Medical research at IBE: how ONLYOFFICE and Nextcloud help the institute

8 September 2022By Ksenija

The Institute for Medical Information Processing, Biometry, and Epidemiology (IBE) is using ONLYOFFICE Docs in combination with Nextcloud to organize effective collaboration between the employees. Nikolaus von Bomhard, CIO IBE, talks about his team’s experience.

Medical research at IBE: how ONLYOFFICE and Nextcloud help the institute

About the IBE

Founded in 1974, the Institute for Medical Information Processing, Biometry, and Epidemiology (IBE) belongs to the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and currently consists of three departments: biometry and bioinformatics, public health and health service research, epidemiology. Each department is assigned different professorships and research groups.

Overall 120 employees are involved in processing and analyzing medical data. Furthermore, the institute provides a wealth of experience in the design, randomization, and evaluation of clinical trials and other medical research and projects.

Open-source alternative

Mr. von Bomhard tells us that open-source software in general and Nextcloud are implemented at IBE. They were looking for an alternative to SharePoint and collaborative platforms and didn’t want to use Google Docs.

Therefore, they tested Collabora and ONLYOFFICE, which provide integration with Nextcloud, and ONLYOFFICE proved to be much faster and more compatible.

Effective and secure collaboration tool

At IBE, ONLYOFFICE is used in combination with Nextcloud for distributed document management and research paper editing. Scientists are using all the usual office features, with a focus on DOCX and XLSX files.

As Mr.von Bomhard reports, they often use ONLYOFFICE to co-author various applications and manuscripts. It is an effective and secure tool for collaboration with multiple IBE partners.

Nikolaus von Bomhard, CIO IBE:

We think that ONLYOFFICE/Nextcloud is currently the best platform for collaborative editing of MS Office documents when it comes to confidential and/or privacy-sensitive content. This gives us an opportunity to reconcile the increasing importance of working in distributed locations, especially in home offices, with the requirements of the GDPR regulations in a secure self-hosted environment.

Medical research at IBE: how ONLYOFFICE and Nextcloud help the institute
Nikolaus von Bomhard, ©IBE

First steps towards Open Science

SharePoint is not allowed to be used at the institute for processing sensitive data. Now distributed work in a secure and privacy-compliant Debian environment is possible without lots of changes. Many employees have started to work cloud-based, fulfilling important data protection aspects. ONLYOFFICE with the document and spreadsheet editors facilitates the transition to this new way of working.

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Mansmann, Director IBE:

ONLYOFFICE and Nextcloud allow my employees to get used to working securely and collaboratively. It takes the focus away from the PC into a transparent working environment, it opens a scientist’s eyes to new cloud-based ways of working, sharing information and first steps towards Open Science.

Medical research at IBE: how ONLYOFFICE and Nextcloud help the institute
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Mansmann, ©IBE

There’s always room for improvement

According to Mr. von Bomhard, ONLYOFFICE works as a reliable remote platform and replaces MS Office in many cases. Compatibility with MS Office files is usually good. Only existing older, often changed documents with complex footnotes and bibliographies cause some problems, but this was to be expected.

Documents newly created in ONLYOFFICE do not cause any problems and are sufficient for most use cases. Limitations currently exist for power users, especially with XSLX, because not all the functionality of MS Office is available.

Therefore ONLYOFFICE is not (yet) a complete replacement for MS-Office, but at least 90% of the use cases are covered. In some projects, up to 40 people participated in collaborative document editing.

Mr. von Bomhard adds that the integration of ONLYOFFICE and Nextcloud works well. However, collaborative work in included SMB shares is not possible because there is no file and record locking. But this is explained probably due to the technical approach and performance (local processing, i.e. downloading and synchronization) and would be quite costly to implement. So some improvements are needed here.