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Utilizing Cloud Backup for Minimal HIT Infrastructure Downtime

Zetta CEO Mike Grossman discusses the benefits of cloud-based backup and recovery solutions for healthcare organizations.

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- Backing up and recovering clinical data securely and easily during an outage is a top challenge for healthcare organizations.  Cloud backup and recovery solutions can bring security to health IT infrastructure by ensuring the latest data is saved and that organizations are never left without their data and applications for more than a few minutes.

Equipment failure, power loss, natural disasters, or human error can make it necessary for organizations to recover their data quickly. Organizations left without an efficient backup and disaster solution as part of their health IT infrastructure, may be down for days without access to vital clinical data.

“Where backup and recovery is particularly stark is when being down directly impacts the business,” Zetta CEO Mike Grossman told HITInfrastructure.com. “It’s a significant issue in the context of healthcare where people’s lives are involved. The real issue is, what happens when something goes wrong, what do you do to recover the data, and how quickly can you be up and running again?”

To ensure an organization is capable of quickly coming back online in the event of an outage, the IT infrastructure needs to be assessed for a distinction between data backup and recoverability.

Backing up clinical data is when organizations collect data in on-premise or cloud servers so it is not lost during an outage. Data backup is a prerequisite of recovery and does not ensure that an organization can come back online quickly.

“Some healthcare organizations have hardware as the primary form of backup, and store their clinical data on physical servers. There isn’t an easy mechanism to get the backed-up data off the premises and on-premise machines aren’t really protected if there is some sort of significant physical event,” Grossman pointed out.

No matter how data is stored, recoverability is the most important factor of disaster recovery. However it can be challenging whether the data is stored on-premise or in the cloud.

“Recoverability is one of the key challenges for organizations,” Grossman stressed. “Even if the data is stored in an off-premise cloud server, being able to restore the data rapidly ends up being a challenge. When organizations have backup solutions, they don’t really have a good way of recovering data, or in the disaster recovery context, recover their applications.”

According to Grossman, leveraging the cloud is the best way to get data and applications back up and running during an outage.  

“In the past year healthcare organizations that have historically been reluctant to leverage the cloud are shifting to the cloud,” Grossman observed. “The biggest piece of advice for healthcare organizations implementing advanced backup and recovery solutions would be to consider a cloud solution. Legacy solutions tend to have hidden costs and are hard to manage which makes it difficult to get up and running when something goes wrong. If you’re a healthcare organization and you can’t be down, cloud recovery is a very attractive solution.”

While organizations across all industries face backup and recovery challenges, HIPAA compliance is a particular challenge for healthcare organizations looking to backup and recover their data in the cloud.

“The biggest difference between backup recovery in healthcare vs other industries is that the data is so inherently private and you have the whole layer of HIPAA compliance. There are some similarities with other sectors, like the financial space for example, where it’s not just data, it’s data that needs to be absolutely safeguarded in a significant way,” Grossman explained.

“Healthcare more than any other sector has that sensitivity related to data,” he continued. “If you want to provide solutions in the healthcare space you have to be absolutely rock solid when it comes to issues of compliance.”

Vendors that offer HIPAA compliant backup and disaster recovery solutions to healthcare organizations are dealt the difficult task of completing audits periodically to ensure their solutions are compliant.

“We have to build a lot of functionalities and safeguards and it’s a big investment, but security, reliability and privacy need to be safeguarded in a way which is demanded and legally required, said Grossman.

For healthcare organizations seeking disaster recovery solutions, Grossman advices entities to periodically test their solutions to ensure they work as expected when an actual outage occurs.

“In the context of disaster recovery, one of the key issues is how much testing is done and how do you know it works?” he noted. “In some cases, healthcare organizations have disaster recovery solutions but that alone is not a great way to know if they actually work.”

Cloud-based backup and disaster solutions that are frequently tested put IT administrators at ease knowing that their organization can be up and running very quickly, with minimal impact on clinicians and patients.