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Computer System Validation

Author: Dr. Ludwig Huber

Frequent speaker and chair person at FDA, ISPE, PDA, USP. IVT, ECA and GAMP conferences and workshops

Ludwig Huber (right) during a discussion with John Murray, FDA's national expert for computer system validation, (left), at the IVT Computer System Validation Conference (2009)

For Dr. Huber's connection with the FDA, click here

Links to specific sections of the primer Other information in the tutorial

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Introduction and Regulatory Requirements

Computers are widely used during development and manufacturing of drugs and medical devices. Proper functioning and performance of software and computer systems play a major role in obtaining consistency, reliability and accuracy of data.  Therefore, computer system validation (CSV) should be part of any good development and manufacturing practice. It is also requested by FDA regulations and guidelines through the overall requirement that "equipment must be suitable for it's intended use".

Specific requirements for computers can be found in section 211.68 of the US cGMP regulations

  • Automatic, mechanical, or electronic equipment or other types of equipment, including computers, or related systems that will perform a function satisfactorily, may be used in the manufacture, processing, packing, and holding of a drug product. If such equipment is so used, it shall be routinely calibrated, inspected, or checked according to a written program designed to assure proper performance. Written records of those calibration checks and inspections shall be maintained.
  • Appropriate controls shall be exercised over computer or related systems to assure that changes in master production and control records or other records are instituted only by authorized personnel.
  • Input to and output from the computer or related system of formulas or other records or data shall be checked for accuracy
  • The degree and frequency of input/output verification shall be based on the complexity and reliability of the computer or related system
  • A backup file of data entered into the computer or related system shall be maintained except where certain data, such as calculations performed in connection with laboratory analysis, are eliminated by computerization or other automated processes. In such instances a written record of the program shall be maintained along with appropriate validation data.
  • Hard copy or alternative systems, such as duplicates, tapes, or microfilm, shall be designed to assure that backup data are exact and complete and that it is secure from alteration, inadvertent erasures, or loss shall be maintained


Recent Warning Letters and 483's Related to Computer Validation and Part 11

With Case Studies to Avoid and Respond to 483's and Warning Letters


The FDA has developed several specific guidance documents on using computers for other FDA regulated areas. Most detailed is the Industry Guide: General Principal of Software Validation: (2). It deals with development and validation of software used in medical devices. More recently the FDA has released a draft guidance ob using computers in clinical studies (3). The guidance states FDA’s expectations related to computer systems and to electronic records generated during clinical studies.

Specific requirements for computers and electronic records and signatures are also defined in FDA’s regulations 21 CFR Part 11 on electronic Records and Signatures (4). This regulation applies to all FDA regulated areas and has specific requirements to ensure trustworthy, integrity and reliability of records generated, evaluated, transmitted and archived by computer systems. In 2003 the FDA published a guidance on scope and applications of 21 CFR Part 11 (5). In this document the FDA promoted the concept of risk based validation

.By far the most detailed and most specific official document that has ever been developed on using computers in regulated areas is the “Good Practices Guide on Using Computers in GxP Environments.” (6). It has been developed by inspectors for inspectors of the Pharmaceutical Inspection Convention Scheme (PIC/S) but is also quite useful for the industry. It has more than 50 pages and includes a six page checklist recommended to be used by for inspectors.

Because of their importance, computer validation issues have been addressed by several industry organizations and private authors:

  • The Good Automated Manufacturing Practices Forum (GAMP) has developed guidelines for computer validation (7).
  • Huber has published a validation reference books for the validation of computerized analytical and networked systems (8).
  • The Parenteral Drug Association (PDA) has developed a technical paper on the validation of laboratory data acquisition system (9)

All these guidelines and publications follow a couple of principles:

  • Validation of computer systems is not a one time event. It starts with the definition of the product or project and setting user requirement specifications and cover the vendor selection process, installation, initial operation, going use, and change control and system retirement.
  • All publications refer to some kind of life cycle model with a formal change control procedure being an important part of the whole process.  
  • There are no detailed instructions on what should be tested. All guidelines refer to risk assessment for the extent of validation

While in the past computer validation was more focused on functions of single user computer systems, recently the focus is on network infrastructure, networked systems and on security, authenticity and integrity of data acquired and evaluated by computer systems (10). With the increasing use of Internet and e-mail communications the validation of web-based applications also gets more important. Labcompliance recently published a package entitled Internet Quality and Compliance.

