What is the cost of a LIMS?

Pexels edward jenner 4033148 no credit requiredHow much should you realistically expect to pay for a LIMS and what are the important factors to consider?

When laboratories start thinking about a laboratory information management system (LIMS) a common question they ask is ‘what is it going to cost?’. To come to an estimate it is important to consider three factors: the cost of the software licenses, the cost of adapting it to the specific needs of your laboratory, and future support costs. These three factors combine to give you a total cost of ownership (TCO) over the lifetime of the LIMS.

Software License Costs

There are two common LIMS licensing models. The traditional model is to purchase perpetual licenses with a one-off fee. Suppliers will also provide ongoing support and software upgrades for an annual fee; normally based on a percentage of the license cost. The license may be per named user, where each user who may use the system needs a license (like Microsoft Word), or per concurrent user, where the number of licenses needed depends on the number of users who may be using the system at any one time. This can make a big difference to the total number of licenses you will need.

The second model is subscription licensing, usually with a monthly, quarterly or annual fee and minimum subscription period. In this model the costs of the software and support are rolled into the recurring charges. Again, licenses may be per named user or per concurrent user. Neither model is necessarily better than the other. Perpetual licenses will have a bigger up-front (capital expenditure) cost, with smaller ongoing annual costs. Subscription licensing on the other hand will have lower up-front costs, with larger annual (operational expenditure) costs. Deferring costs and spreading them over time can be enticing, but over the typical 7 to 10-year life of a LIMS, the total costs may prove to be more than for perpetual licenses.

Pexels polina tankilevitch 3735711 no credit requiredImplementation Costs

The costs of adapting the LIMS to the specific needs of a particular laboratory, and integrating the LIMS with external instruments and systems, are termed implementation costs. These can vary considerably depending on how much the system needs to be adapted to suit a particular laboratory. If a Matrix Express LIMS is used with the default out of the box workflow designed for the average small laboratory implementation costs may be very low.

The trade-off between an off-the-shelf LIMS and a configured LIMS solution is one of compromises and closeness of fit with your current laboratory practices. If an off-the-shelf system is selected it is unlikely to match individual customer workflows exactly. One compromise would be a change of laboratory processes to match a chosen system, but this is not ideal.

More typically a laboratory will document their user requirements for the LIMS and use this as a basis for discussion with LIMS suppliers. It will cover all aspects of the organisation’s operation that is to be in the scope of the LIMS project, including the workflow(s) used in the laboratory, the assays required, and any instruments and other software systems that need to be integrated with the LIMS. It should also identify the number of people who will be using the system, which will be the basis of the number of licenses required (either named or concurrent depending on the chosen suppliers licensing model).

How LIMS vendors configure their systems, and who they use to do this varies. Autoscribe LIMS have built-in configuration tools that allow workflows and the actions of each screen to be configured graphically. Configuration is done by Autoscribe’s own internal technical team, or by the customers themselves after attending the required training course. All configuration is fully supported by Autoscribe even if the work has been done by the customer. It cannot be assumed that all LIMS vendors will do this. Ensure you ask.

Support Costs

A support agreement provides access to the suppliers help desk should any issues arise. Support costs are normally an annual charge and, as well as access to the helpdesk, provide access to the new versions of the product as they are released by the supplier’s product development team.

Clients don’t need to take every release, but many update their systems regularly. This task is made easier by the fact that, in Autoscribe’s LIMS, the underlying software is provided as a compiled C# application while the configuration is kept completely separate. Changing the underlying software leaves the configuration untouched. Other solutions tend to require complex, and often error prone, software merges to incorporate new versions of the software with the existing software configuration. Simpler upgrades help control the total cost of ownership and enable Autoscribe clients to upgrade more frequently than with other LIMS solutions. As a result, Autoscribe LIMS solutions tend to have a longer lifetime.

A LIMS is for Life

Many factors affect LIMS costs, and you should not underestimate the internal costs of implementing a LIMS. Ensure you put time aside for project management, testing and verification, training, and setting up your standard assays with built-in limits, as well as including your instrument calibration, documentation, and inventory functionality if these are to be part of the LIMS.

A good LIMS will last you many years. Autoscribe has been providing LIMS solutions since 1990 and some of our earliest clients are still with us today, adapting their solutions as their needs change. That initial investment, made over thirty years ago, will have paid for itself many times over.

Some clients start small, implementing their basic needs and expanding the LIMS as requirements change and budget allows. Providing management see a return on their initial investment it is an easy sell to expand the scope of the LIMS to meet the laboratory’s future plans.

Every year Autoscribe helps many new clients to define and implement their LIMS needs. If you are considering a LIMS and have questions about the costs and how to create a convincing budget or business case, please contact us. We can provide a budgetary estimate based on a high-level analysis of your laboratory’s needs to help you on your way.