Healthcare providers invest in cloud storage

The cloud provides many options to healthcare organizations.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services procured additional cloud storage in the days leading up to the launch of the healthcare.gov insurance portal. HHS made this move in the hopes that it would ensure the website’s ability to handle tens of thousands of concurrent users.

While healthcare.gov went on to experience significant issues after going live Oct. 1, 2013, HHS’s increasing interest in cloud storage underscore the growing importance of remotely hosted resources to the healthcare industry. Making the most of the cloud requires not only a reputable service provider and scalable infrastructure, but also system restore software to protect endpoints and minimize support costs. This solution enables administrators to quickly eliminate malware and mitigate the impact of crashes.

Department of Health and Human Services purchased additional cloud storage last year
Last September, HHS purchased nearly $9 million of emergency cloud computing power. Stress tests on healthcare.gov had revealed that the website could handle only about 10,000 concurrent users, much less than the 50,00 visitors that it anticipated during peak periods.

Given healthcare.gov’s Oct. 1 launch date, the addition was definitely last-minute, and administrators may not have had sufficient time to optimize the system for the heavy traffic loads that it eventually experienced. Costs for managing related cloud resources nearly quadrupled between 2011, when contracts were first awarded, and last October.

Still, the problematic launch was likely just a bump in the road as more healthcare services are moved to the cloud. HHS, hospitals and insurers already plan to simulate real-time information sharing in the event that healthcare.gov is compromised, and penetration testing continues on the site as the U.S. executive branch tries to assure Congress that patient data is safe in the cloud.

Hospitals and other providers integrate more cloud services
The evolution of healthcare.gov illustrates how the healthcare sector is gradually coming to terms with the cloud’s increasingly central role in operations. A prominent U.S. provider, Yale New Haven Hospital, recently updated its private cloud with sophisticated software-defined storage technology.

The new setup dramatically cuts down on I/O bottlenecks, enabling the hospital to define its storage needs and then efficiently scale its IT operations. It also streamlined costs, meeting even Yale’s ambitious budgetary requirements, and allowed employees to take advantage of thousands of new virtual desktops.

It’s possible that more organizations could follow suit once the global economy fully recovers. The late 2000s recession interrupted some planned IT projects, but these initiatives could soon get back on track and help companies modernize and scale operations. Businesses such as broadcasters stand to benefit from cloud deployments that could ease the transition from legacy technologies to digital content.

For now, healthcare providers may hold off on fully public cloud deployments due to data security concerns. Instead, they’ll likely turn to private or hybrid arrangements.

“A lot of firms right now are looking at cloud storage as a concept and seeing if it is suitable,” stated Gartner analyst Roger Cox. “Amazon [Web Services] is good for test and development and archiving data that you don’t want to access immediately, for example.”

Indeed, the cloud’s impact is widespread, with one poll of IT professionals finding that it was the most important trend of 2013, outranking even big data and the PRISM surveillance revelations. Companies can ensure that their IT departments are ready for further cloud integration by using reboot to restore software that makes it easier to save costs and maintain business continuity. Administrators can automate recovery and restore operations, obviating the need for costly IT support operations and making PCs indestructible in the face of crashes, glitches and malware.

Scott Cornell

When he’s not knee deep in blogging and all things tech, Scott spends his free time playing ultimate Frisbee and watching foreign films. An expert in emerging tech trends, Scott always has his ear to ground for breaking news related to IT security.