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Will Multi-Cloud Gain Traction in Health IT Infrastructure?

Multi-cloud infrastructure is gaining momentum in IT infrastructure and may benefits healthcare analytics and data sharing.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

Healthcare data is no longer limited to on-premise servers as cloud storage continues to gain a firm foothold in the healthcare industry. Cloud storage exists in many forms, but not every cloud storage service option is the right fit for each organization’s unique health IT infrastructure needs.

Multi-cloud for healthcare.

Hybrid and multi-cloud service options strategically store data using multiple resources, allowing organizations to benefit from multiple data storage and access solutions.

According to research analyst firm Gartner, nearly half of large enterprises will have some variation of hybrid cloud deployment by the end of 2017. “IT needs to understand where agility could make a difference in current services and understand what new services would be useful if provided with agility,” said Vice President and analyst Thomas Bittman.

Adding a hybrid or multi-cloud solution brings agility and flexibility to a data storage solution by giving organization more than one place to store and access data.

Hybrid cloud storage is not a new concept in cloud computing and has attracted many an organization hesitant to migrate all its data to one cloud service provider. Hybrid cloud storage refers to a storage strategy that uses more than one cloud service model (e.g., public, private) or a combination of cloud and physical server storage.

Multi-cloud storage is similar to hybrid storage, but uses multiple clouds to perform different tasks. Hybrid storage uses more than one cloud or server option, accessing data that is blended together between two or more infrastructure hosting solutions. Here’s the main difference between hybrid and multi-cloud storage: Multi-cloud storage uses different cloud service models or providers for data because different clouds are better suited for different tasks.

The multi-cloud service model is expanding rapidly across enterprises, with the multi-cloud management market expected to grow from $939.3 million in 2016 to $3.431 billion by 2021 according to MarketsandMarkets. Avoiding vendor lock-ins, increasing agility and automation, and achieving the right level of governance are expected to increase growth. Organizations may find they prefer multi-cloud to hybrid cloud technology.

A 2016 reportCollaborative and Secure Sharing of Healthcare Data in Multi-Clouds — outlines the need for cloud technology in healthcare and why multi-cloud technology may be beneficial.

“Cloud computing technology perfectly matches ‘big data’ challenges by providing nearly unlimited storage resources on demand,” the report states. “In healthcare, it is also gaining particular popularity by facilitating an inter-organizational medical data sharing environment.”

Data sharing among healthcare organizations for analytics purposes is one of the top factors for healthcare institutions considering multi-cloud.

“In [multi-cloud] architecture, medical records are created, maintained and retrieved by authorized users in cooperating health centers,” the report continued. “Mediating multi-cloud proxies will distribute and retrieve encrypted medical records to and from multiple data clouds in parallel.”

Separating data based on user access groups plays a large role in cloud computing models, such as virtualization, giving users access only to the data they need.

“In order to provide selective sharing of data among diļ¬€erent groups of users, multi-cloud supports role-based access policies for selected attributes or sections of a medical record, enforced by attribute-based encryption,” the authors of the report add.

Users cite HIPAA compliance as one of the top cloud security cautions when looking into new cloud computing options. According to the HIPAA Omnibus Rule, “a data storage company that has access to protected health information (whether digital or hard copy) qualifies as a business associate, even if the entity does not view the information or only does so on a random or infrequent basis.”

Organizations using multiple cloud vendors for multi-cloud infrastructure need to assure that they are all HIPAA compliant, which takes up valuable time and resources.

As multi-cloud infrastructure continues to rise, healthcare organizations should consider it, especially if they plan on sharing electronic health data with other healthcare organizations. Multi-cloud does not make physical servers obsolete, but it allows organizations to store data using different methods tailored to specific data and how it is used.

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