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A Helpful Guide to Cloud Computing in a Laboratory

How scientists use data security

Storing data in the cloud is becoming an increasingly central part of how so many businesses operate on a daily basis. From small start-ups to huge multinationals, businesses from almost every industry imaginable are reliant on the cloud for storing and accessing all their important data, files and information.

Unsurprisingly, IT businesses and computer-centric agencies have led this cloud-first revolution – but other businesses and organisations are not far behind. This includes research teams and laboratory set-ups, which are benefitting from the cloud’s almost-limitless storage capacity.

The switch from on-site information storage to a cloud solution can be a difficult one for laboratories to manage, especially when the important and sensitive nature of their data is taken into account.

So, in this guide, we look to shed a little light on cloud computing in the laboratory and how it can be effectively and securely implemented.

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What are the benefits of cloud computing for the laboratory?

Perhaps the greatest benefit of cloud computing for the majority of research suites is the capacity to take on research tasks which require almost limitless data sets, without the need for an on-site server.

When setting out a research plan, a lab team must identify the level of data they will have to record over the period of work. This must then be measured against the storage capability of the institution – which in a pre-cloud landscape could have been severely limited. Today, however, a lab’s access to data space is limited only by budget – with an ever-increasing capacity readily available.

Another huge benefit of cloud storage is the capacity to seamlessly and instantly share data and results with multiple locations. If a research team is part of a wider organisation working on the same project, this can really streamline how the different teams interact with each other. The real-time update capacity of cloud computing can help ensure that different teams are not simultaneously replicating workloads – creating greater efficiencies throughout organisations.

Furthermore, cloud computing can automatically timestamp and attribute uploaded data – so everyone knows who was responsible for every element of research and exactly when each data set was uploaded or updated. This additional clarity can reduce admin, and again increase efficiencies.


How can a laboratory implement cloud computing?

An important step for any business looking to implement cloud computing, a robust strategy needs to be drawn up before taking action. It is vital that stakeholders and decision-makers consider the core business activities and storage requirements when deciding how to incorporate cloud computing.

All members of the business who will access data and store information should be given a voice in this process. At the outset of the implementation process, it could be a good idea to hold a survey asking all relevant parties about how they access data and how they utilise computing services. This will provide an insight into how the wider team will benefit from and use the cloud. If a team does not routinely have access to a secure internet connection – changes to their working setup may need to be incorporated during the implementation of the cloud connectivity.

Once you understand how your teams will be using the new cloud services, you can review the different services on offer and make a more informed decision on the platform you want to use. Here are a couple of extra tips to help you find the cloud platform that is best suited to your needs.

Industry-specific experience: Look for a platform which has relevant experience working with other businesses in your industry. This experience will increase the chance they have previously handled challenges specific to your industry.

Robust security measures: Although all cloud platforms will undoubtedly maintain their services are incredibly secure, it’s vital these are explored. Find the provider within your budget with the most robust security offering.

Comprehensive downtime support: There is always the risk with cloud computing that the systems may go down or services are interrupted. A quality cloud service provider should be able to offer downtime support. This includes whether the service provider is responsible for recovery in the case of outages.

The security concerns of implementing cloud computing, and how to combat them

Naturally, many lab managers will be wary about switching to a cloud-first data system. It requires entrusting an off-site party with arguably your most valuable commodity, your research and data. And, whilst many cloud platforms boast some of the world’s greatest IT security professionals diligently protecting everything stored on their servers – it’s good to be a little wary. Understanding what can go awry ensures you’re attuned and ready to react – so, here are the three main concerns and how to prevent them impacting your research.

Employee negligence – Increased accessibility may be one of the great benefits of cloud computing, but can also be a major drawback as well. Your team may well expect to access data from anywhere, using almost any device as long as they have the correct login credentials. This means they may access the cloud platforms from mobile phones and personal laptops that don’t have the full and correct security protocol in place – leaving the system vulnerable. However, this can be combatted with thorough employee training and blocking non-essential IPs from accessing the cloud.

Data loss – An almost unthinkable event for many research teams – there are a number of ways data loss could occur, most pertinently from a cloud security threat known as ransomware. This piece of software locks files stored on the cloud, and will only unlock them once a ransom has been paid – putting data owners in a sticky situation.

This means it is imperative that either your cloud provider or you as a business/organisation has a back-up in place – a location where all these files are backed up and stored securely.

Other cloud users – Cloud platforms can simultaneously store information and data from a huge array of different clients. And whilst their efforts may be protecting this data from external attacks – sometimes there aren’t so many protective measures in place internally. Other clients on the same cloud platform could be vulnerable to attacks, potentially making your data vulnerable, too.

When choosing a cloud service provider, be sure to check whether there are protective walls between different clients to ensure your data is not subject to another’s lapses.

We hope this has helped you in your decision to switch to a cloud-first environment, and answered any questions you may have.

InterFocus can help you build the laboratory that’s perfect for you and your team. For more information about our bespoke fitted labs, visit our homepage or call our team on 01223 894 833.

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