Wednesday 20 July 2016

The Cloud in Pharma – Is it appropriate in the highly regulated Pharmaceutical industry?

Unless you've been holed up in a bunker for the last few years, you can't have failed to have heard all the talk about cloud computing and IT cloud solutions.

But when I am meeting with pharmaceuticals companies, I often get asked the question "Are cloud solutions appropriate for us, in our highly regulated industry?"

Well that's a big question, and not one that has an immediate yes or no answer. Like many things in IT, it depends. There is no doubt that some cloud solutions offer great business benefits to pharmaceuticals. For example they facilitate remote working, enable digital collaboration and can improve salesforce productivity using cloud-based tools like e-detailing solutions.

On the technical side, the cloud provides bucket loads of storage for all the data we need to keep for compliance reasons, without the headache of in-house servers that need to be managed and endlessly upgraded. From a budgetary point of view too, cloud solutions provide the potential to do away with some or all of the in house IT equipment, avoiding large capital costs on hardware and moving to an environment where the network infrastructure is a flexible, pay as you go service which you can draw on as you need it.

So with all these benefits, surely the cloud is a no-brainer? Well in my mind there is no doubt that this is the way the IT industry is moving, and in years to come I don't think we'll be talking about cloud-based versus local network applications, because I suspect everything will be cloud-based by default. But as always in IT there is an evolution process, and at the moment some things work better in the cloud than others. In our highly regulated industry there are a lot of considerations around things like security, data protection, availability and compliance. And this is where careful due diligence is needed when selecting a vendor or cloud provider.

It's not always as obvious as you'd think either. Let's take Microsoft as an example. Office 365 is the latest incarnation of Microsoft's Office suite of software, and this time rather than the data being held on a local network, it's cloud-based. Now you might assume that a vendor like Microsoft would be a safe and fully compliant home for your data. But interestingly Office 365 'out of the box' isn't compliant by default; it needs certain plans and certain settings to be configured to make it so.

And like any IT project, the key to success is in the planning.

There's no doubt Cloud based solutions offer a lot of business benefits to pharmaceuticals. The key to successfully delivering those benefits, whilst mitigating the risks, is to engage with a partner who is knowledgeable about the specific compliance issues in our industry, and of course (like any IT project) to plan, plan, plan!

If you would like to explore the benefits of cloud solutions further, or you need advice on making your cloud based systems compliant, then please do not hesitate to contact me on 01494 444065 or Email

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