Cloud computing in life sciences

While many businesses turn to the cloud to become more efficient and save costs, the focus looks a little different for life sciences industries. Cloud computing is a powerful force that can create IT environments for fostering innovation, improving collaboration, and adapting to evolving data-collection technologies. The cloud allows life sciences organizations, such as those in pharmaceuticals, biomedical technologies, and healthcare, to focus on what's important — pioneering new discoveries and bringing them to the public.

Cloud computing has a hand in virtually every part of a life science business, from research and development (R&D) to marketing and evaluation. Let's take a closer look at cloud computing in life sciences and what it has to offer this vital industry.

Cloud computing has a hand in virtually every part of a life sciences organization, from R&D to marketing and evaluation

The state of the cloud in life sciences

As digital demands grow exponentially, the cloud is becoming a critical component of the important work of life sciences. Businesses in this industry need extensive collaboration, high data-processing capabilities, and strong visibility into their data. The cloud can make this happen.

The need for remote access in the last few years has pushed many businesses to the cloud. While the cloud accomplished the initial goal of adding remote access, it also delivered new benefits that some businesses are taking advantage of and others are letting fall through the cracks. For the life sciences industry, collaboration is one of the most valuable elements in a cloud solution. These businesses need to work with fellow researchers, collect information from various sources, and share data with others. The cloud makes these tasks both straightforward and fruitful.

Many life sciences organizations are also using the cloud to outsource their IT infrastructure for more cost-effective budgeting. Organizations often outsource this service for cost savings and higher-quality services, but in the life sciences, outsourcing IT also allows businesses to focus on what's important to them. By minimizing IT needs and streamlining everyday logistical tasks, life sciences companies can divert more energy and resources to their high-value work.

Another significant driver of cloud adoption in life sciences is the ability to accommodate changing data requirements. From new imaging technology to advanced modeling and simulation requirements, the way data moves through these organizations is changing. Cloud solutions are well-suited to more demanding applications and versatile data sources, with cost-efficient, scalable computing power and centralized data management. Life sciences organizations need systems that can handle these wide-reaching requirements and stay flexible enough for new industry developments.

Some cloud features that are especially useful for meeting these needs include:

  • Centralized document management
  • Remote access
  • Easy sharing and collaboration
  • High-end security standards
  • Flexible infrastructure

Cloud-based platforms can accommodate these demands without sacrificing data security. This is necessary for regulatory compliance and protecting proprietary internal data, such as trial results or methods. The life sciences industry calls for comprehensive solutions that drive innovation and efficiency without risking vital data.

How the cloud helps life sciences organizations - collaboration, data security and compliance, efficiency and speed, flexible data management, simplified IT infrastructure

How does life sciences benefit from the cloud?

The cloud has a lot to offer across all stages of life sciences, from clinical trials and research to distribution, marketing, and supply chain management.

1. Collaboration

One of the biggest benefits of the cloud is its potential for collaboration and innovation. In an industry that's all about discovery and developing new solutions, the value of collaboration cannot be understated. Bringing together expertise from various professionals is often essential to completing a project or getting more out of clinical trials. Life sciences organizations must collaborate with other teams within the company as well as outside entities, like researchers and distributors. The cloud makes this possible and cultivates a teamwork-oriented approach instead of one that relies on individualized work.

From within a business, research teams can work on the same projects in real time and share data from a single source. Marketing teams can access data from R&D, and quality control departments can access distribution information to better understand product movement. The cloud allows different players in a company to share the same content, minimizing data integrity and efficiency problems. One McKinsey study shows us that 41% of respondents felt the ability to collaborate with specific groups of individuals was a feature that would most improve how they work.

The cloud also eases communication between a life sciences organization and the many other entities it works with. You may need to collect and share information with physicians, academic institutions, insurance companies, patients, and government agencies. You likely work with these other organizations regularly, and being able to chat, sign documents, and work together in real time are invaluable capabilities. Whether it's bouncing ideas off each other or working with huge swaths of data that are difficult to send back and forth, the cloud makes cooperative efforts possible.

2. Data security and compliance

Keeping data secure is a key component of any organization, but especially for those working with valuable information that constitutes a competitive advantage. Many life sciences organizations also work heavily with protected health information (PHI), which falls under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Industry-leading security practices, granular access settings, and comprehensive audits allow life sciences organizations to maintain full control over their data and stay compliant.

In many cases, outsourced cloud services offer better security than in-house systems. All the data is stored in professionally managed servers, with experts devoted to its security and reliability.

3. Efficiency and speed

Life sciences organizations also get to take advantage of the efficiency benefits that come with the cloud. Working with the cloud allows you to:

  • Securely access data remotely from almost any device
  • Quickly deploy new technology and processes
  • Eliminate unnecessary data storage requirements and errors
  • Adopt a more efficient pricing model in which you only pay for what you need
  • Make decisions more quickly, with centralized access to real-time data
  • Reduce time to market for new products and speed up the research process 

The cloud can completely eliminate the risk of out-of-date or duplicate files, as well asthe need for manual sharing. Decision-makers can access reliable, real-time data to make the right choices with all the available information in front of them. More efficiency means a faster research process, less time to market, and fewer administrative roadblocks.

