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Why hospitals should consider off-site backup to cloud services

Sean Harnett, Assistant Director of Network Services, INHS/Engage

With each day that passes, hospitals are finding it increasingly difficult to manage and protect burgeoning amounts of patient data. Sophisticated healthcare applications, data-intensive technologies, new IoT sensors, increased use of medical imaging, and mobile devices are generating more patient data that ever before. This, combined with stringent regulations mandating secure, long-term records retention and limited budgets makes it harder than ever for mid-sized hospitals to manage and contain cost, which unfortunately is often reflected in quality of patient care.

Faced with ever increasing amounts of data, hospitals that have traditionally relied on traditional tape-based backup now find themselves watching time and cost associate with the creation, management, transportation and storage skyrocket. Many IT decision-makers find themselves considering purpose built backup appliances (PBBAs) but quickly find this means purchasing expensive, redundant boxes with limited scalability outside of sizing up to the next appliance. Software ties across hardware lines also means that vendor lock-in limits future choice, a difficult consideration for forward-thinking IT managers who understand the value inherent in the freedom of choice.

These industry challenges, as well as increased layers of complexity and expense are forcing hospital administrators to literally think outside of the box.  Just as a pearl is created by pressure, a new generation of hospitals is emerging as a result of increased pressure to skillfully move, manage and protect data. These new hospitals will gracefully navigate through their ever growing data lakes, analyzing trends in patient outcomes, offering single patient records that can be updated in real time and increasing collaboration with the larger medical community.

This is a critical time for IT decision-makers within the hospital system, as they need to decide if they will stay anchored to the past or embrace backup to the cloud services.

The hospital IT decision-makers brave enough to move forward and embrace cloud storage will be almost instantly rewarded by reduced cost and complexity. They will find the cloud-enabled backup and recovery services are easy to integrate, simple to manage and highly secure at a fraction of what traditional PBBA or tape-based backup costs. This savings can grow to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on size of hospital or clinic.

Once a hospital has decided to move to cloud, the IT administer is faced with an even more difficult decision.  How to do it in a safe, efficient, cost-effective way without downtime or loss of patient data.

To mitigate the risk of moving patient data to the cloud, hospitals can either build their own cloud with an established vendor, or consider working with a provider who offers off-site, back-up-to-cloud services specifically for hospitals and clinics facing backup-to-tape challenges. These providers will not only understand the hospital’s needs, but also have experience with data encryption necessary to keep data safe. 

As hospitals evaluate cloud providers, it is also important to review the underlying technology, the very foundation of the cloud, to determine if the provider is using tried and tested vendors or new suppliers that can often over promise and under deliver. If possible, the provider should understand the value of the data fabric, and be ready to create a solution capable of moving, managing and protecting data from flash to disk to cloud.

Once the hospital administrators experience how easy it is to restore data, how little intervention is needed and how encryption keeps critical patient safe regardless of location, they will wonder why it took them so long to migrate to the cloud. 

How INHS/Engage reduces time, cost and risk associated with backup to cloud

Engage, the technology division of nonprofit Inland Northwest Health Services (INHS), realized its tape-based backup services were taking significant time and cost to create, manage, transport, and store. In order to continue provide its customers with the most cost-effective data protection possible, Engage teamed with NetApp, to create a secure backup solution with seamless integration to the cloud. Not only did the pilot offer a fast, simple, and cost-effective backup in Engage’s MEDITECH environment, it laid the groundwork for a new off-site back-up-to-cloud service for hospitals and clinics facing similar backup-to-tape challenges. 

Today, NetApp AltaVault cloud-integrated storage supports cloud-enabled backup and recovery services that are easy to integrate, simple to manage, and highly secure. AltaVault also helps Engage offer those services for a fraction of what traditional PBBAs or tape-based backups cost. Paired with even new data center deployments (such as a cutting-edge NetApp FAS8000 series storage system running the NetApp clustered Data ONTAP operating system within Engage’s hosting environment), Engage makes it easier than ever for a growing roster of customers to confidently begin their journey to the cloud.