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Choosing a Healthcare IT Cloud Infrastructure Provider: Location and Storage

Once you’ve decided to move to the cloud, the next step is choosing a cloud infrastructure provider that’s a good fit for your healthcare organization. With the myriad options available, narrowing down the choices can be overwhelming. What makes one provider better than another? Some of the first things to consider when choosing a cloud provider are the location of its data center and the storage capacity available.

Determining Location

There are a number of questions to address to help you establish what will work best for your organization. Where does the cloud provider you’re considering house its servers? Are they all in one place? Are they distributed? Are they in areas free from natural disasters? If not, what measures are in place to protect them from disasters such as floods, fires, storms and earthquakes? A cloud provider with geographically dispersed data centers offers the most advantages, including remote backup, fail over capabilities and redundancy in the case of a disaster or power failure in one location. And more than likely, one of the data centers is in a location known for few natural disasters. If the provider has two data centers and both are located in the same area, that could be problematic in the event of a natural disaster or power outage. Research the company to ensure it’s established and reliable. Read testimonials from users. Verify that your data will indeed be stored at the provider’s facility and not outsourced somewhere else. Make sure that fire prevention measures and cooling systems are in place. Redundant power feeds are another important consideration and benefit.

Examining Storage Capabilities

When deciding on a cloud provider, you also need to determine your storage requirements. What storage capacity is available — especially when you need to scale your infrastructure to accommodate more applications and services? Can you add users to your account if and when needed? Do you require dedicated servers for your operations? Will your data be accessible by any other party? How available is the network? HIPAA requires that personal health information data be protected. Ensure that your cloud partner can provide that protection. Learn what security measures are in place to keep your data from falling into the wrong hands. Are security personnel posted on-site? According to Verizon’s 2011 Data Breach Investigations Report, almost one-third of all data breaches occurred at locations without physical security guards. It’s also imperative for the healthcare industry that your storage area network have high availability, as health issues can arise at all hours of the day and night that may require access to patient records. Confirm that your cloud provider can have a technician in place within six hours of a hardware failure to perform necessary repairs. It’s a good idea to choose a cloud provider that offers different cloud model options: private, public and hybrid clouds. That way, if your needs change as your company matures, you won’t have to transition to a different cloud provider.