In a recent white paper, we discussed the trend towards cloud-hosted Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) LIMS solutions. We concluded that this model offers attractive benefits to labs of all sizes, from entry-level to enterprise.
The advantages of SaaS solutions have made them increasingly popular across many different industries. One of the most obvious benefits is eliminating the expensive overhead associated with traditional systems. Instead, users pay only for what they need and use, and always have access to the latest upgrades. Many of us already rely on applications like these every day — think Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox, and Slack, just to name a few of the most common.
The laboratory informatics space is also experiencing a shift towards the cloud – and not just for data storage or hosting a purchased LIMS solution. There’s a readiness to discard the traditional models of licensing, installation, maintenance, and management of software in favor of engaging with a web-based service provider that delivers a right-sized application and, at the same time, shoulders responsibility for back-end security, availability, and performance.
A Middle Way
LIMS solutions have traditionally fallen into two categories: on-prem systems and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) models.
While an on-prem LIMS has some compelling advantages, they also come with substantial up-front costs. In addition, they are prone to slower upgrade cycles, and are vulnerable to service interruptions during hardware or software maintenance.
The IaaS model can reduce some of these concerns by relieving the customer of involvement in infrastructure management. That said, the customer is still responsible for software updates, upgrades, and as needed, maintenance.
With the SaaS model, a more flexible and cost-effective alternative is available. You can get an advanced informatics suite without a significant upfront or ongoing investment in licensing and infrastructure or paying for features you don’t need. Servers, networking, load balancing, security, and backups are all part of the subscription package.
Cost isn’t the only benefit. Because the vendor takes care of updating the software, you always have access to the latest version via their web browser of choice – whether your team is in the same lab, a different building, or another part of the world. There’s nothing else to install or validate on a workstation, laptop, or mobile device. And if you need to scale up quickly, the process is practically instantaneous.
SaaS is Coming of Age
The SaaS software distribution model is not only reliable and mature, it’s beginning to dominate the cloud computing market. But misperceptions about SaaS remain – and one of the top concerns is security (see also our recent posts on cybersecurity & LIMS here and here). The reality about SaaS security is much different – with far fewer problems when compared to traditional software.
The security advantages often cited to support on-prem installations – more control over servers and firewalls – are also key disadvantages. In most cases, SaaS platforms tend to protect businesses from themselves, as less tech-savvy team members can implement system changes or upgrades which lead to – rather than resolve – problems.
This ties in with another widely held belief: that IT professionals prefer on-prem software to SaaS. This is also a misunderstanding. Certainly, some IT pros prefer to keep everything local, but most appreciate offloading day-to-day management of software to those most knowledgeable about the platform – its creators.
The Path to SaaS
While lower cost is a compelling factor, there are other decision points to consider when choosing between an on-prem, managed cloud, or SaaS solution. We cover several of these in more detail in our recent white paper, which also includes a graphical decision tree to help you break-down the decision-making process for your own operation.
Our research recognizes that some labs, especially those with deep pockets, will prefer to stick with traditional systems. But for those that want a less burdensome approach and see value in effortless and cost-effective access to an always up-to-date laboratory informatics suite, with fully integrated LIMS, ELN, LES, and SDMS, a subscription SaaS offers an attractive and viable alternative.
To learn more, download the white paper here.