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Ensure the Health of Your Information with a Backup Plan

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The following is a guest post by Aidan Finley.

Aidan Finley, Backup Exec Product Marketing Manager, has been with Symantec for 16 years, concentrating on data protection. He has extensive experience implementing, creating, and designing data protection solutions as part of the Backup Exec software engineering and product management teams, prior to joining Product Marketing.

Like overworked parents with their children, healthcare facilities can be so caught up in serving their patients that it’s easy to overlook their own needs. Keeping the business healthy will enable better service, and one of the most important areas requiring focus today is information. With the deadline approaching for electronic health records system adoption, and ever-increasing regulations regarding personal health information, the industry is beginning to take notice of the need for better information management. What is still missing, however, is sufficient discussion among healthcare entities on the need for backup as part of an overall data plan.

For most businesses, implementing a backup solution (and using it on a regular basis) is like going to the doctor for a regular checkup. We don’t typically go to the doctor unless something is wrong with us. But just as a doctor would tell you that eating right and exercising would be excellent advice to prevent a heart attack, waiting until patient data is lost or stolen before implementing a backup plan is unwise.

Several ongoing trends in technology are making the need for information protection even more apparent. The first is that threats to information continue to rapidly evolve, and are not only being directed at large enterprises – in fact, in the first half of 2012, more than one-third of all targeted attacks were directed at businesses with fewer than 250 employees. Mobile devices are also having an impact on information security, as more employees use devices such as smartphones and tablets to access business information, including patient data. The result is that a large amount of information is being stored and accessed from outside the business, creating potential data loss and compliance issues.

Meanwhile, the adoption of electronic health records is changing the IT side of healthcare even more, giving clinicians and staff members access to more information in more ways. But while this presents new challenges in security and compliance, it is also an opportunity to implement an effective backup program as preventive care for the business. As you look for a backup solution that will meet your facility’s needs, consider the following:

Keep it simple: With more disparate technologies than ever used by companies to access their information, there are a large number of backup products that are specifically designed for different environments – one for traditional computers, one for tablets, another for smartphones and yet another for virtual desktops or servers. In order to keep backup tasks and costs manageable (and increase the likelihood that you will perform regular backups), look for an integrated solution that will keep your information safe regardless of the environment or device from which it is being accessed.

Rethink retention: Industry regulations demand that you retain information for a certain period of time, but too many businesses have a “save everything forever” mentality that leads to increased storage costs and challenges organizing their information. Look for a backup solution that will allow you to search effectively for eDiscovery requests and set policies regarding the expiration of information.

Keep it safe: In the healthcare industry it is critically important to ensure patient files are kept safe from prying eyes.  Data protection solutions often include encryption capabilities that are required by regulation; ensure your data protection solution can includes strong encryption and can safely encrypt data whenever that data is backed up, moved, or stored.

Go for speed: A recent survey conducted by Symantec revealed that nearly three-quarters of businesses would switch their backup products if it doubled their speed. And while we tend to think of backups as slow, resource-intensive processes, the latest generation of solutions is much better at performing fast backup and recovery tasks.

Find the right platform: There are three basic types of backup solutions: software, appliance and cloud/hosted. Backup solutions are available in three different deployments: software, appliance and cloud.

  • Backup software allows you to retain your information on the premises, which makes compliance easier and helps speed information recovery time. It can also be used with existing infrastructure elements. The flip side is that someone on-site is required to set up and manage the backup on an ongoing basis.
  • Appliances provide the same on-site retention and recovery abilities, in an all-in-one machine that contains both the hardware and software. This works well for businesses with more limited IT staff, and especially in remote office deployments. Unifying the software and hardware also allows for efficiency as both are updated together.
  • Cloud-based backups work best for businesses that have no onsite IT staff or where their time is limited. This model provides continuous backup of files, hosted offsite by a secure service provider. This eliminates the need to work with hardware or software onsite, as it is all done through a Web-based interface. Cloud-based backup also works well for multi-site businesses, creating a unified backup resource.

