Any organization that’s thinking about implementing a LIMS in their lab wants to know “How much does a LIMS cost?” This is a very good question. Coming up with an answer is more complicated than you might realize, and depends on what the best LIMS is for your situation. We have broken down the costs for a LIMS in what follows, for the three most common LIMS platforms—free (open source), software as a service (SaaS), and traditional (web-based or client/server).
There are many cost factors associated with a LIMS including:
Not all of these cost factors are applicable to 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.
Check out this video: How Much Does A LIMS Cost
The table summarizes the types of costs you may incur with freeware, SaaS, and traditional LIMS platforms.
|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 © 2021 CSols, Inc.
In the table, you will notice an M (Maybe) in several places. For these situations, it is not possible to provide a definitive answer about those costs, as vendor business practices and customers’ environments vary too widely. It is also important to note that not all indicated costs are attributed to 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.
So, let’s take a closer look at the costs for a freeware (open source) LIMS solution. It is not uncommon to think that freeware implies that it is free. Yes, the user licenses and often the database licenses are free but you will incur costs for hardware and peripheral devices unless you already have what you need. In most cases, you will want to make use of barcode printers and scanners, laptops, notepads, and perhaps even RFID tags and readers. 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, there are also costs associated with implementation, customization, and support. There will be training costs and perhaps validation costs if you are in a regulated environment. While these costs may not be paid to the LIMS provider/vendor, these services will need to be paid for, either in salary to your own resources or fees to a consultant. Sometimes the biggest cost with a Freeware LIMS is incurred months in the future when you have a real problem with the LIMS and there is no responsible party you can turn to (like the vendor) for support and help.
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 $200 to $1500 per user per month. 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 because, 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, laptops, etc.) you may need. An additional advantage is that the cost comes out as a revenue spending rather than as capital depreciation.
There are other costs associated with implementing and customizing a SaaS LIMS solution as well. How much those costs work out to be depends 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 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. The former choice may not be a good one if you have data integrity concerns. Training costs must be considered, although these can be minimized by using the online self-training that many SaaS LIMS vendors provide.
A traditional LIMS solution 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 $3000 to $13,000 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. With user licensing costs, for either 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 is that three named users equal one 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 with an additional server to accommodate the traditional LIMS or you want to make use of capabilities for which you do not currently have the infrastructure, 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, such as forensics or pharmaceuticals. If you choose one of these that fits your environment, then your costs for configuration and customization can be reduced, minimizing the amount of customization needed to fit your requirements. Support costs are also incurred with a traditional LIMS and can be 15%–20% of the user license fees per year.
Additional Reading How Do We Choose The Best LIMS Software?
The actual costs of LIMS solutions vary greatly. Each type of LIMS discussed has associated costs that depend on the type of LIMS, your current IT infrastructure, the number of users, and most significantly, on your needs and requirements. Establishing your laboratory and business needs first with a complete set of user requirements will provide the most accurate estimate. If you’re still concerned about justifying such a significant expenditure, remember that not having a LIMS has costs as well.
In your LIMS purchasing experience, were your actual costs what you had originally estimated? Did you establish your needs and requirements before settling on a solution?