SaaS as a delivery model for informatics has transformed many industries including CRM, accounting, and enterprise systems. This is because of the numerous advantages it brings to small operations such as low capital expenditure, no IT staff requirement, automatic backups and upgrades, and easy access from any location or device. These advantages are resulting in many biorepositories looking to upgrade their LIMS to switch to a SaaS delivery model.
Data Management Requirements of Biobanks
The effective management of massive volumes of biological samples and the associated data stored in biobanks requires a powerful biobanking software such as a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) that can keep pace with the ever-changing requirements of research. A LIMS enables a biobank to:
- Manage, store, and retrieve samples in a usable format
- Associate clinical information with specimens in a secure way
- Meet the specimen request received from researchers by being able to query donor information, enabling selection of the correct samples without violating donor’s privacy
- Manage the associated donor consent and the Chain of Custody (CoC) of the samples
- Integrate with automation systems and robotics solutions to manage a high volume of samples
To automate data management, biobanks have been investing in traditional LIMS. However, there is a myriad of challenges faced by biobanks in acquiring a traditional LIMS. A traditional LIMS is cost-intensive and often lacks the flexibility to accommodate changes in data sources and workflows. Additionally, a traditional LIMS incurs expenses toward purchase and maintenance of IT infrastructure, employing IT personnel, support, upgrades, and an intitial cost upwards of $50,000. Small biorepositories needs have effectively been unaddressed by high cost traditional LIMS.
Disadvantages of a Traditional LIMS:
- Initial License Acquisition and setup Costs of $50,000 or more
- IT Infrastructure and Maintenance Needed
- Dedicated IT team Required
- Maintenance & Support
- Long Deployment Time
- Accessible Inside Company Network
- Paid & Occasional Upgrade Installation
Cloud-based SaaS is emerging as an alternative that enables a biobank to automate their operations in a cost-effective manner, even without IT personnel. Cloud-based solutions offer the advantage of the heightened security, rapid scalability, dynamic allocation of services, and can facilitate collaboration between different research groups by using a shared environment on a ‘‘pay-as-you-go’’ basis. The benefits offered by cloud technology have resulted in the development of cloud-based data management solutions, offered as Software as a Service (SaaS), as an alternative to traditional on-premise software. SaaS is an emerging software delivery model, that is gaining wide acceptance for addressing the needs of biobanks2.
What is SaaS?
SaaS is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. It is also referred to as “on-demand software”, and was formerly referred to as “software plus services” by Microsoft. It surmounts the challenges of traditional software licensing, maintenance, IT requirements, and upgrade complexity in an organization. With the SaaS delivery model, customers can pay a low monthly subscription fee and start using a LIMS instantly.
Why Use a SaaS LIMS Solution?
A LIMS provided as a SaaS typically runs in the cloud. Selecting a SaaS LIMS can reduce the complexity and cost of managing your data while helping other laboratory operations to run more smoothly. A SaaS LIMS offers the following benefits:
- Quicker Deployment
A SaaS LIMS eliminates the need of maintaining IT hardware and software, shortening the deployment and the overall time to go live. With a click of a button, you can start using it via an Internet-ready device. The speed and ease of SaaS LIMS deployment, including configuration, can help biobanks come up to speed quickly.
- Unlimited Scalability
With a SaaS LIMS, you can easily add or reduce users and storage space at any time, without affecting the existing set up.
- Low Entry Cost, High ROI
In addition to IT infrastructure, a traditional LIMS licensing cost is around $50,000, whereas the monthly subscription of a SaaS LIMS is as low as $145. Even over a software’s lifetime, a viable SaaS LIMS costs less than a traditional LIMS. Reduction in cost combined with a speedy deployment allows a better return on investment (ROI) compared to a traditional LIMS.
A SaaS LIMS can benefit both small and large biobanks. It is perfect for a smaller biobank, that may not have IT support, the ability to develop their own LIMS system, or cannot afford expensive traditional LIMS. It is also ideal for a larger biobank interested to reduce their operational costs and support network of biobanks at geographically disparate locations.
- Availability of Latest Version Guaranteed
Using a SaaS LIMS, you always have the most up-to-date version of the software. Whenever new features are released, all the customers’ versions are automatically upgraded to the latest version at no additional cost. The upgrade cost is included in the subscription fee. Unlike traditional LIMS, there is no need to download or install the updates or patches.
- No Commitment
With a SaaS LIMS, if you so decide that is no longer meeting your requirements since your business model or operating goals changed, you have the liberty to stop using the product anytime by canceling the subscription.
- Secure and Complaint
SaaS LIMS vendors understand your data is critical for you and therefore they make sure to provide secure, uninterrupted services. To support this, most of them utilizethird-party cloud computing infrastructures such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Windows Azure and Google Cloud Platform. Most of the cloud service provider ensures they have:
- AWS ISO 27001 certification
- Built-in firewalls
- Encrypted data storage and transmission using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256
- Daily data backups
- Data Backups
There is no need for your organization to take care of backups. LIMS providers are responsible for taking timely backups, ensuring no data loss.
Moving your LIMS to the cloud is a key decision for any biobank. However, looking at the disadvantages of traditional on-premise LIMS, most of the biobanks have started adopting cloud-based LIMS offered as Software as a Service (SaaS). A cloud-based LIMS offered as SaaS facilitates improved connectivity, agility, scalability, and innovation in the laboratory environment, all while helping in reducing costs and increasing operational efficiencies.
Despite the several benefits offered by the SaaS LIMS, the decision to deploy a SaaS LIMS depends upon the combination of factors such as security, data integrity, compliance and regulatory concerns that are unique to each laboratory. Biobanks can work with a quality informatics consultant to choose the most appropriate SaaS LIMS that meets their needs. While implementing a SaaS LIMS, they can also ensure that they gain the most value from this new SaaS-based LIMS approach.
- Kinkorová J. Biobanks in the era of personalized medicine: objectives, challenges, and innovation: Overview.The EPMA Journal. 2016;7(1):4. doi:10.1186/s13167-016-0053-7.
- Paul, S., Gade, A., & Mallipeddi, S. (2017). The State of Cloud-Based Biospecimen and Biobank Data Management Tools. Biopreservation and Biobanking, 15(2), 169-172. doi:10.1089/bio.2017.0019
- Seethamraju, R. (2014). Adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs). Information Systems Frontiers, 17(3), 475-492. doi:10.1007/s10796-014-9506-5