Benefits of a Cloud-Based LIMS

LIMS integrations illustration

Data management, accessibility, and integrity are keys to success for modern labs.

Whether you are trying to improve the reliability of your results or meet certain compliance regulations, how you manage your lab’s data is critical. 

You’d be wise to invest in a LIMS for your lab, but what scales better, an on-premises (on-prem) or cloud-based LIMS?

Either way, you will leverage a LIMS to manage your lab’s workflows, data, and inventory, but there are key differences between the two that you need to be aware of. In this article, we will compare these options and highlight the benefits of a cloud-based LIMS for modern labs.

What is a LIMS

A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is a software platform designed to manage data and streamline laboratory operations. A LIMS helps labs efficiently manage samples, tests, results, and associated data. Key functions of a LIMS include:

  • Sample management and tracking
  • Workflow management 
  • Instrument integration
  • Inventory management
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Regulatory compliance

A LIMS centralizes lab data and automates manual processes, improving efficiency, data accuracy, and turnaround times. 

There are two broad categories for software: on-premises and cloud-based. We will explore these next.

On-Prem vs Cloud-Based LIMS

Traditionally, LIMS were deployed on-premises, meaning the software was installed and run on the lab's servers and infrastructure. 

This is the case for most software that needed to be manually installed until companies moved to the cloud (accessed via the internet). With a cloud-based LIMS, you can access the platform on the vendor’s servers over the internet rather than on your own. Cloud-based software is popular, and for good reason, as we’ll find later on.

The main differences between on-prem and cloud-based LIMS are:

  • Infrastructure: On-prem software requires your lab to manage servers, security, and software updates. Cloud-based LIMS shifts that responsibility to the vendor that you purchase from. 
  • Accessibility: Cloud-based LIMS enable secure access from anywhere with an internet connection. On-prem LIMS limit access to the lab's network. While this may give you more control on-site, if you have a distributed workforce, this can introduce complications for remote staff.
  • Scalability: Cloud-based LIMS can easily scale up or down based on the lab's needs. Scaling on-prem LIMS requires additional hardware and IT resources. Not to mention adapting to your changing needs and feature requests.
  • Cost: Cloud-based LIMS have lower upfront costs and operate on a subscription model. On-prem LIMS have higher initial costs for hardware and installation. The added cost to maintain and update the platform can also increase costs down the line.

While an on-prem LIMS may provide more control over your data and how the platform is accessed, there are many distinct advantages of a cloud-based LIMS that allow your lab to scale faster and get more done. We’ll examine these in detail next.

Advantages of a Cloud-Based LIMS Over On-Prem

Cloud-based software reduces the technical burden on labs, scales faster, and improves data security and integrity over an on-prem LIMS.

Here are the top advantages we find labs will get with a cloud-based LIMS:

  • Reduced IT burden
  • Improved accessibility and collaboration
  • Scalability and automatic updates
  • Disaster recovery measures
  • Improved data security
  • Speedy deployment

Reduced IT Burden

Many labs opt for an on-prem LIMS to have more direct control over their hardware and capabilities, but this control comes at a steep monetary and time cost.

An on-prem LIMS can drastically increase the burden on your IT team, though. Here’s why:

  • High upfront setup costs exist for on-prem servers and licenses, storage capacity, and upgraded broadband.
  • You will need a dedicated physical space to house new infrastructure and hire IT staff to maintain it.
  • Ongoing costs to maintain these systems will increase. You will need to create backups and manage data recovery, patches, and cooling. 
  • Your lab will need to use matching operating systems throughout the system to ensure compatibility and simplify maintenance.

Opting for a cloud-based LIMS eliminates these drawbacks. 

By accessing your LIMS over the internet, you don’t need to worry about hosting costs, security measures, or system updates. All your lab needs to do is pay for a monthly (or annual) subscription and login.

Accessibility and collaboration

If your lab uses an on-prem LIMS, your ability to support remote staff will require proper hardware and software (firewalls and VPN) to secure your network and data. If your lab is trying to be HIPAA compliant, this becomes even more important, as you will need to worry about user access to data. 

A cloud-based LIMS eliminates these headaches, though. With a cloud-based LIMS, your lab can support secure, remote access for lab personnel and external collaborators, enabling seamless data sharing and collaboration. With the right LIMS, you can also set user roles to restrict access to data and control what your staff can do.

Scalability and Automatic Updates

If you are like most labs, your workflows and processes will change over time. 

