Once you have decided that you’re ready to transition to a new ELN or LIMS you will need to decide whether to implement a
Traditional ELN/LIMS vendors have historically controlled the market, however SaaS providers have made recent advances. As you consider a solution for your lab, you will need to assess the risk/benefits associated with each type of solution.
Cloud computing concepts are not as new as you would think.
In fact, since the 1950s the computer revolution was driven by hugely expensive mainframes shared among “dumb” terminals.
This configuration shares similarities with the Cloud only limited within a company.
Introduction of affordable personal computing in the 80s and 90s revolutionized home computing but companies continued to keep big, expensive, server farms inside their corporate walls.
The advent of the Internet introduced the “Cloud” era.
Products like Salesforce and services like Amazon Web Services gave Cloud access to any size company providing scalable,
secure and inexpensive remote computing.
This revolution is not (only) driven by the research of computing power but, rather, by the infinite possibilities of having a system that can be used anywhere
and by anyone. Are you ready for it?
Some of the benefits derived from Cloud solutions:
Actually, “out of the box” traditional solutions entail a big effort to install, setup, and configure.
These are complex systems that require dedicated Servers, Databases, File Shares and Integration with other systems.
Once those items have been accounted for there will still be a need to allocate a team to support the various systems and take care of all the periodic activities like monitoring and patch installations.
Even if your Company already has a strong IT footprint, ask yourself, “How efficient can our IT department be when supporting a tool that’s not developed by them? How many hours, days or months would they need to invest in keeping themselves up to date with the latest releases or investigating every issue that will arise? Is this necessary for our core business?”.
A solution “hosted” in the Cloud means the hardware is procured/maintained in the Cloud but often the maintenance of the overall solution remains the responsibility of the lab or IT department.
Many vendors charge for the environment (in addition to the license fee) and will take a hands-off approach to installation or configuration issues.
A final point to consider is the solution design. Traditional systems are not designed to deal with the challenges of a Cloud deployment – availability, latency, and security.
SaaS solutions are, by definition, accessible anywhere giving you flexibility and expanding your possibilities. For example:
Let’s consider each in turn:
Data storage in the cloud means that your company does not directly own and control the data storage medium.
To assess the risk, you should compare the security of data inside your organization to security features of a major Cloud infrastructure provider such as Azure or Amazon.
In most cases, the security and resilience of the Cloud provider will be equal to or better, simply because the Cloud provider focuses on security and resilience
as a primary business driver and your company probably focuses on science.
Another risk associated with Cloud storage is that your access to the data is through the SaaS vendor. The SaaS vendor owns the contract with the Cloud storage provider.
What would happen if the SaaS provider were to prevent access to your data? This risk although unlikely is of high impact and must be mitigated by regular archive
of your data to a storage location inside your company.
The transmission of data across the internet opens the potential for your data to be exposed to competitors or others.
Again, this risk must be mitigated by the SaaS vendor through transmission encryption and regular security monitoring.
If the benefits of a Cloud solution outweigh the risk for your organization, there are several differentiators which you will wish to consider when selecting a SaaS provider:
As noted above, there are many ELN/LIMS vendors which offer traditional application in a “hosted” Cloud. Be sure to get the full benefits of a Cloud solution by selecting a vendor
with a product entirely designed and engineered to run in the Cloud and which is delivered as a Service – a service that is self-hosted & supported.
Avoid the issues which arise from a system which hasn’t been designed specifically for the Cloud and rather is designed as an add-on.
It may take months or years to implement an ELN or LIMS and then years to really make it your own; these systems have a way of becomming entrenched in a laboratories way of life, and once implemented, very difficult to remove.
Traditional ELN/LIMS vendors are aware that Cloud services will soon replace traditional solutions and are scrambling to make the transition. If you select a traditional solution, will it soon be obsolete?
Only you can assess the risks and benefits as they relate to your organization. It is our opinion that SaaS as a technology has come of age. The risks can be mitigated and the benefits make SaaS worth investigation.