4 Reasons Biotech Startups Can't Afford to Skimp on IT

Posted by Steven Vigeant on 5/9/13 6:47 PM

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As a biotech company, the data that you produce could be your greatest asset. This constitutes the bulk of your intellectual property, and any advancements in your funding and potential partnerships will ultimately flow from experimental data. That is why for biotech startups, IT is such an important consideration. If your company is not equipped to store, protect, and access the data that you generate, you will end up wasting time and money. Information technology must be a top priority for any biotech startup that hopes to succeed.

Here are four reasons that biotech startups must think carefully about their IT investment:

1. Large Data Demands

Modern laboratory processes produce tremendous amounts of data. High resolution imaging and genome processing are just two examples of common biotech tools that can produce unmanageable amounts of information, all of which must be stored and processed. In some cases, the amount of data produced can reach several dozen terabytes (a terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes).

Storing large amounts of data is a challenge for any company, but is a particular priority in the biotech industry. If you are not equipped to store the data produced every day in your labs, it could prevent your company from meeting the milestones you established with your investors. Realizing the sheer scale of your business’s data storage needs, and being prepared from the start, is the best way to avoid unnecessary hassles and interruptions.

With so many options from local direct storage on servers, Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices and cloud storage it is important to understand your options and the advantages, limitations and costs of each. Locally attached storage on servers provide local, fast and easily manageable storage but can have scalability limitations and can sometimes be the most expensive option. NAS devices can provide a less expensive local storage option but depending on configuration can have its limitations as well and also may provide backup challenges depending on your current backup solution. Cloud storage provides a way to avoid capex costs but depending on the size of your data set can incur a high monthly recurring cost and you need to consider availability and speed of access to this storage as well as backup and retention of the data. There is also great “tiered storage” solutions out there but again come with their own cost versus benefits that need to be considered.

2. Scalability

After meeting a milestone or investment influx, your company could double or triple in size in a very brief period of time. With new employees and new experiments comes a greater need to store and backup data. The benefit of working with an IT provider that understands the needs of biotech startups is that they know how to ask the right questions that allow them to design a plan that can easily be scaled to adapt to the changing situation of your business. Modern IT solutions allow for a tremendous degree of flexibility. As your needs change, your IT infrastructure should change quickly and seamlessly. This way you can focus on generating the data and not have to worry about having the storage space to manage it. This is not just about storage; it is about every aspect of the IT system. From the network cabling plant to switching capabilities, wireless throughput, internet bandwidth and the systems that your business will run on. It pays off to take the time to have a professional review your needs and your possible (not expected) growth so a plan that can start small but scale with the expansion of your business. This allows you to have a plan and some insight into what the future costs and needs may look like for your business.

3. Accessibility and Reliability

Biotech data is extremely valuable, and experiments often run around the clock sometimes writing data directly to the network storage. You and your staff may be accessing your data files as well all hours of the day and night, preparing for BOD or SAB meetings or for due diligence. For those reasons, your company will need your IT infrastructure to be accessible at any time, even when the unexpected happens. Having reliable data backup, dependable customer support and 24x7 IT monitoring services are important steps for maximizing the effectiveness of your IT. But that is not enough; this is where a properly designed IT system is as important as anything else in your company. Using products that have proven to be reliable, having battery backup systems on critical equipment that can protect the flow of data in the event of short brown outs or power events is critical. An IT company with biotech expertise can show you proven ways to get more from your data by implementing best practices and show you business continuity options that can protect you in the event of failures. Knowing that all the information your experiments and employees are producing has been safely backed up means that you never have to worry about losing your most valuable commodity but also implementing the right solutions allows your company to run 24x7.

Keep Your Data Safe

4. Data Security

Data security is more important than ever. Threats from both inside and outside your company can compromise your data in catastrophic ways. From your very first day in business, you will want to know that every bit of information your biotech company is producing is protected as best as possible from these threats. The quality of your data security depends on the strength or weakness of your IT systems and employee awareness about how to handle and protect your intellectual property. IT security is not just about firewalls and antivirus. Your employees should know what to look out for from phishing attempts in emails and suspicious system activity to knowing that they should contact your IT support should they think something is wrong with their computer. Data Security is a team effort between your employees and your IT provider.

Young biotech companies are typically concerned with setting up labs, populating them with talented scientists, and running experiments. IT can be an afterthought. But as we have written about here, the success or failure of your business is closely linked to the quality of the IT infrastructure that supports it. Working with an IT provider that understands the unique needs of the biotech industry is the best way to ensure that your technology is working for you, not the other way around.

Because IT infrastructure is such a key component of the success of biotech startups, we’ve put together a free guide to help you understand the issues and make the right decision for your company. Download it by clicking on the image below.


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Topics: IT Outsourcing, Biotechnology Startup, ITO