The idea of accessing one computer from another is long established. Unfortunately, we often have visions of hackers sneaking in and stealing our data when we have most to lose. However, this type of technology can aid us in a lot of applications and to those of us who work in cytometry the benefits are (somewhat) clear.
No More ‘Fail’ Moments
Many researchers know the dread of having spent the guts of a day setting up their samples and controls only to find that once they’ve reached the cytometer they can’t quite set up as they want, or they forget one of those little settings or switches on the software or machine whereupon the whole experiment rests. If no one is around to help out, often the experiment, and all its data, ends up in the bin. If we could allow access to the computer by an off-site colleague or expert, they could have us up and running in a flash.
Instant Online Support for your Flow Cytometer
Furthermore, learning new cytometric techniques can be pretty daunting and slow. If we could share our software and screen “virtually” with an expert, no matter where they may be, we could gain the expertise as if they were right beside us. Additionally, if you’re running late for your cytometer booking help could be on hand to set up your template, ensuring that your settings and controls “look” right before burning the midnight oil running your samples when everyone else is long gone from the lab.
The real art of cytometry is on the analysis end, once the samples have all been run. Trying to gate down to the crux of the information is rarely as straightforward as is hoped. If you can do this with real-time help, whether guidance is across the building or across the globe, this kind of assistance is always appreciated.
Take your Flow Cytometry Experiment to the Party
Remote access can even allow you to run your samples from your phone, such that you could operate your cell sorter from the pub. Instrumentation companies can use remote access to check and repair any issues, or make sure the engineer has the right tools and spares the next time they are called out; all of which should be a thumbs up for all concerned.
So with all these pluses, there’s got to be a catch, right? The cost to set up the hardware and software is way above the odds? No; it really is inexpensive and straightforward. Once the instrument’s computer is networked with reasonable speed, all that’s needed is the software. There are various programs available for remote access, the most noteworthy being TeamViewer, LogMeIn and WebEx. Most programs have excellent versions available free of charge for non-commercial users and can be set up in minutes with appropriate security settings.
You may want to check with your IT folk to make sure they allow it and what the best format to run it is. What will also help are a VoIP headset (~$30) and a webcam (~$20) to see and hear the person on the other end and enabling them to see the cytometer as well.
And from here in – it’s kick your feet back, pour yourself a cuppa and start running your experiments from…. wherever!
Originally published on January 14, 2013. Revised and updated on May 20, 2016.