Healthcare Cloud Migration Challenges, Strategies for Success

Taking steps to ensure that healthcare cloud data is protected during migration will prevent compatibility issues and data loss.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

Migrating data from one storage type to another is no small task for healthcare organizations. Choosing a new storage method or upgrading an existing one involves moving all existing data from one location (physical or digital) to another.

Healthcare cloud data migration challenges.

Organizations moving their data from one storage type to another face challenges including periods of downtime capable of disrupting daily user activity and added strain on IT departments. After deciding to migrate data from one method to another, it is critical to ensure the migration will not be interrupted.

Transferring massive amounts of data is a risk for any enterprise environment, even more so for healthcare. In all likelihood, protected health information (PHI) is moving from an on-premise server to the cloud or from one cloud storage service model to another. Any interruptions or compatibility issues between old and new data storage types can expose sensitive data to risk, such as loss or theft.

Mapping out a clear cloud migration strategy with a realistic timeline will eliminate many possible malfunctions caused by the transition. Rushing through the process and migrating too soon can disrupt translational efforts. IT departments need to take time to meet regularly to discuss project progress and goals. Additionally, some IT staff may need training in the new areas such as the management and maintenance of the new storage method. Every organization is different and requires a unique migration plan.

Some third-party tools can assist in transitioning healthcare data storage methods, but no tool can be used to handle the entire process. Most large vendors — Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, etc. — will duplicate the environment when transitioning data, which is a common feature of most cloud service vendors. Duplication keeps user downtime minimal and the infrastructure available while data is migrated.

Taking inventory of current applications and checking their compatibility with the new cloud provider is the critical first step in a new migration. Organizations will likely have to schedule a meeting with their new cloud vendor to ensure all applications will be accepted without reconfiguration.

Applications used by public cloud service models are unlikely to have compatibility issues, but custom apps built for the private cloud may experience challenges that needing assessment. Organizations moving from private to public or hybrid cloud service storage may need to take additional time to ensure custom apps will migrate successfully.

Typically, organizations migrating from on-premise servers to cloud must redesign custom apps slightly to be cloud-aware so users will get the full benefit of the cloud when the service becomes operational.

Organizations moving to cloud or different cloud service models must also keep an eye on automated security policies. VPN configurations and other security protocols require transitioning over to the new storage method so that the IT department has the same level of control over user access and remote access if those policies are already in place.

Remote and mobile policies may also require amending or updating to ensure network access remains secure and efficient, and end users need information about mobile and remote policy changes.

Cloud service migration may require more network bandwidth than currently implemented by an organization. Considering how much bandwidth is needed during peak hours, organizations may have to expand their wireless network or upgrade wireless capabilities before migrating their data.

Electronic health information and health information exchange make cloud storage migration a sensible choice for healthcare organizations. While all an organization’s data doesn’t need to be stored in the cloud, having the most used applications and files stored on a cloud server should result in streamlined management and user convenience.

Proper planning prior to migration protects organizations from common technical issues and data loss that can occur when compatibility issues are otherwise left unresolved until after the migration is complete.

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