- Does X-LIMS require an Internet connection to work?
- No, X-LIMS does not require an Internet connection to work. It can be installed within your Local Area Network or Wide Area Network just like most other traditional client server applications. The advantage is that there is not a client installation that needs to take place.
- Can I use any database for X-LIMS?
- The efficient and rich functions/features of X-LIMS are only possible through the use of tools that Microsoft’s SQL Server provides – so it is the only database that X-LIMS operates on currently.
- My laboratory has unique processes, Can X-LIMS work for me?
- X-LIMS is designed to adapt to your processes and procedures without the need for any custom development using our standard administrative utilities. We have designed X-LIMS from the ground up to be able to go from install to production in the shortest possible time because we have designed-in areas of the system where you can control what data X-LIMS collects, the format of the data, and how X-LIMS is to handle that data. X-LIMS comes pre-loaded with the most routinely encountered laboratory workflows, however, for those laboratories with unique workflows, our workflow editor provides a graphical interface where you design your specific workflows using drag and drop tools. No custom ‘coding’ or excessive computer skills are needed.One example of Workflow management would be our testing and quality control section where new or changing methodologies often require the lab to define new testing regimes or substantially modify existing ones. We focus on this area because in most cases it is the testing area of the laboratory that routinely changes. Our interfaces allow you define and control what data values you wish to collect data for, the format of each data point, process and/or quality control limits (as many as necessary), internal and external pricing information, and the steps or workflow through which the test will be processed.
A word of caution here: Historically, a small percentage of laboratories, due to the unique nature of their operations, have purchased toolkit LIMS where you can create your own custom LIMS in order to best suit your needs, after all – if a system is built to your specifications could it be bad? In most cases systems of this nature become never ending projects that continue to absorb resources for years to come. This not to say our solution is always the best solution, however, if you choose to implement a toolkit LIMS you must be extremely focused, well prepared, and have the dedicated staff to perform the activities necessary to implement a system of this nature. With X-LIMS all of the needed functionality is available at the point of install complete with administrative tools that may used to evolve the LIMS to your changing needs.
- Since X-LIMS is web browser based, does that require more training?
- Not at all. Today – more and more users are spending what time they allocate to computers using the browser. This actually can translate to reduced training times because users are familiar with the basic features and controls of the web browser.In addition, X-LIMS uses many of the functions that users are familiar with from traditional Windows environments for an even easier ramp up.
- Does X-LIMS come in a ‘Lite’ version for small laboratories?
- Yes, although it’s actually the same system as our enterprise application. The reason is that X-LIMS is an incredibly scalable system and built on an architecture that makes it very flexible. For smaller laboratories, it can be installed on a desktop PC without expensive Operating Systems and Databases. Best of all – it can be accessed from other workstations in the lab (this assumes that it has been installed on a networked PC of course).X-LIMS can be run with as few as a 2-user license making it much less expensive than its competitors. But it is not a stripped down version – it contains all features and functionality available to enterprise users.
Why just one system? It is actually more cost effective for us, which we reciprocate to our customers through reduced licensing and support costs compared with our competitors. One system allows us to have a consistent training platform, more concise documentation, and a single source code line from which to build on.
It should be noted that even though smaller labs may install the full version of X-LIMS, they may not require all available functionality. We understand this, and we work with our customers to identify what areas of the system they should focus on and what areas are likely of lesser importance.
- Can X-LIMS handle more than one laboratory for larger operations?
- Yes. By its very design X-LIMS can manage multiple laboratories with only one installation. It segregates data accordingly so that users don’t constantly have to filter through samples or tests that they have no need to.Our goal is to consolidate all laboratory data in a single database in order to provide you with a way to really see how the operations as a whole are performing. This isn’t a new concept, however, more often than not – applications designed for such a comprehensive goal often are less than ideal to use on a daily basis. X-LIMS does set new standards on ease of use from a day-to-day perspective while still collecting and organizing all of the details necessary to gage overall operations.
- With so many LIMS choices, where should a laboratory start?
