The Case for Using Managed Services in Your Laboratory Technology Cloud Migration Strategy

Posted on Lab Informatics. 14 June, 2017

Many laboratory IT professionals are actively developing a cloud migration strategy for their companies.  Cloud computing is the 21st century’s version of the industrial revolution. In the last decade, cloud computing and associated software as a service (SaaS) products have experienced massive growth and adoption. The enormous increase in computing power accessibility that cloud technologies provide are helping to fuel a revolution in innovation and worldwide economic growth. Entire industries are being transformed as the cloud spawns new apps, products and services that are changing the way we live, work and play.

In the laboratory environment, cloud adoption has been slower than in other parts of the enterprise. Several informatics systems are now available on cloud-based platforms, and moving to the cloud does offer a more streamlined path to system upgrade and maintenance. Yet, many companies are finding it difficult to migrate legacy, on-premise systems, and those that have managed to move some of their applications to the cloud are finding their IT personnel still bogged down with maintaining legacy infrastructure instead of being able to devote more time to innovative projects. For modern research laboratories, making the transition to the cloud goes well beyond a data migration project – it involves dealing with outdated vendor point solutions, integration between on-premise and cloud systems, and other associated challenges which too often result in latency and performance issues.  It is becoming clear to many in the scientific community that there is a significant amount of complexity and IT work associated with moving to the cloud while integrating with the enterprise ecosystem.

Fortunately, managed services providers (MSPs) have stepped in to provide a management layer between the enterprise and the public cloud in ways that allow laboratories to gain all the benefits of cloud-based applications without having to deal with the complexities of cloud integration, data migration, and system customization and management.

Astrix President Dale Curtis recently gave a presentation at the BIOVIA Science in the Age of Experience Conference entitled “The Case for Managed Services Providers in Your Cloud Strategy.” You can download a complimentary copy of the slide deck: The Case for a Managed Services Provider in Your Cloud Strategy​. In this Blog, we will summarize the important points from this talk, and expand on how you can utilize a quality MSP to maximize the benefits from your cloud strategy.

Laboratory Science Business Problems

Modern research and analytical laboratories are experiencing a number of challenges at this time that can be addressed by an MSP specializing in laboratory informatics systems:

  • Inefficiency – Laboratories are under increasing pressure to reduce both capital and operational expenses through process optimization and automation, but often times the legacy informatics systems make it very difficult to migrate to the cloud. Many organizations do not have the IT skills necessary to shift from an on-premise informatics system to a cloud-based SaaS environment.
  • Complex Silos – Modern laboratories typically utilize many different applications to manage their workflows and data. Usually, there is very little to no integration between these systems.
  • CapEx for Lab Systems – Laboratory capital investments for system upgrades and patches are not always supported by business stakeholders. Laboratories are increasingly feeling the pressure to move to a SaaS model where software upgrades are performed as part of predictable operational costs.
  • Time-to-Market – In today’s challenging economic environment, businesses are under enormous pressure to speed time-to-market for new products. Research laboratory informatics infrastructures must allow scientists and research IT to focus on innovation and pursue new insights without getting bogged down in infrastructure maintenance, support and upgrades.

A recent SmartLab Exchange survey of over 100 laboratory informatics professionals from around the world provides some additional insight into key issues and trends affecting modern laboratories. The top priorities for these professionals for 2016, listed in order of response, were:

  • Increasing data usability in and out of the laboratory
  • Implementing a laboratory informatics system (LIMS or ELNs)
  • Investing in practical hardware/software solutions to increase efficiency of the workflow
  • Data access and data mining
  • Migrating data into a new system
  • Integrating legacy systems
  • Integration of other non-informatics software systems
  • Data security
  • Mobility integration

These items highlight the complexity of the IT work required to support and optimize operations in a modern research laboratory. To get the most from your partnership, you will want an MSP that is a technology expert in the areas of laboratory informatics, cloud infrastructure, data warehousing, security, compliance and business continuity. Utilizing a technically capable and experienced managed services provider will allow your business to take the day to day informatics operational and maintenance component out of the hands of scientists and research IT so they can focus on your core business of discovering new therapies or materials, depending on your domain. The goal is not necessarily to replace traditional IT, as a fully managed services solution is not ideal or practical for every laboratory. Instead, the idea is to find the right balance between in-house IT and your MSP that serves your business best.

Managed Service Provider Offerings

According to a recent 451 Research Study, 57% of IT leaders expect to partner with MSPs in 2017. According to Gartner, a managed service provider (MSP) delivers network, application, system and e-management services across a network to multiple enterprises, using a “pay as you go” pricing model.

