In recent years, companies have been challenged to keep pace with industry and economic demands. In order to maintain their competitive edge, they must find ways to increase their productivity and efficiency while at the same time, being mindful of the costs in doing so. Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) is a solution that is increasingly being chosen to meet these objectives by companies spanning a broad range of industry, service and corporate sectors.
The CMMS market is also keeping pace with industry demands and it is doing so by growing in the number of available vendors, as well as the product lines they offer. For those new to maintenance management systems, they can best be described as highly sophisticated software programs that utilize thousands of data points that at any given time, can provide a user with an overview of a facility’s operation or alternatively, with the status of an individual piece of equipment. In terms of functionality, CMMSs offer businesses the ability to track work orders, quickly generate accurate reports, and instantly determine which of their assets required predictive & preventive maintenance. Differences in systems relate generally to product features, robustness, ease of use, set up options, support and cost.
Although there is considerable overlap in the CMMS products available on the market, one key differentiator that stands out is the manner in which the software is deployed; some systems are “cloud based” while others are “on premise”.
Simply put, cloud based, sometimes referred to as web-based systems rely on the vendor to host the client’s database on the vendor’s server, making the application accessible via the internet, whereas on premise systems require the client company to host its data on site, on its own hardware.
The former relies on the vendor to maintain the system whereas the latter relies on maintenance of the CMMS software system and hardware by the in-house IT department. When deciding between on premise vs web based CMMS software, the following pros and cons should be considered:
The security of any system is largely dependent upon the integrity of security measures as well as how consistently it is adhered to by the end user. Cloud based systems have sophisticated data encryption that is routinely updated over time as needed. CMMS vendors offering web-based deployment go to great lengths ensuring that their customers’ data is secure and downtime is minimized. This is done through using third party data centers like Rackspace, Amazon Web Services, or Microsoft Azure. Responsible vendors offering cloud based deployment will also run frequent vulnerability and penetration tests ensuring that their clients’ data is not compromised and accessible by others. On premise systems may be less vulnerable to global hacking threats but they rely exclusively on the security software selected by the company as well as the skills of in-house IT personnel and the vigilance of system users. With cloud based systems, security maintenance, firewalls, upgrades, patches and antivirus software are all provided by the vendor; on premise systems require that these be manually managed.
On premise systems require that the software be installed and configured on a company network and can only be accessed within the facility. This limits maintenance management operations to the actual facility during company hours. On the other hand, cloud based CMMSs can be accessed from any computer or device that connects to the internet.
One of the most attractive benefits of cloud based CMMSs is its ability to interface with other devices such as tablets and mobile phones as well as camera and scanner plug in tools. Considered together, these features add value to the maintenance system because they extend its capabilities and make it possible for maintenance management work to be done in the field. Mobile access has made it possible for technicians to access their CMMS while repairing or performing preventive maintenance tasks on equipment rather than working from paper and updating the software from a desktop. There are huge efficiencies gained if used effectively.
When making any important purchase, cost weighs heavily in the decision-making process. Knowing the upfront and ongoing costs of a CMMS system is critical especially when deciding between on premise and cloud based platforms. Beginning with upfront costs, on premise platforms tend to cost three times the annual license fee of web based systems. However, this cost is a one-time payment as there are no additional system fees. On the other hand, the initial cost for a cloud based system is lower but over time, the long-term costs associated with licensing fees are greater (i.e., annual subscription/licensing fee estimated at $1500 per year for a small maintenance department). In terms of associated and/or ongoing costs, on premise CMMS platforms require hardware, firewalls and antivirus software as well as an IT staffer who will maintain and manage aspects of the system functioning including installation, data entry, upgrading, security and staff training. Cloud based CMMSs do not require these added costs as system supports including software updates, system upgrades, security, tech support as well as tutorials for in house data entry and staff onboarding are bundled into annual licensing fees (with the exception of on-site inventory audits and staff onboarding). Whereas on premise systems offer full autonomy for CMMS purchasers, cloud based systems depend on an ongoing vendor relationship to preserve data availability.
The main benefit of on premise CMMSs is that they offer companies full control and customizability of their systems. These CMMS features may be important to businesses that are in flux, on a growth curve or do not necessarily fit the parameters of what cloud based systems offer. On the other hand, cloud based systems are known to be user friendly requiring no technical experience beyond mouse clicking or device tapping for employees to use them.
Companies seeking to purchase maintenance software need to carefully research CMMS vendors and their products, and to evaluate them based on their needs, business objectives, staff resources and budget. While the trend is toward web-based CMMSs, this does not mean that on premise platforms are any less of a viable option. Having the choice of system platforms simply provides more options from which to choose.