Informatics and the Cloud

Blog Informatics and the cloud

The buzz surrounding cloud computing for informatics applications continues. Everyone is aware of the many advantages and benefits offered by cloud computing (software, infrastructure, or platform as a service—SaaS, IaaS, PaaS). These are not just monetary, like lowering IT costs and reducing total cost of ownership (TCO), but also include increasing business agility, computing power, and storage capacity as well as fostering collaboration. It is clear that informatics applications have become digital natives, although the question of whether an on-premises or cloud-based solution is right for your organization remains a subject of debate. Regardless of the option chosen, the ability to interface systems in a cloud computing setting allows organizations to take advantage of their formerly separated streams of data.

Informatics systems offered in the cloud began as SaaS offerings and today have evolved to PaaS and even integrated PaaS (iPaaS). Hosting options can be done through a public or private cloud. A public cloud informatics system has multiple companies using the same code base simultaneously; however, the data for each is kept separate through encryption, firewalls, and access control. In a private cloud informatics system, only one company and their designated agents and partners are using the code base. The private cloud option is basically your own system that is being hosted and maintained by the provider. In both configurations, systems and instrument integrations are fully supported, although private clouds support more personalized customization.

Any industry, both regulated and nonregulated, can take advantage of cloud-based systems. The early adopters of informatics in the cloud were small- to mid-sized organizations, while the larger organizations lagged behind. This trend, while not surprising, was not solely based on financial considerations. The perceived security concerns that may at first have caused hesitation among notoriously risk-averse life sciences companies have been alleviated. Today, the majority of pharmaceutical companies have adopted some variety of a SaaS model for their informatics applications and data.

CSols Summit 2022 Video Recording Cloud Hosting

Cloud Informatics for Small to Mid-sized Businesses

Small- to mid-sized organizations (regulated and nonregulated) deploy SaaS informatics in both public and private cloud settings. They have embraced SaaS for many reasons including:

  • SaaS systems can be less expensive—especially the initial startup costs as there is no need to purchase software licenses, database licenses, or hardware. Instead, money is spent on periodic hosting fees.
    (OK it’s true; money is a key factor but not the only reason – read on…)
  • These organizations tend to have small, or sometimes nonexistent, IT departments, so the SaaS model is perfect for them.
  • There is little if any IT resistance because deployment is easier and maintenance is the vendor’s concern.
  • By far the most important reason is the lack of a complex IT environment. Therefore, there is no need to overhaul the IT infrastructure to embrace the cloud.

So having less is actually better!

Cloud Informatics for Large Businesses

PCS 64 Validation of a cloud-based eMBR system for a life sciences company

As mentioned previously, adoption of cloud informatics systems among large organizations got off to a slow start. This was especially true among the largest pharmaceutical companies, where although the cloud’s promise of better, bigger, cheaper, and faster made business sense, a number of concerns were holding them back:

  • First and foremost were those perceived security concerns. Data security is paramount for pharmaceutical companies. It took some time for the studies showing that cloud computing increased data security for those using it to sway opinions. Today’s cloud-based systems are sometimes more secure than on-premises offerings and are also able to be validated.
  • There were accessibility concerns based on network bandwidth and availability; these have been largely alleviated by broadband availability.
  • Pharmaceutical companies and other large organizations generally have complex IT environments and going to the cloud might require an IT overhaul and expenditures for new hardware or software licenses.
  • Finally, there can be high levels of IT resistance: the turf war!

However, with the growing need for data storage driven by huge quantities of data, especially next-generation gene sequencing data, use of the cloud by the pharmaceutical industry was inevitable.

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Has your business taken the leap and adopted a public or private cloud-based system? If not, what is holding you back?

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