Everything You Wanted to Know About LIMS VS ELN and Were Afraid To Ask

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Everything You Wanted to Know About LIMS VS ELN and Were Afraid To Ask

LIMS vs ELN is a debatable topic.

We will explore the definition, differences, similarities, and benefits of LIMS and ELN. We’ll also see how these two systems co-exist to meet the increasingly evolving demands of the commercial world.

Noteworthy, the field of technology is becoming more dynamic. The main benefits of this industry are being realized by those who’ve decided to invest in it. Though evolution is becoming more and more competitive, users need to understand that each piece of technology has its unique place.

Therefore, careful attention needs to be paid when defining each laboratory informatics strategy. That is why detailed sources like SapioSciences define the collaboration between the two while still making some distinction.


Both ELN and LIMS give a powerful solution to data management challenges in the lab, but we will define each differently.

Essentially, the LIMS is what automates and streamlines the processes of collecting and managing information in labs. The system stores information like the batch number, inspection number, batch material, date, and time a sample was taken.

Traditionally, these systems have always been sample-centric, focusing on the info captured and managed about a sample. It means that LIMS can track sample information throughout its lifecycle. The components of this life cycle include login, receipt, test assignment, result entry, calculations and sample disposition.

An ELN is a secure information system that assembles scientific content from different sources relating to one other. This system gives room to contextual annotation. It also packages information in a document that can be searched and mined.

Unlike LIMS, ELN tends to be more flexible and personalized. They are more suitable for discovery and research environments which experience unstructured data and changing workflows. In other words, ELNs can vary, depending on an individual researcher.

What are their Differences?

It is worth noting that the overlap between these two platforms is inevitable. Each has expanded its feature sets into the other’s spaces; thus, the phrase LIMS vs ELN.

Over the years, the distinct line between these two systems is becoming increasingly fluid. The distinction makes more sense when working with these information systems in a regulated environment.

In general, LIMS are the best solutions when overseeing structured information while ELNs come in handy when managing unstructured data. This means that some laboratories need a flexible ELN while others require the traditional LIMS.

But beyond the general notions of ‘unstructured’ or ‘structured’ data, there are many other factors that differentiate LIMS from ELNs.

For starters, there’s a difference in the type and size of data files generated by each. While LIMS offers cloud-based solutions and is the simplest and most affordable, ELN is a locally installed server that transfers huge data files to and from the cloud.

What are the Similarities?

Nowadays, commercial vendors offer integrated platforms that couple the potential of the two solutions. Let’s use a scenario to make it sink deeper;

Some ELN structures incorporate LIMS functionality; a good example is sample management capabilities. On the other hand, some LIMS structures function as ELN solutions as they include modules to capture and share experimental information.

Also, both systems have reporting functionality that presents info in like manner, for example, plots, spreadsheets, interactive graphs, e.t.c. Remarkably, there seems to be one way that scientists can use to obtain the most from each world. This is especially true when they’re planning to go paperless and also require a ‘LIMS-like’ structure.

So, instead of tethering themselves to disparate systems, their similarities allows scientists to consolidate the data that a LIMS or ELN alone will fail to deliver.

What are their Benefits?

LIMS organizes information in a single-standardized structure, making it easy for teams to access and manage data. It also ensures that workflows meet a set of quality control and assurance guidelines. This, in turn, saves money and eradicates the need for costly hardware.

On the other hand, ELN mitigates experimental design by providing tools to capture experimental protocols and findings in an electronic form. This system gives interfaces to systems and instrumentation for more effortless capturing, retaining, securing, searching, and reusing knowledge.

ELN offers more than replacing the traditional paper notebook. This information system standardizes the workflow. For instance, you can provide a structure around experiments by simply configuring different templates. With this, you’ll be minimizing the metadata for the experiment performed in your organization.

Simply put, ELN simplifies the whole process of correlating experimental data.

The Best Choice for Your Business

The secret is in understanding what suits best where!

The system that optimally suits your operation(s) is much dependent on your workload. From our discussion above, a business can utilize both systems. Also, there are instances where either could adequately be used.

Sometimes, LIMS and ELNs are regarded as two isolated systems and other times integrated to increase the usefulness of experimental data that is generated. Noteworthy, experimental instruments can be interfaced with the two systems to limit data corruption that results from transcription errors and in turn, boost productivity.


Changes in technology help to remove the hurdles between different information structures. Labs aren’t so different from business environments supported by IT. Both LIMS and ELNs are valuable additions to labs, particularly those that work on extensive data and samples.

The systems will increase operational efficiency while reducing the risk of human error. All these considerations ensure that the integrity of the samples is maintained during the lab experiments.

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