Due to regulations, security concerns, and challenging application environments, Healthcare adoption of cloud and cloud services has been slow and cautious. Recent issues with EHR software company EPIC abandoning their arrangement with Google Cloud in January 2020 further highlights those concerns. Other EHRs, like Allscripts, are pushing clients towards their own cloud services for future implementations and potential upgrades.
Like most companies, healthcare companies have substantial investments in infrastructure and customizations on their platforms. As a result, a hybrid cloud solution for healthcare is becoming a common approach.
Hybrid solutions bring a crucial challenge – healthcare organizations’ highly complex integration points between the various software products. Utilizing a high-quality colocation provider can simplify hybrid cloud deployments as corporate built data centers often don’t have sufficient infrastructure for complex hybrid environments.
Benefits of Colocation
Connectivity: In a hybrid model, connectivity becomes even more crucial as data transmits to multiple cloud providers for potentially single transactions. High-quality colocation providers offer secure and multi-vendor on-net services – no local-loop connectivity between the colocation facility and cloud providers. Not only does on-net reduce costs, but it also reduces network hops and simplifies connectivity troubleshooting.
Insider Tip: Be sure to investigate the on-net connectivity of the data centers your company researches. The quantity and quality vary widely – some offering just a few while others offer a wide array of network providers. Also, evaluate the internet connectivity options as many cloud providers offer VPN connectivity as a secondary connection.
Hybrid Management Solutions: Some colocation providers offer cloud management solutions as an add-on service. Some of these are managed by the provider, while others provide software licenses to their client. Either of these solutions can often reduce troubleshooting and management time of cloud and integration resources.
Expensive Real Estate: As companies expand their usage of cloud offerings, typically their usage of data center space decreases. Maximizing healthcare real estate for patient care is critical as each bed/clinical room equals potential revenue. Additionally, health care organizations have significant equipment and secure storage requirements. Completely removing data center equipment from internal space can save substantial costs or even increase revenue when that space is re-allocated to other uses.
Security: The physical security available from a high-quality colocation provider is substantially better than the vast majority of health care environments. Physical security is critical for colocation providers resulting in stringent entry requirements and tracking. Escorted guards, mantraps, pre-notification are colocation provider best practices that are rarely implemented by health care providers due as they are expensive (Note – the vast majority of companies do not deploy these measures).
Perceived Colocation Challenges
What about Performance?
Some IT organizations, especially with high-bandwidth applications like imaging, believe or have experienced situations where distance affects application performance. Sometimes these situations are legitimate but often can be resolved within the application itself or via technology, such as bandwidth optimization.
Insider Tip: Don’t just evaluate local colocation centers. To find the highest quality data center provider, evaluate at a regional level. Consider the locations of the user base and performance/configuration characteristics of the most critical applications.
Isn’t Remote IT Management More Difficult?
Management of IT infrastructure is different than local management – but it isn’t difficult. Reducing or eliminating physical access to devices except at installation and decommission takes planning and detailed execution. Nearly all modern devices offer out-of-band remote management capabilities – a requirement for remote situations. Setting up and maintaining a secure and isolated management network for these out-of-band is not difficult but does require planning and diligence.
Aren’t Colocation Providers Expensive?
Evaluating the costs of colocation providers can be complicated. Rack costs, power costs, and network connectivity are just some of the cost components. Often companies compare internal costs with colocation assuming that power and cooling densities are the same when they are dramatically different. The value of additional security and reutilizing current corporate space are additional factors often not considered in cost comparisons. Full cost and provider comparisons are necessary to find the best colocation provider – and often, the findings are surprisingly economical.
Insider Tip – While researching data center facilities, do not assume lower quality or lower-tiered providers are cheaper. Many factors go into the costs of building and maintaining a data center, and often the highest quality can be delivered at the lowest cost.
Hybrid models add integration complexity for health care environments. Choosing a high-quality colocation provider can be a tremendous benefit in a hybrid cloud solution – primarily due to the connectivity and cloud management offerings colocation providers offer. Physical security and space re-utilization provide added benefits to utilizing colocation space for IT equipment.
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