The key is to stop putting it off and begin now to create a plan for protecting business information. Regardless of how much we try to limit the information we create, most organizations are having to deal with increasing information even as budgets shrink. Backup shouldn’t be a luxury, especially for the healthcare industry where data loss can have severe consequences. Consider your organization’s needs and evaluate your options, then choose the best backup tool for your business. A backup a day keeps information loss away.

October 31, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 14 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Dell’s Healthcare IT Solutions

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I found this article which described a number of the offerings that Dell has offered to help Healthcare IT. I’m sure this could sound a lot like a sales pitch for Dell. It’s not intended to be a sales pitch for Dell. In fact, most of the solutions are being offered through Dell partners like Symantec, VMWare, Citrix, etc. I’d caution that you should look around since you can certainly find the exact same products from other sales channels than Dell. As always, it’s best to look around when purchasing any of the products described below.

What I did find interesting was all of the various types of packages that Dell and its partners are trying to offer to healthcare IT. My big question for you, is how can we ever keep up with all these cool technologies?

The following are snippets of the article linked above. I’ll add my commentary in italics below each section.

Dell Mobile Clinical Computing Solution

Among the new offerings announced is Dell Mobile Clinical Computing Solutions. This lets physicians access patients’ records from any terminal using smart cards and Symantec’s (Nasdaq: SYMC) Workspace Corporate product for single sign-on and secure authentication.

This capability is not entirely new, however. Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: JAVA) has offered roaming capabilities using smart cards and single sign-on access through its Sun Ray technology, both in the U.S. and worldwide, for several years now. U.S. Sun Ray customers in the healthcare field include Denver Health, which provides healthcare for a quarter of all residents of Denver, Colo.

Smart Cards are interesting to talk about and interesting to see in action, but I just personally have never been fond of trying to manage smart cards. They’re expensive and prone to be lost. Can someone else make the case for them? I’d be interested to hear it.

On-Demand Desktop Streaming

Another element of Dell’s new lineup is On-Demand Desktop Streaming. This is for stationary environments where data management and security are critical. Virtual disk images will be streamed to desktops. This enhances security because users get a new, pristine image every time they boot up.

While Dell partners with VMware (NYSE: VMW), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Citrix (Nasdaq: CTXS) for virtualization, it’s likely that Citrix has been picked for this solution, as it is based on streaming images to the desktop.

On demand desktop streaming is a really cool concept. I think that in the next 2 years, the thin client on the desktop will become a major reality. Of course, I think this really only applies to large scale implementations that can benefit from the savings of virtualization and thin clients. Small offices will still be buying the regular old desktops. I don’t know what Dell will do, but I see VMWare becoming the dominate player in this space and Citrix losing some of its hold.

Virtual Remote Desktop

Virtual Remote Desktop offers centralized control and management of end-user devices while enabling personalized end-user desktops, access from any device — whether within our outside the corporate firewall — and session mobility, where a single desktop session can follow the user from one device to another.

The solution was developed in collaboration with Citrix. It consists of Citrix XenServer Dell Edition; Citrix Desktop Delivery Controller; Citrix Secure Gateway; and Citrix Provisioning Server.

This sounds like the idea of taking the desktop to your mobile phone. The mobile phone is getting there now with 3G speeds. I’d like to see this work. I’m afraid it’s still not going to be as nice as using a desktop.

Dell, Perot and the Cloud

In addition to Mobile Clinical Computing, Dell is teaming up with Perot Systems to provide virtualized desktop, storage, server and electronic health records on-premise, hosted off-site or in secure private clouds.

Perot also works with other major vendors in healthcare IT, such as IBM (NYSE: IBM) , HP (NYSE: HPQ) and Sun. “We’re vendor-agnostic,” Moss said. “We work with whatever’s best for the client.”

I don’t know anything about Perot systems, but it sounds interesting. I might have to learn more. Anyone else ever used Perot systems before that can tell me what it’s like?

May 1, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 14 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.