Managing Maintenance Online

Web-based CMMS technology offers more flexibility, lower cost, ease-of-use, access from anywhere and other user benefits

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a staple of quality maintenance departments. Now, CMMS is reaching new levels of performance and convenience with Web-based access.

For years, water and wastewater utilities have used CMMS to care for assets as diverse as vehicle fleets, treatment plant equipment and in-the-field facilities such as valves and pump stations.

Years ago, staff members had to put up with systems that took a long time to install, crashed servers, were difficult to upgrade, and required expensive hardware. More challenges arose from multiple databases for different facilities or sub-departments on which data had to be synchronized. Regular maintenance and support added more cost.

With a Web-based CMMS, staff members can access maintenance data securely from anywhere in the world, as long as they have Internet access. They can log in through an Internet browser and bring up a full-featured application. This simplicity and convenience have made Web-based CMMS take off.

Steady evolution

PC-based CMMS appeared in the early 1980s. The first systems were DOS-based and were available only on a single PC. Technology gradually progressed to systems avail-able on local area networks (LANs). Most LANs are confined to a single building or group of buildings — limiting access to the CMMS. One LAN can be connected to others over any distance via telephone lines and radio waves to form a wide area network (WAN), but even these networks permit access only through network-connected computers.

Web-based CMMS software has caught on because it provides benefits that LAN- and WAN-based systems do not. Below are a few of the main benefits.

ASP option

Web-based CMMS offers two different options. End users can install it on their own servers, or it can be hosted remotely by the vendor in a model known as application service provider (ASP). A major benefit of the ASP option is that hardware maintenance is the vendor’s responsibility. ASP also minimizes the initial investment and the cost of software upgrades.

Use anywhere and anytime

Web-based CMMS allows managers and supervisors to use the program to order parts, review work requests, generate work orders and perform other tasks from anywhere — in the office, from home, from out of town or out of country, from a vehicle, etc. As long as the user has an Internet connection, a user ID and a password, the CMMS is available. Here are a few cases where this is an advantage:

Work Requests. Typically, the maintenance department receives work requests from the field by phone or e-mail. Clerical staff then enter the work order. Besides the labor this requires, there is potential for instructions to be miscommunicated, and for orders to be misplaced or forgotten — causing delays and costing money. With a Web-based CMMS, field personnel can enter requests themselves, instantly creating work orders.

Off-hours calls. Major breakdowns can lead to phone calls from the field in the middle of the night. With a Web-based CMMS, managers can access the system at home, review the service history of the item in question, and offer a solution in a short time. This eliminates a trip to the site, saving time and money and minimizing downtime.

Managing remotely. Technicians servicing fleet vehicles can perform maintenance activities and record them on the spot using a laptop computer or PDA. The information is instantly transferred to the CMMS (assuming proper setup is available). The same is true for servicing in-the-field facilities like manholes and pump stations. Managers also can assign work to staff members while out of town, such as by logging on to wireless Internet at a hotel.

Lower overall cost

Another advantage of Web-based CMMS is lower overall cost. In a LAN- or WAN-based system, CMMS must be installed on both client PCs and server. With Web-based technology there is very little installation cost (virtually none with the ASP model). Maintenance is also minimal, as there is no need to support software on individual PCs.

In addition, with the ASP option, there are no onsite installations, no daily backups, no hardware headaches, and no need for printer drivers at each work station (users essentially print off their browsers). That means less work for IT staff.

Easier upgrades

With Web-based CMMS, the vendor will automatically upgrade the program. The user never needs to spend time installing upgrades from CDs or Internet links. Upgrades are an ongoing process; there is less risk of the software becoming obsolete.

Greater convenience

The navigation in a Web-based CMMS is based on a standard browser. Therefore, end users feel comfortable with common elements like links, buttons, forms, etc.

Less potential for viruses

Because it runs off a browser, a Web-based CMMS has no local data that can be damaged by viruses. If a computer drive crashes because of a virus, there is nothing to worry about, because the Web-based server automatically backs up the data at all times.

Higher security

Contrary to what many might assume, there is much higher security in Web-based software. With the ASP option, the service provider usually has an enterprise-class firewall to prevent access by all unauthorized users.

In addition, when users access the system, data passes back and forth under the highest encryption available in the Internet browser. This is the same type of security that banks use for online transactions. Web-based technology also lets users take advantage of Web security protocols and products.

Another security feature is confirmation of data entry against predefined criteria. For example, users who forgot their password might be asked a question that only they would know. Only after answering this obscure or personal question can the employee gain access to the Web-based CMMS.

User support

With LAN- and WAN-based technology, it can be hard for a user to explain a specific problem to technical support personnel. It is common to hear a vendor support person say, “I can’t really see what’s wrong. Can you send your data to me? I’ll take a look at exactly what’s going on and get back to you.” Hours or even several days can be lost in the process. With Web-based CMMS, technical support staff can log right in, see exactly what the user sees, and troubleshoot. That means faster resolutions of problems, concerns or questions.

Multiple-facility access

Multiple facilities are much easier to handle with Web-based technology. Each facility has its own database, yet managers with the right passwords have access to other facilities’ data. This is a valuable feature. For example, if one facility is out of a critical part, staff members there can check other facilities’ inventories. Also, multiple locations can work on the same real-time data at once. There is never a need to merge, synchronize or duplicate CMMS data. Reports are always up to the minute.


Most Web-based service providers claim 99 percent or higher uptime. That is because the service provider has excellent IT staff and a data center with substantial redundancy. Users get those benefits without having to pay for all the hardware and staff.

Data entry

With LAN- and WAN-based systems, data entry is limited to users within the network. With a Web-based system, even trusted contractors can be given limited access to the CMMS so that they can directly enter details of work they perform. This helps the system owner keep a history of the contractors’ work. It also eliminates manual entry of contractors’ work data.

Automatic data backup

With the Web-based ASP option, data is backed up continuously. Users who want their own onsite backup in addition usually can get it — and in fact, most organizations exercise that option. Backup at two separate locations provides redundancy in case of a disaster at one site.

Quick debugging

With Web-based CMMS, everyone always uses the same version. Bugs can be fixed as soon as they are discovered. Fixing bugs is much more complex and expensive in a LAN- or WAN-based system.


The advantages of Web-based CMMS are clear. It offers better-quality service at a lower overall cost, with the convenience of access anytime and anywhere. For any progressive maintenance operation, it is a technology well worth exploring.

Kris Bagadia is president of PEAK Industrial Solutions, Brookfield, Wis. He can be reached at 262/783-6260 or


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.