Determining LIMS Functionality, Cost, and ROI: System Architecture Strengths and Limitations - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Determining LIMS Functionality, Cost, and ROI: System Architecture Strengths and Limitations
Before any information technology solution can be installed, a company must decide whether applications are going to reside on individual computers at each employee's workstation, on servers within or outside of an organization, or on a vendor's website.


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Figure 1
Thick-client is used to describe an application designed to run in a client–server environment, meaning that a portion of the software resides on the server, and the other portion resides on the user's workstation. "Clients" are essentially the PCs or workstations. Also known as a fat client, it is a client that performs the bulk of any data-processing operation and relies on its associated server primarily for data storage. A thick-client has the LIMS installed on the PC's hard drive. The thick-client connects to the database server, but the processing is done on the client side (See Figure 1). Each change to the configuration or the application must take place at the client level; that is, the modifications must be propagated to each individual workstation. To provide the interconnectivity of each of the end-user locations, thick-client LIMS rely on cross platform programs such as Citrix.


Figure 2
Web-enabled is used to describe the add-on web browser component of an application designed to run in a client/server environment. The web-enabled portion of the application may allow access to data from a web browser, but the user is limited to the product functionality that is available on the web portion of the system (see Figure 2). To access and exploit the full functionality of the application, users must have the local client installed on their desktops. To provide the interconnectivity of each of these end-user locations, the web-enabled LIMS must also rely on cross-platform programs such as Citrix. Similarly, modifications must be propagated to each thick-client.


A laboratory information management systems comparison
Thin-client or web-based applications offer end-users full application functionality from a browser. A thin-client does not have significant hard drive or memory requirements, as it does not store or process data. The LIMS resides on the application server(s) while the thin-client simply presents the screen display and allows users to interact with the application server via a keyboard and a mouse. Configuration changes or customizations made on the server to the software are immediately universally available to all end-users. There is no need to propagate the changes to the end-user client or leverage regional servers with cross-platform programs.


Figure 3
The distinction between web-based and thin-client solutions is the amount of software residing on the client. A true thin-client LIMS is an application written specifically to run on the web, with zero-footprint on the end-user client. It only requires a browser or "dumb" client terminal to run the application residing on the server. No downloads, applets, or other programs exist on the end-user client, other than the browser (see Figure 3).


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