- The answer is to start by analyzing your own laboratory first before anything. Document you operations (if brief or in detail) in order to establish goals for a new LIMS, whether or not it’s an initial install or a replacement.The goals that you should set for yourself when initiating a LIMS search should be to itemize those specific needs that you wish to address. Then present these goals and objectives to prospective LIMS vendors (like Ethosoft) and ask each how they would address them.
There are a lot of choices in the marketplace and we strongly believe that the combination of our customer service and our technology are an ideal solution for today’s laboratories.
- How are calculations handled within X-LIMS?
- Experience has taught us that laboratories, more often than not, have used Microsoft’s Excel to perform mathematical functions from the most basic to highly complicated routines because of its relative simplicity and ease of use.Knowing that laboratories have depended on MS Excel for so long, we knew that designing a web-browser LIMS that can communicate bi-directionally with Excel would allow laboratories a quicker implementation (they already are familiar with Excel) and still allow for evolutionary changes over time (if changes in algorithms are needed these can be version controlled and implemented faster than most any other LIMS calculation methods). These were the major forces that provided the drive for designing X-LIMS to be wholly integrated with MS Excel. This allows your laboratory to integrate existing spreadsheets into common functions within X-LIMS.
The benefits of this design are clear:
- The learning curve for X-LIMS is dramatically reduced because one of the most complicated portions of the system, calculations, are handled by a product that most lab users are already familiar with. Additionally in most cases, many labs already have a set of spreadsheets currently in use that can easily be integrated into X-LIMS.
- For those persons who have little to no experience with MS Excel, it turns about to be much more productive to the laboratory to find local training materials for MS Excel be they in written, classroom, or personalized formats. There are simply so many different avenues to learn about MS Excel that the time required to learn its use is much reduced when compared to a proprietary LIMS calculation designer. And of course, that training is not specific to a LIMS – once someone learns MS Excel they can use that knowledge in many arenas.
A common question about version control comes up when the concept of MS Excel and a web-browser based LIMS are combined.
- The MS Excel spreadsheets are stored on a centralized server and completely managed by X-LIMS. During daily LIMS use, when the need arises for calculations, the user is able to request an export to their Excel sheet with a single mouse click. A single click is all that it takes to export LIMS data to a pre-formatted Excel sheet because all of the relationships between the appropriate test definitions and parameter mappings and the Excel sheet have already been performed as part of the system setup. So X-LIMS will send the centrally stored MS Excel sheet and the necessary LIMS data right to the user. Once any and all calculations have been performed – the data will be taken (imported) right back into the LIMS. This dramatically reduces type-os and improves overall efficiency.
- Any changes to the routines within your spreadsheets are done to the centrally stored version on your server. Once saved, they are immediately available to all system users. So you don’t have to worry about who is using what version of your Excel sheet. X-LIMS will make sure that only the latest version is in use.
- End users can’t make changes to the centrally stored version of the spreadsheets so you can be assured that the laboratory is using consistent methodologies. This fact alone may be the most important to laboratories operating under ISO, GMP, GLP, GALP, and other certification organizations.
- Is X-LIMS capable of interfacing with laboratory instrumentation?
- Yes, With the release of version 2.2 in June of 2007, X-LIMS now comes with its own graphical user interface for the creation and maintenance of instrument interfacing routines. The X-LIMS instrument interface designer is a browser based utility that allows specific routines to be designed on screen for files of all routine file formats (including database files!) and is aptly named instrumentXchange.This means you can have out of the box instrument interfacing routines available as well as be able to create your own without custom development – the choice is yours. instrumentXchange comes with every X-LIMS system license without requiring any additional module fees.
Each instrument interfacing routine is then seemlessly integrated in our various data entry and review screens. Users can choose to manually enter their data, transfer directly via their instrumentation, and finally review the transferred results all on one screen.
- Can X-LIMS allow my laboratory to query and easily access historical data?
