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Published: Sep 27 2021

Security In the Clouds: Pressing Cloud-Based CMMS Concerns and How Industry Leaders are Addressing Them

With data breaches and ransomware attacks becoming more common – and more severe – by the day, it’s understandable to have concerns or confusion about security and cloud applications. This includes your computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).

The good news? Many common security concerns simply aren’t applicable to modern cloud-based CMMS systems. Here’s everything you need to know about cloud security and your CMMS system.

The Bigger Context: Understanding the Cloud and Cloud CMMS Systems Today

General Cloud Facts Today

The term “the cloud” usually refers to a network of servers, each of which has a specific function or purpose. So, rather than your information being stored in your in-house hard drive, it is stored on these servers. When individuals or companies move something to the cloud, they are generally making a switch from hardware to cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or software-as-a-service (SaaS).

The reason for this? In general, cloud-based tools can offer more scalability, efficiency, security, and agility than their on-premise counterparts. This can facilitate digital transformation and company-wide modernization. It can also facilitate work in a multi-site or remote environment – which is more vital than ever in the wake of COVID-19.

Looking with more detail, consistent cloud SaaS benefits include:

  • Increased Security: Cloud-based systems are generally managed by vendors or providers, and these teams are vigilant about staying on top of patches and other security protocols. What’s more, these updates are generally automated, which can take a significant strain off your IT team.
  • Improved Scalability: Hardware is expensive and difficult to scale. Cloud systems, on the other hand, have unmatched scalability and flexibility, both of which can facilitate technological growth as your company evolves.
  • Maximized Connectivity: It is easier to connect SaaS-based systems thanks to tools like APIs. This makes it easier to store and manipulate data across devices, technologies and websites.
  • Lower Software Price: Hardware generally requires a significant up-front cost for purchase installation, as well as high maintenance fees. Cloud solutions, on the other hand, run on monthly or annual subscriptions, leading to a lower up-front cost.
  • Higher Availability and Reliability: If you have a strong vendor, your cloud solutions can have faster uptime, more availability and increased reliability.

Cloud-Based CMMS Systems

All of this is certainly true when it comes to cloud-based CMMS systems. There are also many additional benefits that can come with deployed a cloud-based computerized maintenance management tool. These include:

  • Mobile capabilities: With a cloud-based CMMS, you simply need a device and an internet connection to be able to access your software. This allows technicians to upload photos, update work orders and access other vital information directly at their point of need. This is particularly vital in the multi-site post-COVID manufacturing world we live in today.
  • Increased scalability: With a cloud-based CMMS, you can scale your systems according to your team’s current bandwidth and needs. You can also add or remove users as the makeup of your team changes, which is important for uptime and controlled access to your mission-critical data.
  • More user-friendly systems: With a cloud-based CMMS like Maintenance Connection, security updates and system upgrades are automatic, hands-off processes. All you need to do is log in and accept the update – and sometimes, even this part is automated. Plus, your important information is automatically backed up on a regular basis, and if you have a system malfunction, your vendor should provide support and troubleshooting assistance.
  • Increased cost-effectiveness: There are both short-term and long-term cost-savings associated with a cloud-based CMMS deployment. Immediately, there are lower up-front deployment costs. In the long term, there are lower software maintenance costs and decreased security risk. Additionally, more software availability means increased team productivity and efficiency over time.
  • Increased productivity: This deserves its own point. Because users simply need to log in to begin working on a cloud-based system, employees across departments will immediately be able to access their assets, parts and inventory, work orders, reports, cost tracking, scheduling, purchasing, etc. This means immediate efficiency and up-time.
  • Faster disaster recovery: With a cloud system, automatic and managed back-ups are included in your monthly subscription, and your data is continuously backed up to multiple servers in multiple locations. Even if you have one server failure, then, your information will still be available elsewhere.

