Cloud-Based vs. On-Premise CMMS Compared

Reena Sommer, Ph.D. for ClickMaint CMMS

Posted 2/20/2024

Introduction

The world of business is fast-paced, evolving, and dynamic. Competition is tough, margins are tight, and the economy is in flux. While business leaders want to do better than staying afloat, it’s not so easy under current conditions. Given the circumstances, businesses are challenged to find innovative ways to get beyond the curve. One way to increase your chances of realizing this is to find a mechanism to help your company’s operations run seamlessly by minimizing downtime and resolving maintenance issues before they become a problem.

This is where Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) comes into play. CMMS is often referred to as a game-changer by many maintenance and facility managers because its automated, feature-rich software is responsible for moving a growing number of organizations into a forward and upward trajectory. But there’s no magic behind CMMSs, just data-driven decision-making. By organizing and analyzing maintenance data, CMMS empowers businesses to make informed choices, optimize resource allocation, and extend the lifespan of critical assets.

A CMMS software is designed to streamline and enhance organizational maintenance operations. It helps businesses manage their assets, track maintenance activities, schedule preventive maintenance tasks, and optimize overall equipment performance. CMMS plays a crucial role in ensuring the reliability and efficiency of equipment and facilities. The systems are known for their versatility and adaptability to various organizational settings, needs, and infrastructure. 

Moving on from this bird’s eye view of CMMS software, let’s now consider two different deployment models known as cloud-based CMMS and on-premise CMMS. Each offers distinct advantages and considerations, influencing how businesses manage maintenance operations. 

Cloud-Based vs. On-Premise CMMS

As their names suggest, cloud-based CMMS and on-premise CMMS differ primarily in how each is deployed.  Cloud-based CMMS is hosted on external servers and accessible via the Internet. This model eliminates the need for on-site infrastructure management, allowing for easy scalability and updates handled by the service provider. Cloud-based solutions offer greater flexibility, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness, making them suitable for organizations with diverse locations or those prioritizing agility and reduced upfront investments. 

In contrast, on-premise CMMS involves installing and hosting the software on the organization’s servers and infrastructure, requiring dedicated IT resources for maintenance, updates, and security. This deployment offers greater control over data but can be resource-intensive because managing and maintaining these on-premise servers demands ongoing hardware investments, regular updates, and IT staff for troubleshooting and support. Significant upfront investments in hardware, software licenses, and IT infrastructure also exist. Additionally, on-premise CMMS may need more scalability and flexibility than cloud solutions, as the organization’s infrastructure capabilities constrain them.

Nevertheless, organizations with specific security or compliance requirements who seek complete control over their data and infrastructure may prefer on-premise solutions.

They are best suited for organizations with strict security requirements or limited reliance on remote access. However, they may entail longer implementation timelines and require dedicated IT support for maintenance and updates. 

deciding between cloud-based and on-premise CMMS

Which Deployment is Best for My Organization?

Choosing between cloud-based CMMS and its counterpart, on-premise CMMS, can seem daunting. Each offers reasons for choosing one over the other. A helpful way to set aside some of the confusion around making a choice is to look at the types of organizations that gravitate toward either of these deployment models.

Organizations Opting for Cloud-Based CMMS

Cloud-based CMMS generally appeal to a broader and more diverse base of organizations across various industries due to their already described advantages. One significant factor driving the adoption is the scalability offered by cloud-based solutions. Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) find cloud CMMS appealing as they can access sophisticated maintenance management tools without substantial upfront investments in hardware or IT infrastructure. The financial savings represents a significant plus because this allows them to streamline maintenance processes, manage assets efficiently, and enhance overall operational effectiveness without additional cost.

Large enterprises also favor cloud-based CMMS for their flexibility and accessibility. With employees often working remotely or across different locations, cloud solutions enable real-time collaboration and information sharing. Additionally, cloud CMMS providers handle software updates, security patches, and system maintenance, reducing the burden on in-house IT teams. Industries with distributed assets can access maintenance data on-demand from any location, enhancing decision-making and preventive maintenance planning and ultimately contributing to prolonged equipment lifespan and reduced downtime. Overall, companies of varying sizes and industries opt for cloud-based CMMS to streamline maintenance operations, improve efficiency, and stay competitive in today’s dynamic business environment.