The first managed service that organizations typically consider for their cloud-based informatics systems is user support via a help desk. Laboratory Informatics vendors, offering systems such as electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs), Laboratory Informatics Management Systems (LIMS), SDMS (Scientific Data Management Systems), may not be poised to deliver the level of support that you need over time. As a result, MSPs with expertise in laboratory informatics systems have begun offering L0-L3 user support services.

It’s important to note that laboratory informatics systems are highly specialized software, and it is therefore critical that your MSP have highly specialized informatics expertise. In this regard, it is best to choose an MSP who also offers laboratory informatics consulting. You want an MSP that has both a solid understanding of the application being supported as well as the domain in which that application is being used – a laboratory and industry-focused MSP can place the public cloud services in the proper context to better serve industry-specific processes and compliance. This requirement is especially important for companies with a very complex IT environment and extensively customized informatics systems.

In addition to a help desk, Managed Service providers specializing in laboratory informatics systems also provide a number of other services that can help optimize your cloud strategy and overall operational efficiency:

  • On-site laboratory equipment management – equipment repair, maintenance and calibration; inventory management
  • Enterprise Application Lifecycle Support for Lab Systems – application integration and database migration, management, maintenance and security. Includes deployment and development of application updates and patches. Integrates multiple services to achieve a standardized and centralized system environment fully customized to your organization.
  • Organizational Change Management – provides for management of the organizational changes involved in switching to outsourced Managed Services.

MSPs have typically developed their own cloud ecosystems with a variety of feature specific service providers and technology. An MSP specializing in laboratory informatics systems will leverage their technical expertise, deep industry experience and domain knowledge to facilitate the deployment, integration and management of multiple cloud-based applications, effectively delivering a fully managed enterprise application solution that will provide enormous benefits to the organization.

Benefits of Using a Managed Services Provider

An MSP can dramatically increase the value of your cloud services by providing a subscription and metered-based service for laboratory platforms which can be integrated with other enterprise systems (such as ERP) into a total laboratory solution. Some of the benefits an organization can expect from partnering with a quality MSP specializing in laboratory informatics include:

  • Peace of mind – You can relax, knowing 24×7 proactive monitoring and management is being taken care of by a trusted MSP who guarantees functionality with an SLA.
  • Lowers total cost of ownership (TCO) – Traditionally, companies licensed software applications from a vendor on a per user basis, creating what was oftentimes a significant capital expense (CapEx). The new MSP model with SaaS applications allows for on-demand services where you only pay for what you use. This new model oftentimes dramatically lowers the TCO. The MSP takes care of hiring and training necessary staff to manage your application, and you end up with a manageable OpEx that reflects the services you actually used.
  • Stay focused on your core business – Leave the complex IT work to the MSP.
  • Simplified business and billing – Allows reduction of your multiple software vendor management and communications to a single point of contact that has highly skilled technical resources.
  • Zero Maintenance – Depending on the level of support you choose from your MSP, your system and equipment maintenance can be dramatically reduced.
  • Reduced risk – The MSP takes care of security and compliance issues so you can stay focused on your core business.
  • Improves business flexibility and agility – Services are easily changeable to meet changing business needs.
  • Consistency – Your informatics applications are monitored and managed against pre-determined SLAs/KPIs.
  • Faster Time-to-Market – Increased focus on core business activities and reduced compliance risk enables a shorter timeline to bring your products to market.

Conclusion

When leveraged effectively, cloud technologies are secure and economical and serve to deliver more value to your organization. Migrating applications to the cloud can be extremely complex for laboratories utilizing customized legacy systems, however. In addition, as companies deploy more applications in the cloud, the complexity of system integration and management increases.

To optimize your cloud strategy, it is wise to partner with a cloud-savvy MSP who specializes in laboratory informatics and has experience in your industry. A quality MSP partner will truly understand your business workflow and know how to enhance it. Such a partnership will reduce risk during data migration and give you the lowest TCO possible. Leveraging the right MSP’s for the right applications as a component of your cloud strategy enables your organizations to stay focused on curing illnesses, improving lives and maximizing the return on your scientific application investment.

Want to learn more about MSP for Laboratory Informatics Solutions?  Contact us for a complimentary consultation today.

About the Author

Dale Curtis Jr. is the President of Astrix Technology Group. For over 18 years, Mr. Curtis has built an impressive track record of leadership and success in delivering high quality technology and laboratory informatics solutions to scientific organizations involved in research, development, quality and manufacturing. He has a proven talent for helping these organizations deploy innovative solutions that provide a step change in business intelligence, turn data into knowledge, increase organizational and operational efficiency, improve quality and facilitate regulatory compliance.

 

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