Scope of the Tutorial

This tutorial will guide IT personnel , QA managers, operational managers and users of computer hardware and software through the entire high level validation process from writing specifications and vendor qualification to installation and initial and on-going operation.

It covers

  • Qualification of computer hardware with peripherals and accessories like printers and disk drives.
  • Validation of software loaded on a computer, which is used to control equipments, to capture raw data, to process the data and to print and store. Software typically includes operating systems, standard applications software and software written by of for a specific user.*
  •  Development of documentation as required by regulations.

Risk assessment and risk based validation will be discussed for all validation phases to optimize validation efforts vs. costs for systems with different impact and risk on product quality. This is especially important since the FDA has been using and supporting the risk based approaches for compliance as part of the 21st century drug cGMP Initiative

One of the main purposes of this primer is to answer the key question regarding validation: How much validation is needed and how much is sufficient for a specific computer system?  This primer gives a good overview and lists major validation steps and tasks but for an in depth understanding and for easy implementation readers are recommended to read further references, for example the SOPs and validation examples as included in the Computer System Validation Package from Labcompliance.


Validation Overview

Validation of computer systems is not a once off event. Annex 11 of the European GMP directive is very clear about this: Validation should be considered as part of the complete life cycle of a computer system. This cycle includes the stages of planning, specification, programming, testing, commissioning, documentation, operation, monitoring and modifying”.

For new systems validation starts when a user department has a need for a new computer system and thinks about how the system can solve an existing problem. For an existing system it starts when the system owner gets the task of bringing the system into a validated state. Validation ends when the system is retired and all-important quality data is successfully migrated to the new system. Important steps in between are validation planning, defining user requirements, functional specifications, design specifications, validation during development, vendor assessment for purchased systems, installation, initial and ongoing testing and change control. In other words, computer systems should be validated during the entire life of the system.

Because of the complexity and the long time span of computer validation the process is typically broken down into life cycle phases. Several life cycle models have been described in literature. One model that is frequently used is the V-model as shown in figure 1.

V-lifecycle Model 

Figure 1. V-Lifecycle model

This model comprises of User Requirement Specifications (URS), Functional Specifications (FS), Design Specifications (DS), development and testing of code, Installation Qualification (IQ), Operational Qualification  (OQ) and Performance Qualification (PQ).

The V-Model as described above is quite good if the validation process also includes software development. However, it does not address some very important steps, for example, vendor assessment. It also looks quite complex for true commercial off the shelf system with no code development for customization. Phases like design specification or code development and code testing are not necessary. For such systems the 4Q model is recommended with just four phases: design qualification (DQ), installation qualification (IQ), operational qualification (OQ), performance qualification (PQ). The process is illustrated in Figure 2.


Figure 2. 4Q Lifecycle model

Both the 4Q and the V-model do not address the retirement phase. The 4Q model is also not suitable when systems need to be configured for specific applications or when additional software is required that is not included in the standard product and is developed by the user’s firm or by a 3rd party. xxx In this case a life cycle model that combines system development and system integration is preferred. An example is shown in figure 3.

Figure 3. System Integration combined with system development


User representatives define User or System Requirement Specifications (URS, SRS). If there is no vendor that offers a commercial system the software needs to be developed and validated by following the steps on the left side of the diagram. Programmers develop functional specifications, design specifications and the code and perform testing in all development phases under supervision of the quality assurance.

