SampleManager cover composed imageI know – you were thinking that the reference to ‘time-share’ in this headline means I’m about to offer you a fantastic FREE gift for listening to my offer. Not today…but it’s interesting that the concept of a ‘time-share’, specifically a LIMS time-share, has relevance to the scientific world as well as the resort industry. A recent article written by Helen Gillespie, editor for the Informatics space at Technology Networks, explores the benefits of this ‘time-share’ concept at the Hong Kong Science & Technology Park, where labs are rented to a variety of start-up research companies and their access to a Laboratory Information Management System is shared and on-demand.

A professional lab needs all the computer hardware and software available to help the lab function as one inter-connected unit, integrating instruments and all their data with a laboratory information management system that can capture, store and analyze results. To properly run such a sophisticated system, these labs also need a dedicated professional IT staff. Add it all up, and this investment could be well beyond the means of a small to medium sized laboratory. But with LIMS functionality available as a SaaS offering, on-demand, labs of any size can have the functionality of a LIMS and the benefits of secure data and sample management that have typically been available only to large companies with budgets to spend on IT infrastructure and full-scale laboratories. An on-demand LIMS offering is designed to offer cost efficiencies to those labs that need the functionality of a LIMS but not the long-term investment in an IT-supported infrastructure. Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings of laboratory information management systems can help laboratories reduce capital expenditures associated with hardware purchases, as well as implementation and validation of traditional LIMS.

Paula Hollywood, from the ARC Advisory Group, has said “the cost of acquiring a LIMS in the traditional license delivery model can run between $100,000 for an entry-level solution to upwards of $750,000 for a sophisticated enterprise package. These prices can put a commercial LIMS out of reach for small- and medium-sized labs, in effect compelling these organizations to develop home-grown systems. An alternative for small to medium labs is LIMS-on-Demand. Hosted by an application service provider, users can access a fully functional, validated solution via a web browser for a monthly subscription fee. The primary benefits of the on-demand model are low total cost of ownership and ease of use.”

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A good illustration of the use of on-demand LIMS is at a research hospital in Miami, where the LIMS is an essential tool in the lab and enables researchers to go further to find a cure for spinal cord injury. American Laboratory published a comprehensive article outlining the challenges faced by the LemBix Laboratory at the University of Miami, which needed to improve work flows in the lab and also automate some manual data management processes. Kim Shah, from Thermo Fisher Scientific, talked to Laboratory Equipment Magazine and explained the unmet needs in the market and the benefits of a LIMS-on-Demand offering to smaller labs. Read Mr. Shah’s article, On-Demand Lab Management, here.

Cloud computing is not a new topic. But now that the on-demand model for LIMS is taking hold more and more labs will be able to benefit from an integrated data management system without the capital expense of hardware and full-scale software licenses. Analysts from Gartner, Inc. have indicated big growth for SaaS models, estimating the market at around $12 billion in 2011. “After more than a decade of use, adoption of SaaS continues to grow and evolve within the enterprise application markets,” said Tom Eid, research vice president at Gartner. “This is occurring as tighter capital budgets demand leaner alternatives, popularity and familiarity with the model increases, and interest in platform as a service (PaaS) and cloud computing grows.”

With the economics of business increasingly demanding more cost efficiencies and increased productivity, laboratories everywhere are searching for ways to meet these requirements. As labs explore the on-demand options for laboratory data management, they’ll begin to realize that it’s all about getting the most from your ‘time-share’.