- Yes, X-LIMS was designed from the ground-up in order to organize laboratory data such that historical results are easy to access for reporting, reviewing, trending, and other useful tasks. Many LIMS systems can claim this basic function but we go beyond just organizing your sample results. X-LIMS permanently associates all of your supporting data as well.For example, QA and QC samples that are processed along side your production samples are linked to your sample results. The same is true for Reagents, Solutions, and other Traceable items that potentially may be of interest/impact to your sample results.
- Can X-LIMS store files that are associated with my results (like images and supporting documents)?
- Yes. With the release of version 2.2 – X-LIMS comes complete with the Xchange suite of utilities. One of the features of this release is documentXchange.If all you require is the ability to attach imagery and supporting documents to your quantitative and qualitative results then your requirements are easily met with X-LIMS.
We didn’t just stop there though – you also have the ability to attach reference files elsewhere in the system. For example: Attach SOPs to your testing definitions. And remember that X-LIMS is a web-browser based LIMS. This translates to your staff being able to access these documents from anywhere where security controls allow!
- My laboratory collects and analyzes the same samples on a scheduled basis. How would X-LIMS help us here?
- Sampling and testing routines on a recurring basis are very common in municipal laboratories, certain commercial labs, and some types of manufacturing facilities. In order to keep your lab staff doing what they do best (actually working with the samples), X-LIMS comes with a scheduler feature where users may create as many scheduled routines to meet their needs as necessary.X-LIMS, on its own, is constantly monitoring for upcoming sampling and testing needs and will auto login the needed samples, assign the unique identifiers, and apply the needed testing to each sample.
- Is there any capacity for ELN(Electronic Laboratory Notebook) functionality within X-LIMS?
- Yes, X-LIMS allows users a notebook style entry where the user may group and order their samples, add the appropriate QA/QC, as well as assign any number of inventory goods, standards, solvents, reagents, solutions, etc… to the worklist.ELN specific data that must be recorded may also be assigned to the worklist allowing the laboratory to mimic traditional logbooks in every detail.
Each worklist is assigned a unique identifier for historical record keeping and reference.
- Aren’t all web-browser based LIMS the same in terms of look and feel?
- Not at all. The differences between web-browser based LIMS are actually greater than those of traditional client server based LIMS. The reasons for this lie in the web-browser’s ability to act as a canvas for the main application’s screens and functions.In a generic web-browser based LIMS (one that is designed to be all things to all people and all web browsers) – the interface is routinely bland, void of useful functions, and requires constant back and forth communication with the server. This results in a user experience where each LIMS activity requires the user to provide some action and then wait while the acitivity is recorded on the server and the resulting data and screen information is transmitted back to the user’s browser to be ‘painted’ on the screen. From the user’s perspective this can be most tiresome and less than efficient.
With X-LIMS we have taken great effort to poduce the richest user experience possible for the end user. X-LIMS actions routinley occur asynchronously and intuitively. The result is such that the user is provided with functions that they are familiar with in other desktop applications and with similar speed. All of this occurs without the need for any downloads on the user’s PC making the initial installation of X-LIMS as easy as simply opening the browser.
- GxP/Regulatory Compliance for Traceability: Can X-LIMS Manage this?
- Yes. X-LIMS was designed and configured to allow laboratories that are required to maintain complete traceability records the capacity to do so. Laboratories are provided with a suite of features designed to facilitate the association of laboratory articles (reagents, standards, instrumentation, parts, disposables, and consumables) with the samples and testing results being managed within the LIMS.
- Can X-LIMS provide alerts to users when needed?
- Yes, with the release of v4.0, X-LIMS has utilized Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds as its alerting engine. This revolutionary approach eliminates the issues of lost or not sent alerts when email servers are used by avoiding email servers entirely. This results in a more dependable alerting engine while allowing users to subscribe to RSS feeds via browsers, email utilities, or any other RSS monitoring device.Each X-LIMS application allows for an unlimited number of RSS alert categories to be created resulting in highly specific alerts to be created while also providing an extremely expandable foundation for future alerting and notification requirement.