When commercial systems are available either the SRS or a special Request for Proposal (RFP) is sent to one or more vendors (see right site of the diagram). Vendors either respond to each requirement or with a set of functional specifications of a system that is most suitable for the user’s requirements. Users compare the vendor’s responses with their own requirements. If none of the vendors meet all user requirements, the requirements may be adjusted to the best fit or additional software is written to fulfill the user requirements following the development cycle on the left side of the diagram. The vendor that best meets the user’s technical and business requirements is selected and qualified.

The extent of validation depends on the complexity of the computer system. The extent of validation at the user’s site also depends on the widespread use of the same software product and version. The more a standard software is used and the less customization made for such software the less testing is required by individual users. GAMP has developed software categories based on the level of customization. In total there are five categories. Category one and two define operating systems and firmware of automated systems. In the context of this primer only categories three to five are of interest. They are described in Table 1. Each computer system should be associated to one of the three categories.

Category Description
GAMP 3 Standard software package. No customization.
Examples: MS Word (without VBA scripts). Computer controlled spectrophotometers.
GAMP 4 Standard software package. Customization of configuration.
LIMS, Excel spreadsheet application where formulae and/or input data are linked to specific cells.
Networked data systems.
GAMP 5 Custom software package. Either all software or a part or the complete package has been developed for a specific user and application.
Examples: Add-ons to GAMP Categories 3 and 4, Excel® with VBA scripts.

Validation Master Plan and Project Plan

All validation activities should be described in a validation master plan which should provide a framework for thorough and consistent validation. A validation master plan is officially required by Annex 15 to the European GMP directive. FDA regulations and guidelines don’t mandate a validation master plan, however, inspectors want to know what the company’s approach towards validation is. The validation master plan is an ideal tool to communicate this approach both internally and to inspectors. It also ensures consistent implementation of validation practices and makes validation activities much more efficient. In case there are any questions as to why things have been done or not done, the validation master plan should give the answer.

Within an organization a validation master plan can be developed for

  • multiple sites
  • single sites
  • single locations
  • single system categories
  • department categories, e.g., for development departments

Computer Validation master plans should include:

  1. Introduction with a scope of the plan, e.g., sites, systems, processes
  2. Responsibilities by function
  3. Related documents, e.g., risk management plans
  4. Products/processes to be validated and/or qualified
  5. Validation approach, e.g., system life cycle approach
  6. Risk management approach with examples of risk categories and recommended validation tasks for different categories 
  7. Vendor management
  8. Steps for Computer System Validation with examples on type and extent of testing, for example, for IQ, OQ and PQ
  9. Handling existing computer systems
  10. Validation of Macros and spreadsheet calculations
  11. Qualification of network infrastructure
  12. Configuration management and change control procedures and templates
  13. Back-up and recovery
  14. Error handling and corrective actions
  15. Requalification criteria
  16. Contingency planning and disaster recovery
  17. Maintenance and support
  18. System retirement
  19. Training plans (e.g., system operation, compliance)
  20. Validation deliverables and other documentation
  21. Templates and references to SOPs2
  22. Glossary

For larger projects a detailed individual validation project plan should be developed. An example would be implementing a Laboratory Information Management (LIMS) System or networked chromatographic data system. This plan is derived from the validation master plan using the principles and templates of the master plan. It formalizes qualification and validation and outlines what is to be done in order to get a specific system into compliance. For inspectors it is a first indication on which control a department has over a specific computer system and it also gives a first impression of the validation quality.

