Over the past 3 to 5 years hosted software, or software hosted in “the cloud”, has become increasingly popular in the laboratory informatics space. Many LIMS vendors now offer a hosted model to their customers, however the cloud may not be the right choice for every laboratory. When deciding whether this platform is right for you lab you must weigh the pros and cons.
Traditionally when committing to buying LIMS software, the laboratory was required to purchase servers and network hardware to accommodate the software. In addition to the software and hardware purchase the laboratory also had to have the technical resources to maintain the servers and network. With the cloud model, because the software is hosted on the vendor's servers, it can be quicker and less expensive in the short term to get the LIMS up and running in your lab.
Because in the SaaS model the LIMS will be hosted on the vendor’s servers, the fee differs from the traditional purchased model. When purchasing a LIMS on the self-hosted platform, the laboratory will typically pay a one-time fee that encompasses licenses to use the system as well as any connections to a web portal or instruments in the lab. This one-time fee is often costly, but often does include the entire implementation process as well. With the SaaS model, the laboratory will pay a smaller monthly hosting fee to the vendor often for a specific contract period. Although smaller monthly payments can seem attractive, most vendors will be up front in saying that the SaaS model actually costs more in the long run.
Always ask your LIMS vendor about costs and services provided during the implementation period with both hosted and purchased software models as there may be differences. For that matter before entering into an agreement with any LIMS vendor always educate yourself about all costs related to the project and ongoing support.
Another consideration to be aware of is any difference in the software feature set between a traditional LIMS and a cloud-based or hosted LIMS. If the SaaS model LIMS shares the same functionality as the traditional LIMS that may make your decision even easier.
Disadvantages aside, a hosted LIMS is a great choice for small to medium size labs that do not have the initial capital needed for their own servers or the software purchase. A hosted solution can allow these labs to get up and running with a robust LIMS often more quickly and with less upfront cost as compared to the traditional purchased model. A cloud based LIMS may not be the best option for every lab, but it can give labs that traditionally could not afford a LIMS the ability to have a high functioning LIMS and grow their business while they accumulate capital.