Cloud vs on-premise solution
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Hi everyone, it’s Amber Shao, founder and CEO of AduroSys, a laboratory data management software company. Welcome to AduroSys podcast. I’m joined today by our special guest Gloria Metrick. Gloria is the Principal Consultant at GeoMetrick Enterprises. She has been implementing LIMS for mostly large pharmaceutical companies as well as companies in the consumer goods and energy industry. Gloria has won numerous awards including “Best Laboratory Software Implementation Company - Midwest USA” by GHP Magazine just as one example.
Amber: Today we’re going to tackle the topic of LIMS delivery. Just like many other software industries, there are two primary ways to deliver LIMS to customers. One is on-premise, which means once a customer purchases the license of a commercial software, the software will be installed and maintained by customers on a server, typically behind the customer’s firewall. The other solution is delivering over the cloud, in which case the software is hosted on a server in the cloud. The server is maintained by vendors most of the time, but it can be maintained by customers as well. When the LIMS industry started decades ago, most LIMS vendors delivered their software as on-premise solutions. Over the years, we have seen a shift in the delivery trend from on-premise to cloud. For listeners who just started the LIMS evaluation process, what are 3 key factors should be considered in deciding on-premise vs cloud solutions? Gloria: Within my own customers the number one reason that they consider the cloud is that they don't have an internal IT department. So very small customers especially if they're startups who don't have IT people and it's not just the servers but even the personnel to manage some of this, often think about buying a cloud solution that could be managed by say a software vendor. The second thing that they consider and that everybody should consider is to look for companies with a good track record in cloud delivery and you can tell because they will have a number of customers that they done cloud delivery for. You can find out more about this with the third factor which is how well they pass and audit. So it's not uncommon to do an audit of cloud vendors for a variety of reasons that two top reasons would be for security and for performance. And in fact if you're looking into some of these software vendors that are delivering cloud solutions, they've probably been through a number of audits with previous customers and they probably will share the results of some of those audits with you. It helps you know what kind of questions other customers asked and what sorts of things to look for. Amber: For both cloud and on premise solution, LIMS can be accessible via a web browser. In the case of a cloud delivery, the Internet is required to access the application on the web, whereas for an on premise solution, you may or may not require internet depending on the setup. So besides the internet requirement there could be other differences behind the scene such as how database are accessed or how instruments are integrated. What are some of the issues behind the scene that people should be aware of? Gloria: Well since you've mentioned the database, I'll just mention the database to me seems to be the simplest issue. There are slight technical differences between running your database on something like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services versus having it on your own local network servers, but in a way it's just another database connection. With that said, you do have to worry about performance. You brought up a good point about having good connectivity or an Internet connections those sorts of things do affect, but as far as technically goes, technically attaching to a database doesn't look that much different. But what does look a lot different can be instruments. So we hear about some of these cloud solutions having interfaces like a REST interface or a SOAP interface. They are just ways to interface with those systems. But when we're talking about an instrument, not all instruments would necessarily be using that kind of interface. Where we talk about serial instruments for example, or some software vendors have special interfaces just for instruments that are not REST or SOAP, the more general ones that they provide for interfacing their systems. So when we start talking about instruments you do need to very specifically talk to your vendor about the types of interfaces they're going to use to approach it. And this is really true. Regardless what type of system you're buying, instruments are always an issue and it's not just the issue of whether they're serial or interface, sorry serial or networked. But when we start talking about instruments software, then we have workflows that we have to deal with as well. Another issue is that once again as you were talking about the Internet, we do need good connectivity regardless what sort of LIMS we have. So if you're going to run your software through the cloud or if you're going to run it on your own local networks, you still need to make sure you've got the right equipment, software and management of everything because five seconds in result entry to a user is like forever. It's just way too much time. So any solution you buy make sure you've got everything you need to make it a good connection. But the cost model issue is one that's important for considering a cloud system. And we often think about software as a service as being a typical cloud model where you're renting you LIMS, but in a lot of cases it's the services that cost way more than the licenses in order to implement something like a LIMS system. And by the time you spend all the money on maintenance fees or services or all the other things that go along with a LIMS purchase, renting the licenses month by month is a small portion. What's more common is for customers to pay for The LIMS licenses and services and their maintenance fees but maybe to do hardware as a service so that small customer who doesn't have the money to buy all the equipment, then doesn't have to put that capital out like into the system right off the bat, if they get a cloud solution. Amber: So there seem to be a stigma that a cloud solution is not inherently secure because it's in the cloud whereas the on premise solution is much more secure because it's behind a firewall. So what's your experience with security for a cloud solution? Gloria: Well in a way the cloud solutions is just another storage option, just another computing option. There are multitudes of security levels that are available especially if you are looking at something like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. But even where software vendors create a cloud on their own premises for you to use, some of these software vendors have put a lot of work into understanding what type of security needs to be built to have regulated systems, for example running across the Internet on their systems. Some of them have done a better job of security than their customers have because think about this, customers are typically laboratories. They're making products. They have manufacturing. They have laboratories. They're not necessarily IT experts. And where some of these cloud LIMS companies are providing these services they know that they have to provide enough security to make their customers feel secure and be secure. Some of them are really experts in this and sometimes the cloud solutions are more secure than the customer's internal solutions. And once again when we start looking at some of these big commercial clouds with a multitude of options, it's not that you can't make them secure but you have to have the expertise to know which of those security options to use to make it secure, while still letting everybody do the work that they need to do. And once again some of the cloud LIMS providers are our experts in those areas. Amber: Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge on this topic, Gloria. It's very useful. Gloria: Thank you, Amber. It's been great to be here today.