A validation project plan should include sections on

  • Scope of the system, what it includes, what it doesn’t include. 
  • System description
  • Validation approach
  • Assumptions, limitations and exclusions
  • Responsibilities 
  • Risk assessment 
  • Risk based test strategy and approach for validation steps, e.g., DQ, IQ, OQ, PQ
  • Ongoing performance control
  • Configuration management and change control
  • Handling system security * Data back-up and recovery
  • Contingency planning
  • Error handling
  • References to other documents
  • Timeline and deliverables for each phase

Design Qualification and Specifications

“Design qualification (DQ) defines the functional and operational specifications of the instrument and details the conscious decisions in the selection of the supplier “(8). DQ should ensure that computer systems have all the necessary functions and performance criteria that will enable them to be successfully implemented for the intended application and to meet business requirements.  Errors in DQ can have a tremendous technical and business impact, and therefore a sufficient amount of time and resources should be invested in the DQ phase. For example, setting wrong functional specifications can substantially increase the workload for OQ testing, adding missing functions at a later stage will be much more expensive than including them in the initial specifications and  selecting a vendor with insufficient support capability can decrease instrument up-time with a negative business impact.

Steps for design specification normally include:

  • Description of the task the computer system is expected to perform
  • Description of the intended use of the system
  • Description of the intended environment
  • Includes network environment)
  • Preliminary selection of the system requirement specifications, functional specifications and vendor
  • Vendor assessment
  • Final selection of the system requirement specifications and functional specification  * Final selection and supplier
  • Development and documentation of final system specifications

System requirement specifications (SRS) or user requirement specifications (URS) are usually written by user representatives. The vendor’s specification sheets can be used as guidelines. However, it is not recommended to simply writing up the vendor’s specifications because typically commercial software has more functions than the user ever will need. On the other hand there should be documented evidence that the system performs all specified functions and compliance to the specifications must be verified later on in the process during operational qualification and performance qualification. Specifying too many functions will significantly increase the workload for OQ. The development of  requirement specifications should follow a well documented procedure. Most important is to involve representatives of all user departments in this process.

User requirements should have a couple of key attributes. They should be:

  • Necessary. Unnecessary functions will increase development, validation, support and maintenance costs.
  • Complete. Adding missing functions at a later stage will be much more expensive than including them initially. 
  • Feasible. Specified functions that can not be implemented will delay the project.
  • Accurate. Inaccurately specified functions will not solve the application’s problem. 
  •  Unambiguous to avoid guessing and wrong interpretation by the developer.
  • Specific to avoid wrong interpretation by the developer.
  • Testable. Functions that are not testable can not be validated.
  • Uniquely identified. This helps to link specifications to test cases.  

Functional specifications answer the question: what functions does the system need to comply with users requirements. They are normally written by the developer of the system and should be reviewed by the user.

Design specifications are also written by the developer. They answer the question: how does the system implement specified functions. They should be formally reviewed by a team of developers under the supervision of QA.

Vendor Assessment

Validation of software and computerized systems covers the complete lifecycle of the products which includes validation during design and development. When software and computer systems are purchased from vendors, the user is still responsible for the overall validation.

FDA’s guide on Principles of Software Validation states this very clearly: “Where the software is developed by someone other than the device manufacturer (e.g., off-the-shelf software) the software developer may not be directly responsible for compliance with FDA regulations. In that case, the party with regulatory responsibility (i.e., the device manufacturer) needs to assess the adequacy of the off-the-shelf software developer’s activities and determine what additional efforts are needed to establish that the software is validated for the device manufacturer’s intended use”.

The objective of vendor qualification is to get assurance that the vendor’s products development and manufacturing practices meet the requirements of the user’s firm for quality. For software development this usually means that the software is developed and validated following documented procedures.

Vendor assessment should answer the questions: "What type of assurance do you have that the software has been validated during development" or "How can you be sure that the software vendor did follow a quality assurance program?" Depending on the risk and impact on (drug) product quality answers can be derived from

  1. Documentation of experience with the vendor
    Experience may come from the product under consideration or from other products.
  2. External references
    Useful if there is no experience within the vendor within your company
  3. Assessment checklists (mail audits)
    Use checklists available within your company, through public organizations, e.g., PDA and from private authors.
  4. 3rd party audits
    Gives an independent assessment of the quality system and/or product development
  5. Direct vendor audits
    Gives a good picture on the vendors quality system and software development and validation practices.

