Big Pharma Pokes Its Head in the Cloud (Finally)

by Ryan Szporer

Known for keeping their cards close to their vests to prevent other players from sneaking a peek, drug companies waited until the last possible moment to move to the cloud. Now sufficiently satisfied that their security concerns have been addressed, they’re finally poised to reap the benefits.

Positive Side-Effects

The advantages the cloud offers are wide-ranging. They run the gamut from facilitated corporate communication between teams in different parts of the world to lower operational costs, both of which are to be expected to a certain extent. They are arguably even interconnected as increased collaboration can help lead to streamlined operations.

However, other benefits aren’t as obvious. These include the flexibility of a scalable IT infrastructure (we’ll get to that later on), and, yes, even increased security. That would be through a variety of measures like encryption, cloud data protection gateways, and hybrid setups, which allow companies to store confidential data on private clouds.

Security concerns within the industry were in part due to required compliance with laws and regulations such as those enacted by the Health Insurance Portability Act. They’re also in part due to best practices, which logically state that sensitive, proprietary information should be protected much like cubs would be by a grizzly bear.

However, as has long been established, if done right, cyber security should present no more of an issue than implementing proper physical security measures would in the real world. There is a natural apprehension to deviate from what has been the norm for decades, but the reality is the cloud can be more secure than a brick-and-mortar fortress of a casino, and, it should be noted, Ocean’s Eleven-esque heists happen only in the movies.

Untapped Potential

Even though early forms of cloud computing can be traced back as far as the 1960s, the concept really only started to gain mainstream traction this century, with the launch of Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) in 2006.

From that point on, things ramped up quickly. it didn’t take long for IT giants like Google, Microsoft, and Cisco to get in on the action with offerings of their own by 2008. In 2014, an IDG Enterprise study meant to estimate the extent to which the cloud has permeated into corporate consciousness reported that 69% of respondents “have at least one application or a portion of their computing infrastructure in the cloud.”
To illustrate how long it’s taken for big pharma to catch on, one of the earliest adopters within the industry, Pfizer, had been developing an online clinical trial system back in 2013, but ultimately abandoned the project. The silver lining of that cloud, though? The experience exposed Pfizer to the medium’s massive untapped potential and the firm has since revisited it. The industry-wide shift is now well underway, signaled by the full-court press mounted by software vendors who have been developing cloud-based solutions for specific use within pharma. It’s hard to dispute the advantages firms would be foregoing by holding out any longer.

SaaS: Software as a Solution

For instance, regarding that scalable IT infrastructure, the cloud helps make pay-as-you-go Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications both affordable and accessible anywhere… on virtually any device. These include web-enabled or web-based options, with the former being beneficial to firms seeking to provide remote access to legacy applications. Applications that make up the latter are characterized by lower deployment costs and access directly via the web, with one potential drawback being the pre-requisite enterprise-wide standardization of browsers.

Software solutions exist for everything any pharmaceutical company could want or need, providing means to mine massive amounts of data for the purposes of drug research, for one example. For another, automated quality control platforms like GlobalVision positively impact ROI by minimizing the amount of unnecessary recalls due to packaging errors.

Featuring a (Mac or PC) desktop deployment option as well, GlobalVision is the first solution of its kind to take to the cloud, effectively embracing what has become an undeniable trend in computing in general, and, now, pharma by all accounts.

It’s admittedly only recently that pharma has come to take its seat at the table and it may be somewhat of a gamble, but that would be the case no matter the game. It just so happens that, in this one, most everyone wins.

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