The demand for automation in the laboratory is getting bigger and bigger. The automation need is increasing not only in life sciences and healthcare but also in the chemical, food, and automotive industries. Stronger laws and regulations and internal market forces result in an increase in the volume of analysis. This also ensures that the importance and dependence of laboratory automation increases. These systems are often mission-critical for the laboratory. Downtime of laboratory automation means more and more disruption of the primary process.
Internally developed Excel and Access systems are increasingly being replaced by commercial Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS). The market for commercial LIMS systems has grown to many hundreds of millions of euros per year. The costs for internally developed LIMS systems, platform purchase, maintenance, and management are many times higher. Estimates run up to two billion a year.
Most laboratories have opted for internally installed LIMS solutions in recent years. Because they assume that this is their only option, or because they thought it better suited their needs. For laboratories without their own IT department, outsourcing a LIMS can be a very smart and cost-saving option. The development of LIMS systems via the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model offers laboratories a fully-fledged alternative to in-house installations. Thanks to the cost benefits, SaaS LIMS systems with sufficient customization capabilities will become the fastest growing segment in the LIMS industry.
Now that the SaaS LIMS market is growing steadily, there appear to have been some persistent myths. These myths prevent many companies from seeing a SaaS LIMS as a fully-fledged alternative. This article will negate the main myths and show why a SaaS LIMS is the best choice, especially for small-scale laboratories.
Most in-house installations use one or two servers that have no or minimal redundancy. A full backup system is often not available, and there is no disaster recovery solution available. Many small-scale laboratories do not have the means to implement such safeguards. According to Gartner, an organization that uses in-house systems has an average of 40 hours of unscheduled downtime per year. On top of the 2 hours per month of planned downtime due to maintenance. Osterman Research states that the majority of the failures are caused by unexpected technical failure. Finally, www.disaster-resource.com indicates that the average failure takes 4 to 24 hours. These figures provide an overview of the risk that laboratories run with an in-house system.
SaaS LIMS suppliers, such as Alis, offer a LIMS from a world-class infrastructure. Thanks to smart cluster technology, high availability, complete redundancy, disaster recovery, and permanent fallbacks are realized. This greatly reduces the chance of damage (both financially and in customer relationships) due to downtime.
When an organization does not have its own IT department, the safety of the internal LIMS installation is less well monitored than in a SaaS setup. Operating systems and server software must be patched daily until weekly to prevent stability or security problems. This can be a big task. And who will do that in a small lab? In addition, these updates often require downtime due to the installation. How is this dealt with without redundancy, frequent backup, and fallback plan?
Another important point to mention here is that most people think that LIMS security is about preventing data from falling into the hands of outsiders. The reality, however, is that many security leaks occur in the organization itself. Many in-house implementations open the door to curious employees. A door that has been tightly nailed by many SaaS LIMS providers.
A standard in-house LIMS often requires the IT department to be involved in LIMS management. User and rights management, adjustments to layout, and reporting were mostly activities that had to be arranged by the IT department.
An AlisQI implementation ensures that lab managers and lab technicians can perform these tasks themselves (provided they have the right to do so within the organization). If desired, this task can still be assigned to the IT department, but it can be delegated on the basis of organizational responsibility, and not only on the basis of technical knowledge and expertise.
The development of web technology has resulted in a huge increase in the possibilities of web applications in recent years. As a result, the complete set of functionality offered by traditional, mostly windows-based, LIMS applications can be realized.
Links with other information systems (eg ERP systems) and analysis instruments are also possible in a SaaS installation.
An internal LIMS installation is a costly operation. Despite the perception that internal hosting is cheap, the salaries for IT people are already paid anyway, the costs are quickly up to many thousands of euros per year. The time it takes to keep the server software up-to-date, define backup protocols (and monitor!) And install LIMS updates is easily one day per month.
The investments in hardware are still there. Depending on the desired level of availability, see also Myth 1, these costs can increase rapidly. Given the deprecation time of the servers and infrastructure, these costs come back every few years.
A SaaS LIMS may feel more expensive because an invoice is received for it. But if it is compared with the aforementioned costs, this will almost always be lower. And then we have not talked about value for money yet.
Laboratories must be able to rely on reliable technology to facilitate their laboratory processes and to store their valuable analysis results. Despite the many misunderstandings that exist about SaaS LIMS solutions, they offer an alternative to in-house installations that score better in almost all aspects.
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