Assessment cost increase from 1 to 5 and the final procedure should be based on justified and documented risk assessment. Such risk assessment include two parts:

  1. Product risk
  2. Vendor risk

Factors for product risk include

  • System complexity
  • Number of systems to be purchased
  • Maturity of the system
  • Level of networking
  • Influence on other systems, e.g., through networks
  • Impact of the system on drug quality
  • Impact of the system on business continuity
  • Level of customization

Factors for vendor risk include

  • Size of company
  • Company history
  • Future outlook
  • Representation in target industry, e.g., Pharma
  • Experience with the vendor

Risk factors are estimated for the computer system (product) and the vendor and entered in table like in figure 4. 


Figure 4. Vendor Risk vs. Product Risk

Most critical is the red area with high product and high vendor risk. This scenario would require a vendor audit either through the user firm or through a trusted 3rd party.  On the other hand green areas could be handled by a one to two page document describing who the vendor and why you did select the vendor.

Vendors in the yellow area could be assessed through mail audits supported by good internal or external references. Results of the vendor audits should be documented following  a standardized ranking scheme. An example is shown in Table 2.

The results of the vendor assessment and any vendor audit should be well communicated within a company to avoid duplication of audits of the same vendor by different departments or sites. This can be achieved by developing a company wide repository with entries of all vendor assessment activities.  The whole process of vendor assessment and audits should be controlled by documented procedures.

Rating Meaning Interpretation
3 Excellent Vendor procedures and practices are above average
2 Adequate Vendor procedures and practices are about average
1 Poor Vendor procedures and practices are below average and need to be improved
0 Unsatisfactory Vendor procedures and practices are unacceptable
N/A Not Applicable Question is not applicable to the type of function or service

Installation Qualification

Installation qualification establishes that the computer system is received as designed and specified, that it is properly installed in the selected environment, and that this environment is suitable for the operation and use of the instrument.  The list below includes steps as recommended before and during installation.

Before installation

  • Obtain manufacturer's recommendations for installation site requirements.
  • Check the site for the fulfillment of the manufacturer’s recommendations (utilities such as electricity, water and gases and environmental conditions such as humidity, temperature, vibration level and dust).

During installation

  • Compare computer hardware and software, as received, with purchase order (including software, accessories, spare parts)
  • Check documentation for completeness (operating manuals, maintenance instructions, standard operating procedures for testing, safety and validation certificates)
  • Check computer hardware and peripherals for any damage
  • Install hardware (computer, peripherals, network devices, cables)
  • Install software on computer following the manufacturer’s recommendation
  • Verify correct software installation, e.g., are all files accurately copies on the computer hard disk. Utilities to do this should be included in the software itself.
  • Make back-up copy of software
  • Configure network devices and peripherals, e.g. printers and equipment modules
  • Identify and make a list with a description of all hardware, include drawings where appropriate, e.g., for networked data systems.
  • Make a list with a description of all software installed on the computer
  • Store configuration settings either electronically or on paper
  • List equipment manuals and SOPs
  • Prepare an installation report

Installation and installation qualification (IQ) of larger commercial system is normally performed by a supplier’s representative. Both the suppliers representative and a representative of the user’s form should sign off the IQ documents.

Operational Qualification

“Operational qualification(OQ) is the process of demonstrating that a computer system will function according to its functional specifications in the selected environment (

Before OQ testing is done, one should always consider what the computer system will be used for. There must a clear link between testing as part of OQ and requirement specifications as developed in DQ phase. Testing may be quite extensive if the computer system is complex and if there is little or no information from the supplier on what tests have been performed at the supplier’s site. Extent of testing should be based on a justified and documented risk assessment. Criteria are

  • Impact on product quality
  • Impact on business continuity
  • Complexity of system
  • Information from the vendor on type of tests and test environment
  • Level of customization  

Most extensive tests are necessary if the system has been developed for a specific user. In this case the user should test all functions. For commercial off-the-shelf systems that come with a validation certificate, only tests should be done of functions that are highly critical for the operation or that can be influenced by the environment. Examples are data acquisition over relatively long distance from analytical instruments at high acquisition rate.  Specific user configurations should also be tested, for example correct settings of IP addresses of network devices should be verified through connectivity testing.

