Cloud-based Asset Management System
Cloud Based or On-Premise Asset Management Software
Out of the 15,431 asset management software buyers who used Comparesoft to shortlist and compare software tools, we found that 90% of them have a preference for cloud-based systems. Even on our advisory chat, people ask advice about cloud-based Fixed Assets and IT Inventory tools. So we thought we would put together this article on the pros and cons of cloud-based asset management tools.
From a features and capabilities standpoint, both on-premise and cloud-based systems are similar; the cloud has an inherent advantage whereby data collected by humans and your machines is stored in one common place, so you are creating ‘one source of truth’ for your machine-generated and human-generated asset register.
Key Differences between On-Premise and Cloud-based Asset Management Solutions
|Asset Register||Excel Import/Export and manual data entry to maintain accurate asset register.||Fundamentally the same as an on-premise system. However, if you plan to use internet-enabled equipment and machinery then any data they transmit to a cloud can be imported into your cloud asset management system. Some equipment can also be directly connected to your cloud asset management system.|
|Asset Inventory and Audit||Most suited when you do not require direct access to the system. i.e. audit via a handheld device or manual audits.||Most suited if you need access to the system on a smartphone or internet enabled device. Since cloud-based systems are web-friendly, they adapt efficiently with devices of different screen sizes.|
|Asset Tracking||RFID, Barcoding and NFC tracking are efficient and well-proven. Internet-enabled tracking can require additional administration.||In addition to RFID, Barcoding and NFC tracking, internet-enabled tracking is inherently easier.|
|Planned and Preventative Maintenance||Planning and Scheduling, Work Orders, Job Orders, Scheduling maintenance visits and inspections are well-proven and efficient features. If you plan to use internet-enabled machinery and equipment then you may need to investigate how an on-premise system can collect data from the internet-enabled devices.||Browser-driven access on multi-screen devices gives clou- based systems an edge, particularly when you require multiple-teams to co-ordinate in real-time.|
|Reporting||Server threshold levels can mean large reports may take time to run||Elastic capabilities of cloud servers means faster runtime|
|Interface||On-premise systems are feature-rich and quite often more flexible and configurable than a cloud-based system. However, User Interface and User Experience can be dated.||HMTL- and CSS-led technologies make the cloud system easier on the eye. Also the User Interface and User Experience tends to be modern.|
|Changing workflows and processes||Bespoke Changes tend to be easier as the system can be tailored to your needs||Bespoke Changes tend to be expensive and difficult to administer.|
|System Configuration and Business Continuity||Bespoke development is cheaper and easier to maintain in the long run.|
Access is dependent on your server uptime.
|Bespoke development can be expensive and may require some administration to maintain|
Access is dependent on internet and your cloud provider’s server
|Ownership||The data, the software and the server belongs to you||Only the data belongs to you. You are renting the software and server to hold your data|
|Cyber Security||Fewer recorded instances of breaches on on-premise systems. Please note hackers can access your network and get into your servers via the internet, so no system is 100% cyber safe.||Cloud hacks are widely reported. Typically, your cloud provider is more knowledgeable and better equipped and to handle a cyber breach situation.|
|Costs and Lock-Ins||Higher initial outlay but tends to be the cheaper option if you calculate all the costs for five years||It is important to appreciate that you do not own the software and the space where you hold your data. Typically, lower initial outlay but overall tend to be expensive.|
Key Features that asset management software buyers consider
1. Asset Register – If you just consider manual- or human-driven data input, then there is no difference between an on-premise or a cloud-based system. However, in the future a cloud-based system will likely allow internet-enabled equipment and machinery to transmit data about themselves, making it easier to automatically maintain an effective and up-to-date asset register.
2. Asset Tracking – Cloud-based asset management systems are easier to access from multiple devices with different screen sizes (Desktop, Laptop, Tablet, Hand-held devices and Smart phones). RFID, Barcoding and NFC data can also be easily stored in the cloud, making it easier for retrieval.
