over time, even in a BMS. In fact, this past May, Microsoft announced they would terminate the support of Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 making the server obsolete. While on one hand, the retirement of these systems gives businesses an opportunity to transition to networks that help improve their speed, functionality, and security, on the other, it introduces risks to those networks that don’t make the transition or keep systems continually up to date.
To some, it might seem surprising, but as many as 41% of businesses continue to run systems that are based on unsupported platforms. Continuing to operate on platforms, like the Windows Server 2012, past their end of life could result in stability problems and impact the usability of these BMSs. The disruptions could range from failures in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting, elevators, and security systems which all can be costly and time-consuming. Additionally, operating on outdated systems can pose serious cybersecurity risks which would impact the building management equipment, operation, and any connected networks or devices.
To minimize the disruption of a BMS from outdated servers, facility managers should follow the following tips to prepare for future operating system sunsetting:
Keep servers updated – Keeping a server on the latest operating system release helps make sure that functional and cybersecurity patches are up to date, and provides proper interoperability with the latest BMS software to avoid costly disruption or damage to assets. By keeping a building’s hardware and software current, facility managers can reduce the risk of leaving themselves stranded and without the ability to make necessary updates that provide a good sense of security for a building.
Evaluate your building infrastructure regularly – Continuously taking a look at how the building management system is operating can help reduce the risk and consequences of not knowing about a potential operating system sunset. Additionally, in the long run, it can also help facility managers save time and money, avoiding more costly repairs and replacements of old or outdated systems. Evaluating a building’s infrastructure helps facility managers deploy proper upgrades which can provide greater peace of mind knowing that facility managers are doing their best to keep your facility safe, secure, comfortable, and more efficient.
Have a good building automation supplier – As operating systems update or move towards retirement, it is imperative for facility managers to have a good building automation system supplier who can provide facility managers with the most up-to-date information and recommendations for each specific system. These suppliers are best equipped to guide the facility manager on the recommended operating system releases for their application to make sure it runs properly and efficiently.
Updating a building’s infrastructure, including the BMS, is like keeping up with car maintenance. By keeping building systems updated, facility managers can make sure that the system is running optimally meaning fewer headaches and issues down the road, just like car maintenance. Operating systems will continue to sunset as technology continues to evolve but, by following these tips, facility managers can be prepared for these situations and work so that their BMS can continue to operate smoothly and efficiently.
Chris is the Chief Technology Officer for Honeywell Building Management Systems, with over twenty-five years leading industrial automation design and development globally. Chris leads research, development, and engineering for commercial building automation brands including Alerton, Honeywell, Inncom, Phoenix Controls, Saia Burgess, and Trend. Chris received his bachelor’s in engineering from Trinity College, Hartford, CT and Master’s from the Gordon Institute (Tufts University).