Based on the risk factors above a system risk factor should be estimated. Extent of testing should be defined for each risk level in a risk management master plan or in the ‘risk’ section of the validation master plan. An example is shown in the table below. The level of customization is expressed through the GAMP Categories 3, 4, or 5. Category three is a standard software without customization and configuration setting. Category 4 is a configurable system and Category 5 a fully customized system. Extent of testing increases from the left lower site (low risk, standard system) to the right upper site (high risk, full customization).  

High risk Test critical functions.
Link tests to requirements.
Test critical standard functions.
Test all non standard functions
Link tests to requirements
Test critical standard functions.
Test all non standard functions
Link tests to requirements.
Medium risk Test critical functions. Test all critical standard and non standard functions
Link tests to requirements.
Test critical standard functions.
Test all non standard functions
Link tests to requirements.
Low risk No testing Test critical non standard functions Test critical non standard functions

Proper functioning of back-up and recovery and security functions like access control to the computer system and to data should also be tested.. Full OQ test should be performed before the system is used initially and at regular intervals, e.g., for chromatographic data systems about once a year and after major system updates. Partial OQ tests should be performed after minor system updates.

Tests should be quantitative. This means inspectors would not only expect a test protocol with test items and pass/fail information but also expected results, acceptance criteria and actual results. An example for a test protocol template is shown in figure 8.

Tests should be linked to requirement specifications through a test traceability matrix. A template for such a matrix is the table below should help to easily find a test protocol for a specific test requirement.

The matrix can be documented on paper format but for larger projects it is recommended to use electronic document management systems. This can range from simple Word tables to data bases and software specifically developed for managing traceability matrices.

Requirement Number Requirement Test ID
1.1 Example 1 4.1, 4.3
1.2 Example 2 1.2
1.3 Example 3 3.1
1.4 Example 4 3.1,  4.1

Performance Qualification

“Performance Qualification (PQ) is the process of demonstrating that a system consistently performs according to a specification appropriate for its routine use”. Important here is the word ‘consistently’. Important for consistent computer system performance are regular preventive maintenance, e.g., removal of temporary files and making changes to a system in a controlled manner and regular testing. 

In practice, PQ can mean testing the system with the entire application. For a computerized analytical system this can mean, for example, running system suitability testing, where critical key system performance characteristics are measured and compared with documented, preset limits. 

PQ activities normally can include

  • Complete system test to proof that the application works as intended. For example for a computerized analytical system this can mean running a well characterized sample through the system and compare the results with a result previously obtained.
  • Regression testing:  reprocessing of data files and compare the result with previous result
  • Regular removal of temporary files
  • Regular virus scan
  • Auditing computer systems

Most efficient is to use software for automated regression testing. The software runs typical data sets through a series of applications and calculates and stores the final result using processing parameters as defined by the user. During regression testing the data are processed again and results are compared with previously recorded results. Normally such tests don’t take more than five minutes but give assurance that they key functions of the system work as intended.


Configuration Management and Change Control


Any changes to specifications, programming codes or computer hardware should follow written procedures and be documented. Changes may be initiated because errors have been found in the program or because additional or different software functions or hardware may be desirable. Requests for changes should be submitted by users and authorized by the user’s supervisor or department manager. For initiation, authorization and documentation of changes forms should be used. An example is shown in figure 5.

Figure 5: Change Request Form

Most important is that changes should follow standard procedures for initiation, authorization, implementing, testing and documenting. All activities should be planned in the validation project plan and documented in the validation report.