3. Asset Inventory and Audit – For multi-location and a combination of internal and external asset audits, cloud-based systems are more suitable due to their ease of access. Uploading asset images and adding notes from multi-devices is typically easier. Version Control, Audit Trail and multi-approval chains can be easily facilitated with a cloud-based system.
4. Planned and Preventative Maintenance – Equipment and machinery have started to transmit data about themselves if connected to the internet. This makes it easier to monitor machine health and align computerised maintenance management systems, making it easier to schedule maintenance jobs, plan and assign jobs to maintenance engineers and order spare parts.
5. Reporting – Whilst at the feature level both on-premise and cloud-based asset management systems have similar reporting capabilities. Reports typically populate faster in a cloud-based system due to computational capabilities.
Six areas which are quite often overlooked while selecting a cloud asset management system.
1. Usage and Business Continuity
Most businesses migrate from spreadsheets to a new asset management solution. The spreadsheets typically don’t allow businesses to dynamically manage their assets – which are most often connected to users, locations, projects and equipment. With any implementation or adoption of a cloud-based inventory management solution, we suggest that businesses consider:
a) The ratio between Out-of-the-box functionality and Bespoke (or Tailored) Functionality – Out-of-the-box features are available as a standard functionality and typically include Asset Register, Asset Details, Fixed Assets Management, IT Inventory Management, Asset Tracking Capabilities and Standard Reports. Bespoke functionality typically revolves around specific details you capture for your assets. The technical term here is User-Defined Fields. The level of asset detail required varies from company to company. It also changes as your business evolves. The ideal ratio is 85% Standard Functionality and 15% Bespoke Development. Please note: Bespoke Development is not configuration. For a cloud-based system, bespoke development is expensive (Average Day Rate starts at £795)
b) Cloud Downtime – Your cloud-based system is hosted on a cloud server that is outside your office. Sometimes the server can have a downtime which will affect access to your system. Cloud servers of Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Oracle Cloud, SAP Cloud and many other big names have had downtimes. Whilst big businesses have load balancing in place (fancy term to say ‘alternatives to main cloud server’), small businesses hardly have any alternatives. When you are considering a cloud-based tool, it is important to know the implications of cloud downtime for your business.
2. Evolving Asset Workflows
Small businesses are dynamic; they evolve at a faster rate compared to big organisations which means how you manage your assets can change every 12 to 18 months. For project-based companies, asset workflows are governed by the type of projects. For product-based companies, operational changes influence asset workflow amendments. There are cost implications to bespoke and configuration changes required for your cloud-based system.
New Features & Upgrades – With an on-premise software, you typically have some sort of control on product upgrades. With cloud-based tools, upgrades happen at the server level which means you typically don’t have a choice on upgrades. Some asset management tools do offer upgrade choices but these types of upgrade are at the interface level rather than the database level.
3. Digital Access and Privacy
With a cloud-based asset management tool, it is vital to appreciate that you are renting the software as well as the storage to save your data. Once you stop the rental, your data in the format you want needs to be handed back to you. This will allow you to leverage complete benefit of a cloud based asset management system whereby you can change the system without losing your previous data. Since most businesses hold customers’ data in their asset tracking and management system, you are required to be GDPR-compliant and protect your customers’ data. You and your cloud provider both need to be GDPR-compliant.
4. Cyber Compromises
Whilst cyber-attacks on big businesses are widely covered by the media, cyber compromises at small businesses go unnoticed both by the small businesses as well as the media. With any cloud-based system, cyber-attacks can happen at the interface level or at the cloud server level. When you are buying a cloud-based system, it might be useful to know where your data in stored – public cloud, private cloud or hybrid cloud. Just to let you know, the place where your data is stored is also used by others too, so if their data gets compromised your data can automatically get compromised too.
5. Costs and Lock-Ins
Most cloud-based asset management tools have annual subscriptions; quite often customers commit to a 3 – 5 years’ contract. It is recommended that you understand hosting costs and fully understand data storage limits. Lock-in periods are mutually beneficial – buyers get stability and assurance whereas vendors get assured revenue. Get-out clauses and switching costs need to be clearly understood at the start.