If you rely on an on-prem LIMS, you are responsible for making adjustments or reaching out to your vendor and paying for custom development work. This increases the overall cost of your LIMS and slows your lab down. 

With a cloud-based LIMS, your lab can easily scale up or down to match your needs and use cases. You’ll also benefit from your vendor's continuous development as they fix bugs and release new features. You always have access to the most up-to-date version without needing to manage manual upgrades.

Disaster recovery and business continuity

Managing an on-prem LIMS means you are fully responsible for disaster recovery and data retrieval measures. For labs trying to meet certain compliance standards, this can be an incredible burden on maintaining and testing your infrastructure. 

A cloud-based LIMS provider often offers robust data backup, disaster recovery, and high availability, ensuring the lab's data is protected and accessible. QBench offers nightly backups for seven days to help ensure your data is secure no matter what.

This makes compliance a breeze as your lab can spend more time on getting things down and less time maintaining your systems and worrying about a worst-case scenario.

Improved data security

Disaster recovery is just one piece of maintaining the integrity of your data. You also need to control when, where, and how people access it as well.

Managing data security with an on-prem LIMS places the burden fully on your IT team to ensure that only authorized users can access important data. Not only does this require custom development work and maintenance, but you’ll also need to manage roles and access as the needs of your lab change. 

Investing in a cloud-based LIMS removes this burden from your lab as it’s managed for you. By opting for a cloud-based LIMS, you can leverage secure cloud servers and benefit from encryption technologies for secure data access.

QBench takes data security and compliance seriously. All data is transmitted over HTTPS,  and we’re proud to be SOC 2 compliant. This means your lab will benefit from the best-in-class security standards we follow and can rest assured your data is safe. QBench LIMS is also ISO 17025 compatible and HIPAA compliant.

Speedy Deployment and Onboarding

Managing an on-prem LIMS means you are responsible for deploying and implementing the LIMS yourself. Depending on the size of your lab and how frequently you hire, this can slow you down as you train your staff.

Purchasing cloud-based software from a vendor gives you access to implementation services and continued training to bring your team expert advice and guidance. Learn more about the LIMS implementation process in our guide

What to Look for in a Cloud-based LIMS

Now that you’ve decided to invest in a cloud-based LIMS, it’s time to find the right LIMS for your lab. While many LIMS platforms will provide similar features, it’s important to evaluate each vendor based on your goals and the needs of your lab. 

When evaluating platforms, we recommend considering the following factors:

  • Functionality: Whenever you evaluate software, you need to make sure it has all the bells and whistles needed to reach your goals. Ensure the LIMS has the features and modules to support your lab's specific workflows and requirements.
  • Configurability: Many LIMS platforms will boast they are customizable. That usually means they require complex setups and even custom code to get them working for your lab’s workflows. We recommend you look for a LIMS that is configurable to your lab's unique needs without requiring custom coding. QBench LIMS comes with a no-code interface to automate your workflows and processes with ease.
  • Integration capabilities: From other software platforms to various instruments, there are likely many systems your staff interacts with every day. Look for a LIMS that integrates with your lab's instruments, ELNs, and other systems for seamless data exchange. QBench LIMS integrates with dozens of popular software platforms, along with many lab instruments.
  • Regulatory compliance support: Choose a LIMS that helps your lab maintain compliance with relevant regulations (e.g., 21 CFR Part 11, HIPAA). This makes the compliance process much simpler for your lab and helps you maintain GxP.
  • Vendor experience and support: Select a vendor with a proven track record in your industry and offers comprehensive customer support and training available in your time zone. 

We’re just scratching the surface here. Check out our guide to choosing the right LIMS for a comprehensive walkthrough. 

Looking for a Cloud-Based LIMS? Try QBench

A LIMS helps streamline laboratory workflows, improves data quality and traceability, and enables better decision-making based on accurate and reliable data. For these reasons, a LIMS is a wise investment for any lab, but only the right LIMS.

A cloud-based LIMS is superior to an on-prem LIMS, thanks to improved security, scalability, and built-in compliance features.

But which cloud-based LIMS should you choose?

QBench believes a LIMS should help your lab work smarter, with unparalleled flexibility to drive whatever the future brings. It’s one of the reasons we’re so proud that this commitment continually gets recognized by G2, where QBench was ranked highly for empowering labs to get more done and see better results from our LIMS. Click the button below to check out QBench LIMS for yourself and see how it can benefit your lab.