Laboratory information management systems (LIMS) are forms of software designed to help modern labs operate. They utilize a wide range of components to store information in databases, produce workflows, track inventory, and keep tabs on customers, clients, and patients. While laboratory information systems can be very convenient, it's a good idea to know a bit about LIMS before acquiring one for your operation.
A major concern that many users will have is finding software and hardware combinations that are compliant with industry regulations. Depending upon the industry your operation is in, this may mean complying with everything from OSHA standards to HIPAA rules. When discussing your needs with a vendor, it's a good idea to approach them with a detailed list of all the regulatory requirements your organization has. This will allow them to tailor a solution to your needs.
Integration With Lab Equipment
Particularly when utilizing workflows to trigger processes, it's important that your LIMS configuration is fully integrated with your equipment. If you depend on older instruments, such as ones that utilize ISA-based computer interface cards, you'll want to make sure the computers running the LIMS either can communicate with a system that supports that bus or has the bus itself built in.
Accepting, transmitting and storing information is a bigger part of laboratory processes than ever before. Specific file formats are common in many industries, and being able to seamlessly output data to those formats is essential. Talk with the IT people at your organization and develop a detailed list of what file formats are critical to your operations. Most modern systems should utilize some variant of XML, but it's always prudent to verify what you'll be working with.
If most interactions are just about viewing information and necessary computations can be handled on the server, a thin client setup may be ideal. This employs a lightweight computer to access a separate server, and it can allow you to reduce costs. Conversely, more computationally intensive user operations might be better handled using a thick client, a system that has the software installed directly on it.
Web-based clients are also becoming more common. These use web browser interfaces to access systems, and they can be very cost-effective because you can frequently use existing hardware as clients. On the downside, operations that have major security concerns, such as air gap requirements, may want to avoid these configurations.