LIMS Facts 101

LIMS Facts 101

To address some introductory questions about LIMS, HORIZON has assembled a list of commonly asked questions and basic answers. If you require any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us at

What does LIMS stand for? Laboratory Information Management System

What does LIS stand for? Laboratory Information System

Are LIMS and LIS similar? Today, these terms are used interchangeably. Historically, medical/clinical laboratories typically referenced LIS while environmental, physical and agricultural labs referred to their systems as LIMS.

Who invented LIMS? No one person was responsible for the development of LIMS. Initially, as computers became available, custom in-house solutions were created to attempt to streamline processes and reduce transcription errors; 1982 is cited as the first year commercial LIMS became available to automate reporting. By the mid-1990s, client/server tools had been developed and shortly after, web-enabled LIMS were introduced. HORIZON Lab Systems (then Chemware) came into busines in 1987.

How is a LIMS used in the laboratory? A LIMS tracks all samples, data, notes, quality control and workflows within a laboratory and automates these processes. LIMS automates the application of quality control and tracks samples analyzed within the system. LIMS may then collate all associated data and provides this finalized data to various sample reports, whether as a PDF, printed or distributed by EDD (electronic data deliverable). 

How does a LIMS save money? A LIMS streamlines tasks, automatically applies quality control, and automates reporting among many other functions. Just think of a LIMS as a member of your staff who never sleeps, never makes a math mistake, never ignores a due date, and never forgets a result.

What is a LIMS database? A LIMS database is the database in which the LIMS stores all data. HORIZON uses Oracle databases as Oracle delivers the best degree of security. The database is often referred to as the backend of the LIMS. 

What is a LIMS application? As opposed to a LIMS database, the LIMS application itself is often referred to as the frontend of the LIMS. The LIMS application is the graphical user interface (GUI) that users of the LIMS see and interact with.

What industries are LIMS used in? Just about any industry that requires a laboratory! LIMS are used in medical, clinical, physical, environmental, agricultural, cannabis, toxicology, pharmaceutical, R&D, university laboratories and more.

Who can access a LIMS? LIMS can be accessed by anyone who has been given access rights by the LIMS administrator. Typically, access rights to the LIMS are only given to laboratory staff who have a direct need to the LIMS features. However, it is not uncommon for LIMS to have a client portal, such as LabOnline, a HORIZON product, that allows data users/clients to access the data they need online while not accessing the LIMS itself.

What is a client portal in a LIMS?  A client portal allows clients to access finalized results, see reports, invoices and even post bottle orders to the laboratory. It typically sits on a separate webserver and is passed information from the LIMS directly.

What is a patient portal? A patient portal allows patients to gain access to test results (such as a COVID test) directly through a web portal.   

What is an online LIMS or LIMS in the “Cloud”? Online LIMS refers to a LIMS that is hosted on a server or bank of servers not as the same location as the end-user (hence, in the Cloud). These are typically provided on a SaaS or PaaS agreement.

What does SaaS stand for? Software as a Service.

What does PaaS stand for? Platform as a Service

What is the difference between a LIMS offered as a SaaS agreement compared to a PaaS agreement?  Typically, in a SaaS agreement, the vendor provides the LIMS Administration and handles all aspects of the LIMS setup, configuration and hosting. The licenses are usually leased. In a PaaS agreement, the client owns and operated the LIMS as their own, it is simply hosted in the Cloud, often through the LIMS vendor.  

Are LIMS for small labs? LIMS can be, and should be, used by any size laboratory whether a two-person startup or massive enterprise lab with thousands of analysts. With the option of on-premises or Cloud offerings (SaaS/PaaS), a laboratory no matter what size can find a LIMS to fit their needs.

How is a LIMS used for quality control? One of the most important features of a LIMS is the ability to automate quality control. When set up correctly, a LIMS will screen all data based upon the quality criteria assigned.

Is LIMS important for sample management? LIMS play a critical role in sample management. The LIMS denotes when a sample was received, if/where the sample was stored and run, all the way through reporting and disposal. The use of a LIMS helps ensure samples do not get lost internally within the laboratory workflow.

In some cases, a secondary internal sample management tool is turned on, the internal chain of custody (COC) that tracks a sample and records exactly who accessed the sample and where it was take for what analysis when.

What is an ELN? Electronic Laboratory Notebook

How does a LIMS relate to an ELN? ELNs may be directly interfaced with a LIMS and port structured data over directly. Commonly, ELNs are left separate from LIMS as data is often more freeform and not structured if used for research. Ultimately, how an ELN relates to LIMS depends on the intended us of the ELN itself. At HORIZON, we offer a HORIZON Logbook which is essentially a structured ELN that is directly integrated with the HORIZON LIMS.  

What is a PIMS? PIMS stands for Process Information Management System. PIMS are often implemented in wastewater facilities to track the processes.

How does a LIMS relate to a PIMS? It is not uncommon for data between a LIMS and a PIMS to be shared by an API or manually entered.

What is a SDMS? Scientific Data Management System

How does a LIMS relate to a SDMS? A SDMS system may or may not be integrated with a LIMS. SDMS have served as a go-between for manual analyses, like some microbiology test, and the LIMS. In many cases, a SDMS system is nothing other than an ELN or logbook yet in other cases, may be much more complex.

What is an API for a LIMS? An application program interface (API) is a computing interface between different software packages. The API defines which calls or request can be made, and in which format the data is to be given. LIMS commonly interface with many other computer systems such as the collecting data from instrument software or posting finalized data into enterprise level software packages.

What is a LIMS developer? A LIMS developer is responsible for the configuration, validate and maintenance of a LIMS. Typically, unless working on a home-grown system, LIMS developers work directly for LIMS providers.

What is a LIMS administrator? The title LIMS administrator can be a bit of a catch-all phrase but at its most basic means a liaison between the laboratory staff (chemist/biologist/management) and IT directly in regard to the LIMS system in place. The LIMS administrator has all rights and privileges offered by the LIMS, adds or removes other staff members rights to access, is first to handle all investigations into unknown behaviors of the LIMS and oversees upgrades and training.

Depending on the hosting agreement, upon occasion, the LIMS administration may be handled by the LIMS company itself as often happens with some SaaS agreements. 

What is a LIMS implementation plan? An implementation plan is the plan by which a LIMS is installed or spun up if in the Cloud and training given to a client by the LIMS vendor.

What does a LIMS import? LIMS may import field data (longitude/latitude, GPS coordinates, notes, pictures, etc.), chain of custodies, data from instruments, data from online analyzers, samples and data from other internal system, etc. 

What is LIMS University? LIMS University is a web-based class that was developed by HORIZON for clients. It was originally developed to train internal staff, however, was quickly modified to help train LIMS Administrators and staff at our clients’ locations. It provides an excellent tool for bringing new staff up to speed.

LIMS Wikipedia? LIMS Wikipedia is the free, online reference to LIMS (Laboratory Information Management Systems) as seen here:

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