4. Visible and flexible data management

Data is the foundation of life sciences, yet ever-changing storage demands can be difficult to manage. Improved medical imaging technology is helping researchers and practitioners explore more detail than ever before — while also straining storage environments. With larger file sizes and more images, many life sciences organizations struggle to keep pace with in-house IT solutions. Cloud environments allow you to add capacity as needed to stay abreast of technological advances. There's no scrambling to upgrade hardware or strain your IT budget when it's time to add capacity.

All of this additional data can also cause visibility problems. Many organizations have more data than they know what to do with. The sheer amount of information coming into a business can be difficult to parse. An IBM study estimates that only 57% of data collected was used by organizations, leaving 43% unleveraged. That's a clear efficiency problem.

One major benefit of the cloud is centralized visibility. Without a single source of truth for your data, content can become siloed. Each department may have a different version of a file, and data can become outdated in minutes. In the cloud, everyone has access to the same information, so there's no need to share and store multiple versions or worry about contacting other employees to get up-to-date content. The organization of a centralized platform improves visibility for easy yet secure access across the company.

5. Simplified IT infrastructure

If you're like most life sciences organizations, you have more important things to worry about than how your IT infrastructure runs. By offsetting these concerns and costs to a cloud provider, life sciences organizations can redirect their resources to where they're needed most. As business needs and industry technology change, cloud-based infrastructure is adaptable and ready to move with you. There are no maintenance requirements and no significant upfront investments, so this hands-off solution is excellent for companies that want to minimize IT requirements, both regarding labor and costs.

In addition to easing IT needs for the company, cloud infrastructure also alleviates IT demands for employees. Automation and machine learning are big players in cloud environments, and these capabilities can virtually eliminate repetitive administrative tasks. Responsibilities like these, while necessary, aren't the most effective use of your skilled employees' time.

The cloud can simplify administrative needs, along with many other duties like data analysis and document approvals, better utilizing your employees' skills. It also contributes to a more enjoyable work environment, as workers don't need to spend hours of their week on unnecessary, boring minutiae.

From creativity in marketing to detailed analyses in R&D cloud-based tools offer valuable capabilities throughout the organization

Life science applications for the cloud

The broad category of "life sciences" can include many different businesses, departments, and tasks. How do the different players involved use the cloud?

  • Clinical trials: Data collection via the cloud can be more reliable, easing the process of getting regulatory clearance and organizing information for further research
  • Research: Cloud technology can leverage and analyze huge amounts of data, allowing researchers to collaborate and use more advanced instruments
  • Development: Developing products calls for coordinating data with other entities, like distributors and regulatory agencies, and the cloud simplifies the process and can reduce time to market
  • Supply chain management: Biopharmaceutical distribution is a highly regulated task in which the cloud can add detailed tracking information and reliable, to-the-minute data
  • Commercial: The cloud is also an efficient tool for marketing, sales, and monitoring for commercial distribution tasks

From creativity in marketing to detailed analyses in R&D, cloud-based tools offer valuable capabilities throughout the organization. You can find tools and computing power for tasks like document management, data sharing, modeling and simulation, data analysis, and monitoring services.

The cloud supports endless progress for life sciences, from modernizing the regulatory approach to building new partnerships for clinical trial design

Getting the most from the cloud in life sciences

Just having cloud-based platforms in place won't ensure you are taking advantage of everything they offer. To get the most from the cloud, life sciences organizations need to embrace the collaborative approach from the ground up. This means breaking down data silos and making access to content a seamless experience. You'll need to have a clear idea of how departments and employees will use the cloud and what goals drive its adoption.

For example, higher-ups need to be on board with the cloud and view it as an operational shift, not just a change in IT. The cloud can play a foundational role in driving innovation through collaboration, but only if it's widely used and understood. Employees should see collaboration as a core component of their workday, not something that's "nice to have" as they continue to work in siloed departments. They must take ownership of the cloud and share a clear vision of what it's doing for the company.

From modernizing your regulatory approach to building new partnerships for creative clinical trial design, the cloud can support endless progress for the life sciences.

Benefits of using the cloud for core business operations - keep your teams agile, future-proof your organization, gain a competitive advantage

Taking a technology-first approach

Life sciences is all about innovation, yet it sometimes lags in the IT sector. Some businesses only allocate enough resources to IT to cover the basics and don't see technology as something that could power a new, more valuable way of working. Fortunately, this is changing. As data and business become more digitized, a holistic technological approach becomes necessary.

By folding the cloud into core business operations, life sciences companies can:

  • Achieve a level of agility unmatched by technology-avoidant businesses
  • Future-proof themselves with scalability and fast technology adoption for new industry developments
  • Gain competitive advantages across multiple business dimensions and be seen as a high-tech leader

Cloud solutions can be much more secure than on-premises solutions

Building confidence in the cloud

One factor that's been affecting cloud adoption in the industry is a lack of confidence in the technology. Life sciences users sometimes question the cloud's ability to protect their data and help them comply with regulations and ownership standards. Fortunately, certain cloud solutions are built for these requirements, allowing you to meet the demands of HIPAA, Export Control, GxP, and other agencies easily and securely.

