Computers are now everywhere, not just in our offices and homes but nearly every working environment now seems to be controlled by a PC. Of course their processing power often means tasks that took hours or days before are done almost instantly.
Even in heavy industry, computers, if they haven't replaced human workers, now run side-by-side with them. Yet computers can be sensitive pieces of equipment and often conditions in some industry locations can cause tremendous problems with IT.
It would be illegal and unethical to make a human employee operate in hostile conditions without adequate protection or safety equipment but it is very rare that people make the same consideration for computers.
However, each year, companies have an average of 501 hours of computer downtime costing millions in annual productivity and revenue. According to a recent study, computer downtime is responsible for the loss of 3.6% of annual revenue compared to 6 % caused by employee sickness and absence.
Yet often, the conditions that computers have to work in often cause many of the problems associated with computer downtime, from dust, fluid spills, excessive temperatures (either hot or cold) or bangs and knocks from forklifts or other industrial machinery.
Computers of course are very sensitive piece of equipment and designed to run in offices or homes, certainly not industrial locations. Yet millions of PCs do just that, from controlling machinery like furnaces or presses to processing data on production lines.
Of course specialist PCs are available that can endure extremes of hot and cold and withstand being bombarded by dust or fluids. However, these are often highly expensive machines and as computers develop at an exponential rate, will need replacing quite regularly.
This is quite possibly the reason many industrial computer users opt to use cheap PCs and replace them regularly rather than opt for expensive and quickly obsolete specialist industrial computers.
However, there are inexpensive solutions to protecting PCs in hostile environments in the shape of industrial PC enclosures. All computers have an enclosure of sorts, normally just a thin piece of aluminium, which protects the circuitry. However, for industrial applications these are not adequate enough and fail to protect the PC from spills, dust or knocks by heavy machinery (such as fork lifts)
An industrial PC enclosure is made from all sorts of materials including food-grade stainless steel and can house a conventional PC protecting it from dust and fluids, heat and cold (often industrial enclosures have air conditioners or heaters installed to control temperature) and can withstand dramatic impacts (some even claim to be able to withstand a bomb blast).
These industrial PC enclosures allow a conventional PC to be repaired or replaced whilst still keeping the same enclosure, allowing operators the opportunity to keep abreast of the latest upgrades. Many industrial computer enclosures can also operate safely even in explosive atmospheres as the circuitry is housed inside, preventing any dangerous sparking. They can also be completely doused in water making them perfect accessories for food manufacturing or areas that are frequently hosed down.