When you’re looking at what kind of Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to implement for your organization, one of the first decisions you need to make is the hosting situation; will your LIMS be hosted on-premises (pay per license; PPL) or cloud hosted—either as platform as a service (PaaS) or software as a service (SaaS). The choice of hosting environment involves additional considerations about how it will affect cost, information security, and the regulatory requirements for your organization. Traditionally, LIMS have been implemented using the PPL model, but today more and more cloud-hosted options are available, even if you’ve already invested in an on-premises system.
There are a number of reasons why organizations would choose one or the other of these hosting options. Let’s take a look at what the LIMS hosting considerations are, the pros and cons of the different models, and all of the factors you should examine before making a decision about what’s right for your lab.
LabVantage, LabWare, SampleManager, and STARLIMS are the major PPL LIMS vendors. The LIMS products offered by each of these vendors will have all the features you need, and can be configured to provide the features you want. They are well recognized for their data integrity benefits and ongoing customer support.
Hosting your LIMS on premises with a PPL model can be the right option if your organization is large enough to have the infrastructure and IT support budget to properly maintain a LIMS. This may include the additional cost to buy dedicated servers.
In addition to these four, you can find smaller specialty PPL LIMS products for specific environments such as materials testing, agriculture, or environmental testing. A smaller vendor may be an option if you don’t need a highly configurable, validated system.
If the majority of your data resides in spreadsheets, an on-premises LIMS could simplify your workflows and increase your data integrity. An on-premises LIMS also has the perception of increased data integrity, which is important when your lab operates in a regulated environment. The flip side of this is that your organization is responsible for the security, backups, and failover plans.
As you might expect, the well-known names in LIMS technology have a PaaS cloud-hosting option. Beyond the big four traditional pay-per-license vendors, there are a number of dedicated cloud-only PaaS LIMS providers.
There are outdated misconceptions about the security and regulatory impact of a cloud-hosted LIMS. The LIMS vendor has physical security that is beyond the capabilities of most organizations, and they have the resources and expertise to monitor against major security breaches. A PaaS cloud-based system does not originate from a server at the end user’s location and all hardware is managed by the provider; however, your organization is responsible for installing and maintaining the application, including any updates.
A PaaS LIMS may be advantageous if your organization is small or if your lab staff are spread across many sites and time zones. With this model, your organization pays only for what you use. Another advantage of the PaaS model is that the software can be configured to align exactly with the laboratory workflows. The flip side of this is that your organization is responsible for any required validation.
With a SaaS cloud-hosted LIMS, in addition to outsourcing the infrastructure, the provider maintains the application. This option means that there is no need for your organization to have internal expertise for maintaining the infrastructure, databases, or applications. This option is a good choice if you need to get your LIMS up and running quickly.
SaaS LIMS is less configurable than either a PPL or a PaaS LIMS, but any validation, patches, or updates are the responsibility of the vendor.
To help you compare and weigh the competing models, we have prepared tables of the pros and cons that apply in all situations.
|Configurable to match specific workflows||Infrastructure cost|
|Supports complex functionality||Large capital expense in one budget cycle|
|IT support may be available in-house||Set cost per license|
|Highly secured IT infrastructure on-site||External failover requirements|
|Data integrity||Additional installation and validation needed for tablets/laptops/phones|
|Lower implementation and ownership costs||Instrument time delays|
|Ease of use and access||You are responsible for maintenance and updates|
|Streamlined processes||A reliable, fast internet connection is a must|
|A dedicated data security team||Less configurable|
|Validation performed by the software vendor||Ongoing operating expenses|
|Easily scalable – no hardware limitations||Data upload and download speeds|
|Lose control over customization|
|Ease of use and access||Instrument time delays|
|Streamlined processes||Data protection concerns|
|A dedicated data security team||Reliable, fast internet connection is a must|
|Validation performed by the software vendor||Very little configurability|
|Easily scalable – no hardware limitations||Ongoing operating expenses|
|Fast implementation||Data upload and download speeds|
|Maintenance, patches, and updates are handled by the vendor|
When evaluating the choice between a SaaS LIMS or on premises system, you’ll want to weigh your organization’s needs against the constraints of your situation. The workflows and processes in each individual lab have a strong influence on the choice of LIMS because certain elements are essential in your chosen product. If the LIMS limits the number of tests you can configure, that may be a strong negative.
The next most important consideration after the way your lab works is the availability of resources to support the LIMS once it is in place. If there won’t be a budget for a dedicated LIMS administrator, a cloud-hosted LIMS may have an edge.
Another important consideration is the broadband capabilities in your area. If you cannot get a reliable, fast Internet connection, a cloud-hosted option will not work for your organization.
Last, the financing structure to be used to pay for the new LIMS also must be decided. An on-premises LIMS has a much bigger impact on the capital expenses, while a cloud-hosting option has recurring operating expenses.
These needs and constraints should be the primary drivers behind your choice of hosting options. The relative importance of each factor will depend on your lab’s unique situation. A strategic engagement from CSols can help you identify all the pros and cons for your unique situation, as well as assign the proper weights to each of them.
Do you need help to evaluate which LIMS option is right for your organization? Did we miss anything important?