Common Security Concerns with Cloud-Based Computerized Maintenance Management Systems

So, what’s the hold-up? What security concerns do people still have about a cloud-based CMMS – and is there any validity to any of these concerns? Well, many concerns are baseless with modern tools, including the idea that a cloud-based CMMS is inherently more vulnerable to security attacks. That said, there are some common security concerns that you should consider. These include:

Poor Visibility

As we mentioned, cloud software allows access from many devices, locations and users. This is a huge benefit of a cloud-based CMMS system, but it can also introduce confusion and poor visibility, particularly if you are unclear about this infrastructure and what your users are accessing, viewing and downloading. This is a definite concern to consider when choosing your cloud-based CMMS.

Compliance Concerns

Industries like manufacturing, oil & gas and healthcare are highly regulated, which means that you must adhere to strict and ever-changing compliance requirements. Careless or unclear data transfer in the cloud can make this difficult – as can lack of clarity into where your data is, who has it and how it’s being used. The right software won’t have this lack of visibility.

Insider Threats

No, you likely don’t have double agents working in your organization and trying to break down your security. That said, lack of training and negligence could open your organization up to vulnerabilities. You have to make sure that your employees, contractors and business partners have the information they need to keep your technology safe.

Insecure APIs

Application user interfaces, or APIs, are often built into web or mobile applications to connect disparate tools or systems. The problem? External-facing APIs can be a cloud security risk, providing a gateway from which cybercriminals can enter your system and access your data. This must be kept top-of-mind.

A Misconfiguration of Cloud Services

If your system isn’t configured correctly, it could cause your data to be manipulated, exposed or even deleted. Make sure that your CMMS vendor knows this and knows how to prevent issues like mismatched access management or insecure default security and access management settings.

Poor Cloud Security Strategy

You can’t put the cart before the horse – or, in this case, you can’t rush to get a cloud CMMS deployment live before you’ve developed a comprehensive CMMS security strategy. This is a common mistake and one you should avoid.

How to Effectively Secure Your Modern SaaS CMMS Systems

Address Your Concerns Proactively

To maintain your cloud-based CMMS security through deployment and beyond, it’s important that you keep the above concerns top-of-mind and address them as you choose your CMMS vendor and move forward with your cloud deployment and maintenance. That means having processes in place to:

  • Protect your data while it is in transit and at rest
  • Identity and user authentication, including SSO
  • Compliance and security integrations
  • Maximize your visibility and control over your systems
  • Protect your assets and your team
  • Maximize team and personnel security
  • Vet your vendor (more on this below)

Ultimately, this can help your organization:

  • Ward off growing cybersecurity threats
  • Avoid any major data breaches or data loss
  • Maintain business continuity
  • Avoid compliance and auditing concerns

You Can’t Forget Your Best Practices

Another important key is to find a system – and a vendor – that takes a comprehensive approach to their CMMS security. Overall, you and your vendor must keep several things top of mind, including:

  • Identity and access management: An identity and access management (IAM) system – including things like multi-factor authentication and defined user access policies— should always be in place to help you control access to information.
  • Physical security: Make sure that your vendor is doing what they can to prevent access to the hardware housed in their data center. This includes having uninterrupted power supplies, CCTV, fire protection and more.
  • Encryption: Encryption encodes your data assets when they’re at rest and in transit, thereby providing another level of data security.
  • Vulnerability and penetration testing: During this testing, your own team will try to hack into your system to check for vulnerabilities or security issues.
  • Firewalls: Next-generation firewalls have many features that are needed in a modern context, including IP blocking, packet filtering, domain name blocking and port blocking.
  • Threat intelligence, monitoring and prevention: Threat intelligence systems, intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) help alert your team to attacks so you can effectively respond.

Train Your Team

When it comes to CMMS security, your users will always be your first line of defense – and possibly your biggest weakness. Make sure that your team consistently knows:

  • How to spot malware
  • The risks of insecure practices
  • Any industry-specific training needed for advanced users
  • The importance of user access best practices

Final Thoughts

The cloud isn’t inherently insecure, and you can have a successful cloud CMMS deployment without increased security risk. That said, it’s important that you have your CMMS security infrastructure in place and that you’re aware of key risks and considerations to keep top of mind.

Ready to learn more? You can learn more about how Maintenance Connection handles cloud migration and data security here.

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