After any changes the program should be tested. Full testing should be done for the part of the program that has been changed and regression testing should be done for the entire program.  

Validation Report and other Documents

Validation Report

When the validation project is completed a validation summary report should be generated by the system owner. The report documents the outcome of the validation project. The validation report should mirror the validation project plan and should include:

  • A brief description of the system.
  • identification of the system and all software versions that were tested.
  • Description of hardware used.
  • Major project activities.
  • Listing of test protocols, test results and conclusions.
  • Statement on system status prior to release. 
  • List of all major or critical issues and deviations with risk assessment and corrective actions. * Statement that all tasks have been performed as defined in the project plan.
  • Statement that validation has been performed according to the documented procedures.
  • Listing of all deliverables.
  • Final approval or rejection statement.

The validation report should be reviewed, approved and signed by QA and the system owner.

Standard Operating Procedures

Validation activities should be performed according to written procedures. Generic procedures should be taken from the corporate SOP list. System specific procedures should be developed for the system to be validated. Labcompliance has examples for most of the procedures. They are indicated by S-Numbers (S-xxx) in the list below and are either included in the Computer System Validation Package, or can be ordered from the labcompliance SOP website.

Procedures should be available under the same or a similar title as follows:

  1. Training for GxP, 21 CFR Part 11 and Computer Validation (S-125).
  2. Risk Assessment for Systems Used in GxP Environments (S-134).
  3. Validation of Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Computer Systems (S-271).
  4. Validation of Macro Programs and Other Application Software (S-263).
  5. Risk-Based Validation of Computer Systems (S-252).
  6. Development of User Requirement Specifications for Computers (S-253).
  7. Quality Assessment of Software and Computer System Suppliers (S-274).
  8. Auditing Software Suppliers: Preparation, Conduct, Follow-up (S-273).
  9. Development and Maintenance of Test Scripts for Equipment Hardware, Software and Systems (S-237).
  10. Handling of Problems with Software and Computer Systems.
  11. Data Back-Up and Restore (S-317).
  12. Disaster Recovery of Computer Systems (S-319).
  13. Archiving and Retrieval of GMP Data and Other Documents (S-162).
  14. Access Control to Computer Systems and Data (S-320).
  15. Configuration Management and Version Control of Software (S-259).
  16. Change Control of Software and Computer Systems (S-262).
  17. Revalidation of Software and Computer Systems (S-260).
  18. Retention and Archiving of Electronic Records (S-315).
  19. Qualification of PC Clients (S-289).
  20. Retirement of Computer Systems (S-261). 21. Review of Computer Systems.
  21. Auditing Computer Systems (S-272)


Checklists should help to verify that validation tasks are identified and performed. However, some validation tasks are specific for specific systems. Therefore going through checklists does not mean that everything is covered for each system nor does it mean that all checklist items are applicable for every system. Labcompliance has examples for checklists related to computer system validation. They are indicated by E-Numbers (E-xxx) in the list below and are either included in the Computer System Validation Package, or can be ordered from the labcompliance Examples website.

Examples are checklists for:

  1. Commercial Off-the-Shelf Computer Systems (E-160).
  2. Assessment of Software Vendors (E-255).
  3. User Requirement Specifications for Software and Computer Systems (E-153).

Templates and Validation Examples

Templates are useful to effectively follow and document validation tasks and results. Validation examples help to get adequate information on how to conduct validation and to prepare deliverables. Labcompliance has templates and examples for validation tasks. They are indicated by E-Numbers (E-xxx) in the list below and are either included in the Computer System Validation Package:  or can be ordered from the labcompliance Examples website.