In fact, cloud solutions can be much more secure than on-premise solutions. This usually comes from the expertise and resources devoted to cloud security where the data is stored. The professionals running a data center are fully dedicated to data security and management. Unlike an in-house team, they're not also trying to juggle various IT demands. They're solely focused on data management, driving high uptime, and reaching some of the highest security standards available. These standards include tools like single sign-on, granular permissions, classification-based access, and bank-level encryption.

In addition to technical standards, the right cloud solution can offer exceptional controls that allow you to restrict access to appropriate users, classify documents according to security needs, and implement data residency requirements. Security is a significant concern when moving to the cloud, but if you work with the right solution provider, you can ensure a safe, compliant data environment without sacrificing efficacy and ease of use.

Another topic that can cause hesitation is the presence of legacy systems. If your data is stored in a legacy system, such as on-site storage or even pen-and-paper filing, switching to a cloud-based solution can seem daunting, but easy migration tools simplify the process. You also won't need to do away with other systems you have in place, like Microsoft 365, Salesforce, Okta, or Oracle Netsuite. Integrations with vital business systems allow you to continue benefiting from existing setups and taking advantage of everything the cloud offers.

So exactly how does the cloud address concerns in the industry?

By keeping content in a centralized location, you have a single source of truth for your data - everything stays up to date and trustworthy

Data governance

Complying with data demands can be complex if your data or clinical trials take you across borders. Without a robust solution for managing data across the globe or nation, you may be exposing yourself to fines and legal issues. A reliable cloud provider will have servers located in multiple regions, so you can choose the appropriate zone for your content and meet rigorous data protection, residency, and privacy concerns. By separating the storage layer from the user-facing platform, organizations can easily access their data regardless of where it's stored.

Visibility and auditing

Any data-oriented business needs high levels of visibility. By keeping content in a centralized location, you have a single source of truth for your data — everything stays up to date and trustworthy. You have full control over who can access and edit data, along with complete audit trails for internal demands and external compliance requirements.

Integrations

Secure integrations with other vital business systems allow you to get the most from your investments. From data collection tools to supply chain management programs, you can safely use these essential solutions alongside a cloud-based platform.

Intelligent threat detection

Leverage the power of the cloud with machine learning and intelligent threat detection so you can stay on top of the risks to your content. These tools contribute to a frictionless experience and proactive security approach. 

Life sciences solutions from Box 1. Real-time collaboration and easy sharing 2. Industry-leading security and control 3. Support for various business needs 4. Fast data ingestion and migration

Life sciences solutions from Box

To get the most out of a cloud solution in life sciences, working with the right provider is vital, especially when data privacy and stringent regulations are involved. Here at Box, our life sciences customers get the entire package. The Content Cloud emphasizes teamwork and collaboration within and between organizations, with regional compliance demands and industry-leading data security underpinning the whole platform. 

Box is a content management platform that accommodates everything from SAS datasets to promotional design materials and supply chain contracts. Some of the features you get with Box include the following.

1. Real-time collaboration and easy sharing

Researchers can simultaneously partner up on documents for streamlined editing, and users can share files with partners, regulatory agencies, and other representatives. The many users involved in clinical trials can store information in one centralized location, so everyone stays on the same page with access to the same consent documents, site feasibility surveys, participant data, and more.

2. Industry-leading security and control

Box applies top-tier security with tools like frictionless AES 256-bit encryption, two-factor authentication, multi-level watermarking, intelligent threat detection, and compliance zones. Get peace of mind knowing your valuable, proprietary data and processes are well-protected. Plus, you can readily meet compliance standards like those from HIPAA, FINRA, GDPR, and GxP.

3. Support for various business needs

Life sciences tasks can cover research, marketing, product development, regulatory requirements, distribution, and other areas of business. Box has wide-reaching capabilities to bring data from every part of the company into one platform. Through our 1,500+ integrations with popular business tools like Salesforce and Office 365, you can continue using the tools you love while securely and seamlessly integrating organizational data.

4. Fast data ingestion and migration

Switching to the cloud from an on-premise system or even physical paper storage? Box has quick migration and ingestion tools to help you get into the cloud quickly and comprehensively. Speedy ingestion tools also aid in smooth mergers and acquisitions. Box Shuttle creates a smooth transition to the cloud.

Learn more about the Content Cloud for life sciences

Learn more about Box for life sciences

Box is one of the industry's top cloud providers, helping even the most demanding life science businesses prioritize innovation and tech-first approaches. The Content Cloud is trusted by over 100,000 organizations and has consistently been named a leader in Gartner's Magic Quadrant report. See why so many organizations in the life sciences industry trust Box with their vital data. Read more online or reach out to us to learn more.

**While we maintain our steadfast commitment to offering products and services with best-in-class privacy, security, and compliance, the information provided in this blogpost is not intended to constitute legal advice. We strongly encourage prospective and current customers to perform their own due diligence when assessing compliance with applicable laws.