How to Choose the Best Electronic Lab Notebook for Data Security

Simon Weil

Simon Weil

Best Electronic Lab Notebook for Data Security


Jul 2021

So you’ve decided to upgrade your research lab management by implementing an electronic lab notebook (ELN). An important aspect to consider as you do your research on the various options available is data security — your ELN of choice should make sure that your research information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. We’ve created a list of features to look for in order to find the best electronic lab notebook to keep your data safe:

1. Cloud storage

The leading ELN options in recent years use cloud storage, and for a good reason. Cloud storage is elastically scalable, allowing automatic backups which can be stored for extended periods. Additionally, by choosing a cloud-based ELN, you’ll benefit from security and disaster recovery plans that have been tested according to the highest standards, as well as a large number of customers. An on-premise system, in comparison, might undergo a less thorough inspection. 

Cloud ELNs also offer data redundancy and replication. Cloud storage vendors keep multiple copies of your data within each data center, and according to current standards, are required to have at least two physical and geographical data centers. This is another advantage over on-premise storage, where your data can be lost in the case of disaster or power failure. With cloud storage, if one location fails, the others stay functioning and maintain your information.

There are additional benefits to cloud storage besides improved security — a cloud-based platform enables users to access their information from any device connected to the internet and manage data in real-time, as well as collaborate with teammates on experiments and collections. 

2. Network security

When managing data online, cyberattacks become a genuine issue that research organizations should take seriously. When looking for the best electronic lab notebook, check that the provider limits access to the platform to approved networks and users only. Ask about firewall and traffic monitoring measures, and make sure that they are continuously updated. 

3. Data Encryption

Limiting access to the platform isn’t enough — In order to keep your research information secure, all information that is transferred, processed, and exported from your ELN must be encrypted using industry best practices. 

Make sure that data sent over the world wide web to your ELN, including through Transport Layer Encryption (TLS), leverages at least 128-bit symmetric encryption keys, and that data transmitted between data centers for replication purposes is done so across encrypted links (AES-256 or equally strong encryption methods). 

4. Backup and Data Security

As mentioned above, cloud storage enables frequent automatic backups. The best electronic lab notebook should have daily database backups, with a long retention period (at least a month). Prefer ELNs that also include version history and save a copy of your work every time a change is made — this makes it possible to restore versions from specific dates and times.

5. Regulatory compliance

The 21 CFR Part 11 regulations set the standards that digital records should meet. According to these guidelines, every laboratory data management system should have the following features:

    • Digital signatures: just like pen and paper lab records, digital ELN entries should be signed twice, first by the person who performed the experiment and then by a user with witnessing privileges. Unlike paper, after the witnessing, the experiment is locked and can’t be edited anymore. Properly recorded signatures prevent unintended alterations and strengthen your data integrity.
    • Full audit trail: all entries and changes are recorded and time-stamped automatically. Having a full audit trail considerably saves time when it comes to internal and external chain of custody audits, and functions as proof of ownership over your inventions, helping you secure a patent. 

These features are a basic requirement for the best electronic lab notebook.

6. Privacy Settings

In any laboratory, but especially in organizations with many employees, it’s important to be able to limit specific experiments and projects to selected members. Make sure that experiments can be set to private, or that specific team members can be given viewing privileges. 

7. Data export conditions

Be careful of ELN providers that will try to lock your information behind a paywall. Your ELN of choice should allow you to export your data at any time, with no extra fees or data locks. 

Don’t forget to consider the case in which you decide to stop working with your ELN provider. You don’t want to be suddenly blocked from accessing your information. Make sure that your agreement states that the data will be kept available for your export on the platform for an extended period.

If you’re searching for a secure, compliant solution for your lab, Labguru is the best electronic lab notebook for you.

Labguru is an all-in-one solution for laboratories including ELN, inventory, storage management and lab informatics. We can help you improve your data management, increase efficiency and reduce costs, all within a secure and compliant environment. You can trust that your data is in good hands while you focus on your research:

  • Labguru is ISO 27001 certified and runs on the AWS platform which is ISO 27001, SOC reports 1, 2, and 3 certified. Labguru benefits from AWS’s top-tier security measures.
  • Data sent over the world wide web to Labguru, including through Transport Layer Encryption (TLS), leverages at least 2048-bit RSA server certificates and 128-bit symmetric encryption keys. Data transmitted between data centers for replication purposes is done so across encrypted links utilizing AES-256 encryption.
  • All user information is being backed up on a daily basis with a retention period of 30 days.
  • Data is copied to multiple different geographic locations to prevent data loss.
  • Labguru is FDA 21 CFR Part 11 compliant, supports Full Audit Trail and Sign and Witness. 
  • Labguru users can export their data at any time without extra pay. In the case of contract termination, data remains available for export for 90 days.

This is only the beginning. To learn more about our security measures, download our security whitepaper here: