Within the last decade, cloud computing has become the standard across many industrial and academic sectors, with numerous companies moving online to reduce costs and enhance security. Laboratories are no different, as databases and workflows are now commonly found on cloud-based systems, such as laboratory information management systems (LIMS) and electronic notebooks (ELNs). With this proliferation of cloud-based analytics and management, a shift has occurred throughout the scientific community, with positive effects felt throughout academia and industry-sponsored research.
Larger datasets require better management
Over the last decade, the size of datasets has increased exponentially due to labs making use of high-throughput -omic approaches, sequencing, and single-cell technology to help solve biological problems. New advances have made it easier to perform these techniques, which has made keeping up with such massive datasets appear daunting. Fortunately, cloud-based ELNs and LIMS have stepped in to provide platforms to manage these datasets. The ability to streamline both data capture and analysis, combining the two to provide a seamless workflow, provides users with a level of automation that is unachievable using conventional computing methods. Printing labels can also be done through the cloud, ensuring samples and valuable material are properly identified at all times and tracked throughout the experiment. Barcoding software, such as BarTender, now offers cloud-based versions that can support any printer and provide a simple, easy, yet powerful labeling solution without the need for customers to install and maintain their own IT software and hardware. With BarTender CloudTM, users do need to install or manage any printer drivers, streamlining the inventory management process.
A cloud-based system is also optimized to manage the many users who simultaneously enter large amounts of data. For conventional systems, storage space can become limited, requiring the purchase of new storage devices and/or additional in-house servers. With a cloud-based system, storage is built into the platform, providing seamless data accumulation over long periods.
Keeping up with GLP, GMP, and GCLP regulations
Maintaining compliance is a significant concern for any industrial and/or manufacturing lab, and integrating a new system can be extremely time-consuming. Time can be saved with a cloud-based system, as managing system validation is often automated by the software vendor, which means installation qualification and operational qualification scripts are already provided as part of the service. Setup and overall costs to start running cloud-based systems are also typically lower than conventional systems. Running the system in conjunction with other departments or organizations is made smoother and leads to fewer errors. Finally, the best part about using cloud-based systems in a GLP, GMP, or GCLP environment is the streamlining of document trails and certification processes for regulatory agencies, which makes addressing questions during lab audits faster and more effective.
The need for a secure environment
It is a misconception that in-house storage facilities are more secure than cloud-based systems. In-house facilities may be guarded physically from intrusion, but most systems are connected online anyway, with a limit on the ability of those generating data to monitor where it may be going. This is especially true of most academic institutions, where regulations regarding cybersecurity are not stringent.
While cloud-based systems are, by nature, connected online, they also provide encryption services and monitoring that are typically out of reach for most institutions and companies. With experts to guide the process from moving existing data to cloud servers and ensuring only trusted users gain access, data is continuously safeguarded. These systems also rely on sophisticated backup systems, which provide additional support in case of any disaster or theft of the lab’s hardware.
Keeping costs low
Finally, with all the services supplied by a single provider, IT costs can be significantly reduced across the board. IT departments need not perform maintenance on old hardware, nor do they require updating software for outdated storage systems, affording them time to work on other pressing tasks. Instead, the cloud-based service provider performs these tasks externally, supplying maintenance without interfering in the lab’s daily operations.
LabTAG by GA International is a leading manufacturer of high-performance specialty labels and a supplier of identification solutions used in research and medical labs as well as healthcare institutions.