6 Common Misconceptions About Electronic Lab Notebooks

Laboratory researchers always have questions about using a new lab notebook app for data management or software solutions that promise to store lab data in the cloud, improve productivity, reduce costs, secure data, and so on. But do not worry, there are answers as well. It’s time to prove these misconceptions about electronic lab notebooks incorrect. Some of these misconceptions include:

1. Storing data in the cloud is more risky

This is 100% not true. The could provides many benefits and that is why many companies are migrating to the cloud. In addition to protecting your data from cyber threats, it can also provide a robust data recovery system. The notion that storing data in the cloud makes your data and files available for the world to see is also not true. The “cloud” is essentially the Internet, which is where you decide who will have access to your data -This can be you only. When laboratory data is stored virtually in the cloud, that information is not physically present on your lab computers. It is impossible for data in the cloud to be corrupted as a result physical disasters or emergencies in your laboratory. The best thing life sciences companies can do is to backup their research data in the cloud. The cloud allows you to control exactly who can access your data, which means substantially lowering the chance for your data to be stolen. Just like any other solution, the cloud is not a perfect system. Nonetheless it is a better alternative for your data stored locally in your lab. While it may be easier to just assume that the cloud is a risky place for data before researching all the possibilities and use that as an excuse to delay embracing the cloud, that just isn’t true. The cloud is very safe, and it will provide higher security for your laboratory information.

2. Electronic lab notebooks are not safe

Unlike their paper counterparts, electronic lab notebooks are not prone to loss, theft or accidental physical damage. A reputable electronic lab notebook solution provider uses tested and tried cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure or Google firebase to secure your lab data. On top of that, all lab data are automatically encrypted to limit access to only the authors. Storing lab data using a lab notebook app is like keeping documents in a safe deposit box that is backed up in another location and a guard monitoring it's security 24/7. So it not true that lab notebooks stored in the cloud are not safe. You can always ask the software vendors for their security measures and certifications.Standards like ISO 27001 and FDA Part 11 are good to adhere to. Additionally, the software vendor always ensures that the users are properly trained and access to their system is restricted. One more thing that adds to the reliability of electronic lab notebooks is traceability and audit logs. You can see the entire history of all electronic notes from the moment it was created, updated or even deleted. So there won't be any confusion about the specific events that occurred during the lifecycle of a laboratory project.

3. Electronic lab notebooks are expensive

This is one of the most popular misconceptions as to why organizations are reluctant to use electronic lab notebook platforms. We all know that reliable and secure electronic lab notebooks have a higher cost. This is because data backups, threat detection, compliance certification and many more business-grade features are expensive, but what is the alternative? For example, organizations may opt to use freeware or their own in-house IT infrastructure which may be adequate at small scale. However, when it comes to larger life sciences research or product development, it may be better to use an an electronic lab notebook that is specifically designed for the demands of a fast pace research environment that requires compliance to federal regulations. It may be easy to only focus on the subscription costs, but perhaps it is better to remind yourself on how a robust electronic lab notebook solution will benefit you and your research activities.  

If an organization decides to adopt a highly secure and robust lab notebook app, they can expect higher efficiency, shorter time to marker, faster publications, automated regulatory compliance and peace of mind. The initial costs may seem high. However, you will receive your return on investment by using a digital solution that is likely to stand the test of time and is highly adaptable to your needs. The goal of most life sciences companies is to know when to select the right notebook tool to solve their digital workflow problems.  

4. Any lab notebook app can do the job

Just like there are many different kinds of microscopes for different applications, there are many lab notebook apps for different specialized needs. For example, some lab notebook applications have a web interface, some are designed for mobile phones, and some have both a mobile app and a web app. Also some notebook apps are designed specifically for use in academia like universities and classrooms. Others are designed for use in biotech and pharma companies where multiple teams from different departments need to work together to create a drug or a device for medical use. In the latter case, regulatory compliance and data security is very important. Also location of the lab notebook software vendor is very important. Some are based in Europe while some are in the USA so they can offer local onsite training and support to their clients. It is impossible to just use any lab notebook for your research work. It is better to find the solution that best fits your needs.

5. Electronic lab notebooks are just a fad

If you use web applications like Dropbox, Google Docs, etc. you already have a need for storing data securely in the cloud. Whether you need improved security, lowered costs, higher efficiency, a backup plan, compliance to regulatory standards or a mixture of these benefits, electronic lab notebooks are the answer. Using a new lab notebook app doesn’t have to be risky and uncertain. Many laboratories have already embraced electronic lab notebooks in some way. You don’t need to hastily decide which lab notebook to use, “We’re going to switch to an electronic lab notebook, today!” Research available solutions first. See which lab notebook software vendor fits the needs of your laboratory and research activities. Ideally it's flexible app that can be customized for your laboratory team. One thing is clear: electronic lab notebooks are not just a fad. The options are increasing everyday, the market is growing everyday, and they are here to stay. Life sciences companies need to decide if they want to embrace these benefits.  Electronic lab notebooks for scientists provide a secure and cost effective way to manage all of their laboratory data in one place. Computerized laboratory notebooks are now the most advanced way to store lab data electronically.

6. Oldest vendors are the safer option

This misconception is based on the idea that just because a company has been around for a few years longer they are more likely to stay around, but do you remember the story of Kodak? How can such a largely popular and historical company suddenly file for bankruptcy? There are many articles written about the demise of Kodak. But it essentially boils than to being innovative and adapting to modern technologies. It is easy to assume that older lab notebook software companies will be more reliable but they are also easy to identify because they are using old unreliable technologies that are not easy to use and they do not adapt to the needs of modern research. One more advantage with new apps built using modern software design principles is that you can take advantage of their powerful Application Programming Interface (API) to write simple scripts that can export all your data in any format you like in an instant. No more worrying about loss of your data with modern technologies. Assuming that choosing the older lab notebook software provider is a safer bet is totally a misconception. Older technologies are not only more difficult to use by research for entering their data, they also are not as secure as they do not always conform to newer security standards such as ISO 27001. When choosing an electronic lab notebook vendor, it is best to discuss your security and regulatory requirements with the vendor.

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