If your laboratory organization has ever discussed the possibility of putting in a LIMS, you will likely have been asked by management “How much does a LIMS cost?” This is a very good question and while coming up with the answer is more complicated than people think; we have broken down the costs for a LIMS below. Further, we have done so for the three most prevalent platforms that LIMS are delivered on; Free (Open Source), Software as a Services (SaaS), and Traditional (Web-based or Client/Server).
There are many cost factors associated with a LIMS including:
- Software Licenses
- Instruments (sometimes)
- Optional modules
- Instrument interfacing
- Instrument calibration
- Infrastructure – servers, routers, disks
- Peripherals – lap tops, mobile devices, barcode printers & readers, etc.
- Implementation & Customization services
- Training services
- Validation services (if required)
- Support services
Not all of these cost factors are applicable for every LIMS solution. For example, the cost of a SaaS based LIMS solution would not generally include the need for servers or routers and a Freeware (Open Source) LIMS solution would not generally include the cost of LIMS licenses, unless you choose to make a donation.
LIMS Costs by Platform
We have summarized below the types of costs you may incur with three popular LIMS platforms: Freeware (Open Source), SaaS, and Traditional (web based & client/server based).
|User Licenses||N||Y||Y||Y = Yes|
|Database Licenses||M||Y **||Y **||N = No|
|Optional Modules||N||M||Y||M = Maybe|
* if regulated environment ** sometimes bundled w/ User License © 2014 CSols, Inc.
In the table above, you will notice an “M” (Maybe) in several places. This was done since it is not possible to provide a definitive answer for those cost items as vendor business practices and customers’ environments vary too widely. It is also important to note that not all the costs indicated are costs from the LIMS vendor or provider. Some may be internal or third-party costs. For example a Freeware LIMS solution will not have a support or implementation cost from the provider of the software but you will still incur costs to implement and support the LIMS, either with your own resources or with a consultant or consulting group.
Freeware (Open Source) LIMS Costs
So let’s take a closer look at the costs for a Freeware (Open Source) LIMS solution. It is not uncommon to think “Freeware”, right then it is free! Actually, this is not the case. Yes, the user licenses and often the database licenses are free but you will likely incur costs for hardware and peripheral devices unless you already have what you need. In most cases you will want to make use of barcodes, laptops, notepads and perhaps even RFID tags. Most organizations do not have these devices prior to implementing a LIMS or will need to procure more of them to fully support their new LIMS.
With a Freeware LIMS you will definitely have costs associated with implementing, customizing, and supporting your “free” LIMS. There will also be training costs and perhaps validation costs if you are in a regulated environment. While these costs may not be monies that you pay to the LIMS provider/vendor, costs to perform these services will be incurred, either by your own resources or by a consultant. Sometimes your biggest cost with a Freeware LIMS may be incurred way down the road when you have a real problem with the LIMS and there is no truly responsible party you can turn to (like the vendor) for support and help.
Software as a Services (SaaS) LIMS Costs
Next let’s look at the costs associated with a Software as a Service (SaaS) LIMS solution. SaaS LIMS do have user license costs which can range from $100 to $1500 per user per year. Often the database license costs are bundled into the user license costs, as are the Support costs. One of the big cost benefits in this model is the ability to change the number of licenses as your needs change on a monthly or yearly basis. The biggest cost savings in the SaaS model is that there is no need for additional hardware since, by definition, the database and the LIMS are being hosted by the provider/vendor. The only additional hardware costs would be for any peripherals (barcode printers, barcode readers, lap tops, etc.) you may need.
There are costs associated with implementing and customizing a SaaS LIMS solution as well. How much will be dependent on how configurable and customizable the particular SaaS LIMS is and, of course, on what your needs are. Some SaaS LIMS come with a predefined amount of configuration and customization, some do not. Incidentally, SaaS LIMS are generally hosted in two ways: as a single instance/version of the software that all customers/companies access or as separate instances for each customer/company. In the former, customization may be limited while in the latter; customization is only limited by the capabilities of the SaaS LIMS, your needs, and your funds. Training costs will also be incurred, although this can be minimized by the utilization of on-line and computer based self-training that many SaaS LIMS vendors provide.
Traditional (Web-based, Client/Server based) LIMS Costs
The third type of LIMS solution costs to examine is the Traditional LIMS which can be either web-based or client/server based. In the Traditional LIMS model there are costs for the user licenses which can be anywhere from $200 to $15,000 per user. With a Traditional LIMS solution you will “own” the licenses so from a financial point of view the licenses can be depreciated over time which may be a benefit to your company. When it comes to user licensing costs, for both SaaS and Traditional LIMS, it is important to understand whether the vendor is providing named or concurrent user licenses. Named users are just that, a particular person or user. Concurrent users are simultaneous users. In other words, you can have many possible users but only so many users on the system at the same time, i.e. concurrently or simultaneously. A general rule of thumb can be 3 named users equals 1 concurrent user but this may not be the case during peak use times.
There will be costs for hardware and peripheral devices. For instance, if your IT infrastructure needs to be expanded to accommodate the Traditional LIMS or you want to make use of capabilities you do not currently have infrastructure for like barcodes. Implementation and customization costs for a Traditional LIMS solution can be considerable; sometimes two or three times the cost of the licenses depending on your needs. However, there are many “purpose-built” LIMS available that are designed for particular types of labs or operations. If you choose one of these that fits your environment then your costs for configuration and customization can be reduced, which would minimize the amount of customization you may require to fit your needs. Support costs are also incurred with a Traditional LIMS and can be 15% – 20% of the user license fees per year.
So How Much Does a LIMS Cost?
The actual costs of LIMS solutions vary greatly. Each type of LIMS discussed has associated costs and they are dependent on the type of LIMS, your current IT infrastructure, the number of users, and most dramatically, your needs and requirements. Establishing your laboratory and business needs first, will provide the most accurate estimate. No solution is truly free.
In your LIMS purchasing experience, were your actual costs what you had originally estimated? Do you feel that you got real value in the end? Did you establish your needs and requirements before settling on a solution?