9 Big IT Mistakes Biotech Startups Make

Posted by Steven Vigeant on 12/13/12 8:30 AM

biotech IT mistakesFor biotechnology startups the added need for IT scalability, security and support is critical to success. The biotech industry stands out because the data itself makes up a huge part of the product’s value. But the business environment and demands of the biotech startup specifically make business continuity and 99% uptime critical to meeting research needs, financial deals and BOD preparation deadlines.

Here are 9 of the biggest mistakes biotech startups make on their IT infrastructure:

1.    Matching Infrastructure with Equipment

Your seed funding has come in and you’re all set to go.  You want to spend every penny on research and the best scientific equipment you can get and that means cost-cutting in other areas.  It’s tempting to invest minimally in your IT infrastructure until you realize that you’ll need capacity to be able to analyze the data from all those other expensive machines.  Running expensive scientific equipment on cheap infrastructure is a waste of resources and can cost you more in the long run.

2.    Going It Alone

A couple of the people in the company have some IT experience and figure they can set up the system on their own.  Why bring in an expensive consultant to do something as simple as setting up a network, especially when you’re talking about a small business with only a couple of employees?  This short-term perspective can cost you down the line.  An IT solutions provider (ITO) will not charge much—or anything—for an initial consultation. An ITO that has experience in the biotech industry can help your company avoid the mistakes that others, the ones who did it on their own, made before you.  An outside, expert perspective is always helpful whether or not you end up following their advice.

3.     The Cloud Rules

The cloud may be the latest thing, but for a company whose intellectual property is in its data and business files—what investors are counting on to provide an ROI—the cloud might be more dangerous than its worth.  Every time you send your data out to a third party, you’re potentially exposing it to more than just your employees.  The cloud is popular because it makes sharing data easy, too easy in some cases. 

4.    BYOD

Handheld devices offer the same security risks the cloud does; while they’re popular because they make data accessible, they’re a security liability for the same reason.  Don’t assume that because your employees want to access everything on their devices, you need to make company data available.  If you do want to allow employees to work on these devices, consult with an ITO and construct a policy and network that manages risk.

5.    The IT Broom Closet

Respect the fact that your IT is doing valuable work for your company; budget money for its maintenance and don’t consign it to a broom closet.  Literally.  Just like the fancy microscopes you’ve bought, your servers, routers, and other IT hardware need to be in an accessible, climate-controlled location. Providing the right environment for the critical equipment will avoid you having failures or replacing equipment before you should have to.  

6.    One IT Size Fits All

One of the biggest mistakes biotech startups make is assuming that the size of their company, and thus your capacity for data processing, will not change.  Most startups grow and shrink as the business progresses and conditions change.  You don’t want to throw out a piece of IT equipment because it cannot handle the additional demands placed on it as your company grows.  Invest in IT technology that can scale rather than a fixed capacity so it can grow with you.

7.    Untested Backup

One hopes that any company with large quantities of sensitive data will remember to back it up. What is easy to forget is that the backed up data is only valuable if it’s accessible. Many of the “set it and forget it” backup solutions out there geared at the do-it-yourselfer are not as good as advertised. Remember to validate your backup periodically, testing how quickly the data can be recovered in usable form.

8.    Remote Monitoring

Many companies outsource their IT.  Managed Service Providers (MSPs) can offer great value on IT services and save startups a hefty initial investment.  For a startup, however, it’s best to have an IT provider that is also available to show up onsite. This “Hybrid MSP” combines the cost benefits of remote support with the reliability of on sight experts.

Startups have new employees, new equipment, and changing needs.  In this dynamic environment, you can anticipate needing onsite help on a regular basis.  At the very least, you want to be sure that it will be available to you in case of emergencies.

9.    Security Later

Establish good security protocols from the beginning.  No employee should have administrator privileges to his or her machine nor is it a great practice to have that IT savvy employee having administrator access to your server or storage where sensitive payroll, and HR documents may be stored. Setting this in place before your company has gathered large amounts of sensitive data is better than trying to change the system once you realize you have something valuable to secure.  

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Topics: Small Business IT Support, Biotechnology Startup