Should You Build Or Buy A LIMS For Your Laboratory?

There comes a time when a laboratory will need to move beyond pen, paper, and spreadsheets and go digital. 

Perhaps your lab expanded to another location, or you doubled your headcount. Either way, at some point, your lab will expand beyond the use cases that spreadsheets can serve, and a fully featured LIMS is required. 

This raises an important question: should you build a platform or look outside your lab for a cloud-based solution? We’ll explore this as we look at whether you should build or buy a LIMS.

What is a LIMS?

LIMS, short for Laboratory Information Management System, is a powerful piece of software that can support a wide range of laboratory activities, including:

  • Sample tracking and management: A good LIMS will be an excellent asset for efficiently managing high volumes of samples from receipt to reporting. 
  • Workflow automation: Look for a LIMS with automation features that allow you to streamline and ensure data integrity.
  • Data integration and reporting: A LIMS can provide centralized storage and easy access to laboratory data, enabling quick report generation and historical data retrieval.
  • Instrument integration: For a lab with many types of instruments, a LIMS can be invaluable for seamlessly connecting them while automating data capture.
  • Compliance and documentation: While not every LIMS can support quality management and compliance, some (like QBench) provide out-of-the-box features to help labs meet regulatory requirements.

There are two routes you can go with choosing a LIMS for your lab: build your own or buy one. 

Why Build A LIMS?

Purchasing any software can be a daunting process. 

You need to do your research, evaluate different platforms, and hop on a sales call or two - so it’s common that a lab might want to bypass this process and build its own LIMS rather than purchase one.

Building your own homegrown LIMS does come with a few advantages such as:

  • Fully customized to your needs - you don’t need to worry about choosing the “right” platform if you can build one.
  • Integrates with your existing systems.
  • Control over feature development.
  • You, and not another company, own the software.

Of course, these advantages are not without their disadvantages. With control comes responsibility and other drawbacks:

  • Building and hosting software means high upfront setup costs for servers and licenses, storage capacity, and upgraded broadband.
  • If you choose to run your software on-premises, you will need a dedicated physical space to house new infrastructure and hire IT staff to maintain it.Ongoing costs to maintain these systems can increase. You must create backups and manage data recovery, patches, and cooling.
  • To enable remote access (as is common with a distributed workforce), you must have proper hardware and software (firewalls and VPN) or risk exposing your corporate network to intruders.
  • Your lab should use matching operating systems throughout the system to ensure compatibility and simplify maintenance.

Not to mention the costs to maintain the platform, develop it, and ensure it is secure. If hiring a third-party development partner, you’ll likely spend at least $130,000–$160,000 in software development costs and six months of dedicated effort to build a basic LIMS (which will lack the level of sophistication of most cloud-based LIMS). In addition, you’ll need to pay that partner at least $20,000–$40,000 per year to enhance and maintain the in-house LIMS. If you choose to hire your own developer to build and maintain the system, you’ll need to spend at least $90,000–$110,000 per year for a competent developer. If you hire a designer, project manager, or bioinformatics consultant to help create the LIMS requirements and guide the project, your upfront investment could quickly rise over $250,000.

While selecting the right software platform can involve some effort, it’s likely to be much less effort than building and maintaining your own LIMS. Looking across the industry, for 10 users you could expect to pay anywhere from $1,000/month to $6,000/month for a cloud-based LIMS. For labs looking to get more done and not be held back by a homegrown solution, we would strongly recommend that you invest in a cloud-based SaaS LIMS.

Why Buy A Cloud-Based LIMS?

While building your own LIMS comes with a few upfront advantages, for many labs, the costs outweigh them. As a result, purchasing a cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) can be an appealing choice. 

A cloud-based LIMS will help your lab avoid the headaches that come with building your own LIMS. Going with a SaaS option eliminated headaches like hosting the software yourself, managing security, and maintaining the platform.

A cloud-based LIMS comes with many other advantages over a homegrown LIMS. For example: 

While selecting the right software platform can involve some effort, it’s likely to be much less effort than building and maintaining your own LIMS. For labs looking to get more done and not be held back by a homegrown solution, we would strongly recommend that you invest in a cloud-based SaaS LIMS.

What To Look For In A LIMS

Once you have settled on a cloud-based solution, it’s time to ensure you choose the right LIMS for your laboratory. 

No two LIMS are the same. When choosing a LIMS, we recommend labs consider the following:

  • Flexible and configurable: As your lab and processes evolve, your LIMS should support you rather than hinder your growth. Look for a LIMS that is flexible and configurable to support your lab. 
  • Automation capabilities: The beauty of a LIMS lies in its ability to automate processes for a lab. From simple workflows to more complex SOPs, look for a LIMS that can streamline your operations and save your lab valuable time.
  • A Robust API: If your lab relies on integrating systems, you will need a well-documented and developer-friendly RESTful API to ensure your lab runs smoothly.
  • User-friendly: The point of a LIMS is to streamline your workflows, not overcomplicate them. We recommend looking for a user-friendly LIMS that provides quality support if you ever need assistance.
  • Easy to implement: Like any software platform, a LIMS will need to be implemented for your lab. Look for a LIMS that can be implemented in days/weeks, not months.

Above all, we recommend looking for a LIMS that allows your lab to get more done. When choosing software, you must select one that empowers and speeds up your lab rather than slows you down. Be sure to check out our free guide on how to choose the best LIMS for your lab.

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.

Make The Right Choice For Your Lab With Qbench LIMS

Should you build or buy a LIMS? 

It will depend on your appetite for building, managing, and maintaining a homegrown software platform rather than implementing a ready-to-deploy cloud-based option. For many labs, a cloud-based solution is the right way to go. 

Choosing the right LIMS can be tricky, though, but that’s where we would recommend QBench. QBench LIMS provides labs with a flexible, configurable, easy-to-use LIMS that they can deploy right away. No matter how big your lab grows or how much your processes change, QBench can support you through it all.

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