Here are several examples of business sectors adopting cloud-based CMMS:

  • Manufacturing Companies: Companies involved in manufacturing, such as automotive manufacturers, semiconductor producers, and consumer goods manufacturers, often leverage cloud-based CMMS. It helps them manage and schedule maintenance for complex machinery, reduce downtime, and optimize production efficiency.
  • Utilities and Energy Companies: Organizations in the utilities and energy sector, including power plants and water treatment facilities, use cloud CMMS to monitor and maintain their infrastructure. This ensures the reliability of crucial systems and minimizes the risk of unplanned outages.
  • Facilities Management Services: Companies offering facilities management services for commercial buildings, offices, and retail spaces often choose cloud-based CMMS. It helps them efficiently manage maintenance tasks, track assets, and ensure a safe and comfortable environment for occupants.
  • Transportation and Logistics: Airlines, shipping companies, and logistics providers use cloud CMMS to maintain their fleets, warehouses, and infrastructure. This aids in tracking maintenance schedules, reducing operational disruptions, and extending transportation assets’ lifespan.
  • Educational Institutions: Universities, schools, and research institutions deploy cloud-based CMMS to manage maintenance activities for campus buildings, laboratories, and educational facilities. This ensures a conducive environment for learning and research.
  • Government Agencies: Municipalities and government organizations implement cloud CMMS to maintain public infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and water treatment facilities. It helps in optimizing maintenance budgets and ensuring the longevity of public assets.

These examples illustrate the versatility of cloud-based CMMS across different sectors, highlighting its role in improving maintenance processes, reducing costs, and enhancing overall operational efficiency.

Organizations Opting for On-Premise CMMS

Companies that opt for on-premise CMMS prioritize maintaining direct control and ownership of their maintenance and asset management infrastructure. These companies often have specific security and data governance requirements that necessitate hosting their CMMS software on their servers within their physical facilities. Industries with stringent regulatory compliance, such as healthcare, finance, or government, may prefer on-premise solutions to ensure data privacy and security. Additionally, businesses with complex operational processes or unique integration needs may find on-premise CMMS more customizable and tailored to their specific requirements. While on-premise solutions demand higher upfront costs and ongoing maintenance, they provide a sense of autonomy and allow companies to manage their CMMS environment according to their individual preferences and standards.

Here are examples of the types of organizations that commonly choose on-premise CMMS:

  • Healthcare Facilities. Hospitals, clinics, and healthcare organizations often opt for on-premise CMMS to ensure compliance with stringent data privacy regulations (e.g., HIPAA) and control patient information.
  • Financial Institutions.  Banks and financial organizations dealing with sensitive customer data and financial transactions may choose on-premise CMMS solutions to meet regulatory requirements like PCI DSS and ensure the security of financial information.
  • Government Agencies.  Government entities with specific security and compliance needs often choose on-premise solutions. This ensures control over sensitive data and adherence to government regulations and policies.
  • Manufacturing Companies. Complex manufacturing processes, diverse machinery, and intricate supply chains make on-premise CMMS attractive to manufacturing companies. It allows customization to integrate with specialized equipment and manage maintenance workflows efficiently.
  • Energy and Utilities.  Organizations in the energy and utilities sector, including power plants and water treatment facilities, may opt for on-premise CMMS to manage maintenance activities for critical infrastructure and ensure operational reliability.
  • Defense and Aerospace.  Security and confidentiality are paramount in the defense and aerospace industries. On-premise CMMS solutions enable these organizations to maintain control over maintenance data and adhere to strict security protocols.
  • Large Enterprises with Unique Integration Needs.  Any large enterprise with complex operational processes needing tailored integration might choose on-premise CMMS. This includes organizations with diverse business units requiring specific customization and integration capabilities.
  • Research and Development Institutions. Organizations engaged in research and development, such as laboratories and scientific institutions, may prefer on-premise CMMS to safeguard proprietary research data and maintain control over their maintenance systems.

These examples of organizations that adopt on-premise CMMS are often motivated by data control, security compliance, and customization, making it suitable for those with specific regulatory, operational, and integration requirements.

Weighing Your Options

Choosing between cloud-based and on-premise CMMS involves considering cost, accessibility, and security. Cloud-based CMMS typically offers a subscription-based model with lower upfront costs, scalability, and accessibility from anywhere with internet connectivity. However, organizations must trust the service provider’s security measures and may have limited customization options. 

On the other hand, on-premise CMMS requires higher initial investments but provides greater control over security, customization, and compliance, making it suitable for organizations with specific regulatory requirements and a preference for in-house management. A good question is how much weight you want on security, customization, and compliance vs. lower upfront costs, convenience, no maintenance or update costs, and added scalability.

Conclusion

Adopting a CMMS independent of how it is deployed is not just a tech upgrade; it’s a strategic move toward transforming your business. Ultimately, your choice between cloud-based and on-premise CMMS largely depends on the organization’s priorities, including budget considerations, customization and control, industry compliance requirements, and the preference for on-site or remote accessibility. Carefully evaluating these factors will help you make a logical and strategic decision that aligns with your organization’s specific needs and objectives.


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Reena Sommer

Reena Sommer has written extensively about CMMS and maintenance management best practices since 2018. Reena has been a contributor for Hippo CMMS, Click Maint among others. She has her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Manitoba. Reena hails from Winnipeg, Canada and currently resides in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

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