Such documentation can include templates/examples for:

  1. Requirement Specifications for Chromatographic Data Systems (E-255).
  2. Requirement Specifications for Excel Applications (E-268).
  3. User Requirement Specifications - 20 Good/Bad Examples (E-308).
  4. Computer System and Network Identification (E-326).
  5. Template/Examples: Test Protocol For Excel™ Spreadsheet Application (with traceability matrix): Includes 12 test scripts examples for functional testing, boundary testing, out of range testing and test traceability matrices: tests vs. specifications, specifications vs. test cases and test summary sheet (E-358).
  6. Testing of Authorized System Access (E-362).
  7. MD5 Checksum File Integrity Check Software with Validation Documentation: DQ, IQ, OQ, PQ (E-306).  

Links to Other Websites 

Expert Advice on Selected Topics

Working with the FDA

A good relationship with industry and FDA has always been my highest priority. Most issues between industry and FDA can be resolved by having a good understanding of each others position. Personal visits to FDA's centers in Rockville, panel discussions at public conferences, joint industry/FDA workshops and having FDA and industry guest speakers in the Labcompliance audio seminars helped a lot to get a real good understanding on both positions, and to get an insight on what's coming.

The examples below show interactions with the FDA.


Ludwig Huber and Paul Lepore, FDA's 'Father of GLP' during a GLP Workshop in Tokyo.

Paul Lepore told the audience how they should prepare for a GLP inspection and what inspectors will ask.

Ludwig Huber explained how to implement computer validation in GLP environment.
Nick Buhay, Acting Director in FDA/CDER's Division of Manufacturing and Product Quality, and Ludwig Huber in the Q&A Discussion Session on Laboratory Compliance

Ludwig Huber was on conference program's Part 11 panel discussion with FDA's the Joseph Famulare, Acting Director, Office of Compliance, CDER.

Dennis Cantellops (right) , QA manager at the FDA Labs in Puerto Rico, and author of FDA's Excel Bulletins  spoke at Ludwig Huber's Excel audio seminar as guest speaker.
2005 and in 2009
Ludwig Huber has been asked to review FDA's internal SOP and Lab Information Bulletin on Spreadsheet Validation.

FDA acknowledged Ludwig Huber's contribution in the LIB
Thomas S. Savage, Senior Coordinator at FDA's Office of Regulatory Affairs,  told the audience that he took quite a lot of material from Ludwig Huber's Labcompliance website. He also said that he regularly visits this website when he wants to learn about news on FDA inspections.
Ludwig Huber in an joint industry/FDA panel discussion at the IVT Part11 conference in Washington DC:  From right to left: Martin Browning, fEduQuest Inc, Paul Motise, US FDA, Kathryn Davidson. Baxter Healthcare, INC, and Ludwig Huber fAgilent, 1999
Ludwig Huber (middle) with FDA's Paul Motise (second from left) and the speaker panel at an IVT conference in Washington (2002). Other speakers, from right to left: Chris Reid, Rebecca Fuller Heyde, and Jeff Beck

Video Clips with FDA Management are on the Lab Compliance Website

FDA management explained FDA's 21st Century Drug cGMP initiative and the impact on Part 11

Mark B. McClellan, MD., PhD; Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Janet Woodcock, MD. ; CDER Director David Horowitz, Director of CDER's Office of Compliance, Joseph Famulare, Director, Div. of Manufacturing & Product Quality Office of Compliance, CDER/FDA

Ludwig Huber (right) and John Murray, FDA, (left), speaking at the IVT Computer System Validation Conference

George Smith, FDA's national Part11 expert, at a panel discussion with Ludwig Huber during an IVT conference 2005

Smith and Huber discussed and answered questions about computer system validation and e-records.
Ludwig Huber (right) in a panel discussion with FDA inspectors and directors:
 Dr. Robert C. Horan, B Erik Henrikson,Joseph Famulare,  and Nicholas Buhay, Acting Director in FDA/CDERs Division of Manufacturing and Product Quality.

Ludwig Huber (right) with Dr. Robert C. Horan,  FDA, Nicholas Buhay,  and Joseph Famulare, in the joint SINO-SFDA-US FDA cGMP /workshop