CERF ELN (Electronic Lab Notebook) and Document Management / Content Management Solution


The Collaborative Electronic Research Framework (CERF) is a secure, 21CFR11 compliant, cross-platform ELN and modern replacement for inefficient paper lab notebooks, ring binders, scattered file servers and insecure personal hard drives.

CERF brings affordable data management and oversight to your lab, organization or business. The heart of the system is the CERF server, which can be installed on-premise, or on an Amazon slice or other host of your choice. The data on your CERF server is securely accessed by your scientists and managers using the free, dedicated Apple or Windows client applications.

The CERF client applications include tools that give users unprecedented ability capture, store, locate, retrieve or share files and continuously manage, categorize and organize the details of their ongoing research.  A variety of import and export options make it easy to get absolutely any type of data into or out of CERF, and CERF’s advanced semantic metadata technologies will help your downstream audience make sense of your data even years or decades after it was created. CERF was created in Central Ohio by alumni of The Ohio State University. It has been in continuous use longer than any other ELN solution, and is supported by one of the most experienced ELN teams in the world.

Click here to see the Key Features of CERF ELN

CERF is more than just a Lab Notebook…

CERF is award-winning, powerful and trusted by large research organizations. Think of it as an ultra long-term data repository, Content Management System (CMS / ECMS) and Scientific Document Management System (DMS / SDMS / EDMS / ERMS) that allows organizations to maintain full, on-site ownership and total control of their priceless data and files. It can replace the multitude of other systems, databases and file stores you use now with a single centralized searchable solution, saving time and money. CERF provides organizations with the ability to record and understand the history of their discoveries, locate knowledge assets quickly and avoid needless repetition of experiments. CERF can also lock, protect and time stamp any file or notebook entry with true PKI digital signatures, and promotes secure, instant collaboration and data management best-practices that simply won’t happen otherwise, despite the best intensions of your scientists.

Don’t trust the big cloud solutions?

Frankly, we don’t blame you. Data breaches for supposedly secure commercial cloud-based systems are an all-too-frequent fact of life, and virtually ALL of the large commercial cloud solutions have had data stolen at some point.

Data breach examples 1

Data breach examples 2

Why should you trust total strangers to keep your data safe in one-size-fits-all commercial  systems like Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Evernote or other systems over which you have zero control? These systems basically tell you up front that they can do whatever they like with your data. Can you really be sure that nobody else but you can see your most precious intellectual property (IP? Do you realize that despite what they may say, the IT staff running the “cloud” server farm you have chosen can almost certainly see your data any time they like? Similarly, you should assume that government agencies can also force legal access if they want it. Can you be sure that your cloud solution will still exist in 20 years? Do you think their staff really care about the long term fate of your data? Are you willing to bet your business on it? Are you tired of vendors locking you into a  system only to find them extorting money by raising the annual fee and holding your data hostage? CERF ELN features a hassle-free perpetual license model that guarantees ownership of your own data forever and brings long-term confidence, efficiency and data centralization to your organization in ways unmatched by any other solution. For organizations with stringent security requirements, CERF ELN can even be deployed on a secure isolated LAN with absolutely no internet access at all, giving you total and exclusive control of your data. On the other hand, CERF is also flexible enough to be deployed in any environment.  Cloud, physical, virtual, windows and mac server configurations are all supported making growth, migration and re-location through the years easy and adaptive.

Isn’t paper more reliable than an ELN and still the legal Gold Standard?

That’s an easy question to answer. No. Absolutely not. We have lost count of the number of organizations who came to us AFTER some traumatic event involving the loss of paper notebooks. It happens all the time. The most common scenario involves people who leave the organization and take their paper lab notebooks with them. In most cases, despite the legal best efforts of the organization, that data has gone forever. CERF on the other hand has proven dependable for the many organizations that have used it for over a decade. As far as legal status, the FDA’s 21 CFR part 11 rule set was specifically designed to make electronic data as reliable or more reliable and acceptable than paper in legal and regulatory hearings. Organizations with true 21 CFR 11 compliant ELNs like CERF don’t get the authenticity of their data challenged in court. Ever.

Can Lab-Ally help with validation of CERF ELN?

Yes. We work with top industry professionals who can provide  IQ, OQ, PQ, assistance, validate your system in-situ, and help your validations stay current by working with your compliance staff to make sure that system updates occur only when your organization is 100% ready. Additionally we offer a comprehensive IQ, OQ package and IQ, OQ validation assistance.

My organization uses CERF. Why should we invest in a Lab-Ally CERF support contract?

CERF is designed to be a robust research data collection and management tool — a permanent, on-site home for the mission-critical knowledge that your organization has worked hard to create. CERF is reliable and enjoys better than industry average up-times. Our “perpetual license” model ensures that your server will run in its current environment forever, and that you will always have full access to your data no matter what. However, the future is not certain. Power or equipment failures, network outages, untested operating system updates or host infrastructure changes can all create unexpected problems. If there were to be a problem with your CERF ELN server, where would you turn?  Without experienced and qualified assistance from Lab-Ally, you may risk losing functionality, or  worse, there exists the possibility that you may even lose access to your valuable research data. Additionally, if your organization uses CERF but has increased in size and needs to purchase new seats or migrate your server to more powerful hardware, Lab-Ally can help you with these challenges too. Finally and most importantly, a CERF support contract is required to qualify for new, updated versions of the product. Updates keep your ELN working with the latest technologies, bring new and powerful features and modules, and protect your CERF data from emerging security threats.

For CERF online help, existing customers can login here.

Lab-Ally staff are experts in scientific data management with more than a decade of experience supporting CERF in laboratories and commercial biomedical organizations.  

Lab-Ally understands how critical it is for scientists and institutions to be able to protect and access the library of data on their CERF server.  The Lab-Ally team includes many of the original engineers and support specialists that created CERF more than a decade ago. As such we have a proven record of long-term continuous care for your priceless data.  If you are a CERF user and you have usage, workflow, import or export questions, or if you are currently experiencing technical difficulties with your server, contact us today to discuss your support options. Flexible 12 month, 6 month and even month-to-month support contracts are available.

Learn more about CERF ELN on the official product page at cerf-notebook.com

New alternatives for academic labs….

As well as offering support for CERF, Lab-Ally is also the North American representative for the eCAT / RSpace family of ELN solutions. CERF and RSpace are highly complementary. CERF is still the best ELN for almost any small / medium commercial, biotechnology or stringent pharma lab. CERF was designed to be a sophisticated, secure, highly compliant, modular system. Its advanced ontology-based semantic metadata engine makes CERF one of the best data mining tools in the industry, but not all of the capabilities of this advanced tool may be needed by academic laboratories. eCAT and RSpace products are based on modern technologies like HTML 5, and as such they are browser-based and require no client software to be installed. This makes them simpler and easier to deploy and maintain, so they tend to be a better fit for the rapidly growing academic ELN market. An in depth comparison of our two ELN products is available here.

Whichever system you choose, Lab-Ally will be able to assist you with deployment, training and support of your ELN. We also offer expert consulting services and third party validations to help you plan and execute a data migration strategy from paper or ad-hoc digital storage to a fully compliant Research Data Management (RDM) strategy.

For more information, contact us. To speak directly with the CERF support desk, call: US (614) 602-1526 or email here.