Moving to a hybrid cloud model can help healthcare organizations achieve significant benefits, including the ability to take advantage of existing IT resources, quickly scale out new resources, maintain a higher level of control over and visibility into certain workloads, and tie various systems together for a seamless end-user experience. Moreover, a hybrid cloud deployment can allow healthcare organizations to test out the move to the cloud without a complete infrastructure overhaul.
Yet the transition can be a big one, requiring leaders to plan for shifts in culture, licensing, processes, system compatibility and a host of other issues. And for healthcare organizations, which have reams of personal health information to consider, the move to the cloud can be a daunting one. But when armed with the right information about staying HIPAA compliant in the cloud and a few best practices, the move can be a beneficial one, particularly in terms of enabling digital transformation.
First and foremost, when considering a move to a hybrid cloud model, IT decision-makers should think through several considerations and determine what impact they may have on their own organizations.
1. Evaluate Cost Savings Unique to Your Healthcare Organization
Every organization is different, a fact that renders broad proclamations such as “the cloud saves organizations money” almost meaningless. While it is true that some organizations end up paying less when they start delivering IT resources via a cloud model, some end up paying more.
Pushing resources to the public cloud will certainly reduce on-premises infrastructure costs, but these costs are sometimes replaced or even exceeded by new networking expenses, different administrative burdens and a proliferation of shadow IT. Putting significant resources into the public cloud can stretch a healthcare organization’s WAN infrastructure, and some organizations have difficulty coming up with the funds necessary for upgrades that will provide the required level of network redundancy.
2. Understand the Effects of Cloud Control and Management
Healthcare organizations that take advantage of cloud platform services run a risk of locking themselves into a single provider — thus removing one of the main potential benefits (flexibility) of a move to the cloud. Additionally, other types of cloud services are typically architected quite differently depending on the vendor, making it difficult or even impossible to “forklift” infrastructure back out of the public cloud.
Several early cloud adopters experienced this problem, and some of them are understandably reluctant to give the public cloud another try. Some organizations have specific performance or availability requirements (such as “five nines” availability), which may make it difficult to find a public cloud solution that meets their standards.
3. Prepare for Impacts on Service-Level Agreements
Is the cloud SLA compatible with your network providers? With your internal customers? With their customers?
These are the questions IT decision-makers must ask themselves when evaluating public cloud providers and their SLAs. Things get even more complicated when organizations are juggling multiple SLAs from any number of cloud software solutions. This is not an insurmountable problem, but it can create headaches for IT staff who aren’t prepared for it, so it should be considered during any strategic planning around cloud deployments.
4. Make Sure to Maintain Software Licensing Compliance
Managing enterprise software licenses for traditional software can create significant management hurdles for large organizations. Even cloud software licenses can create compliance issues for organizations that don’t properly manage and monitor their environments. But trying to navigate licensing and cost restrictions while migrating applications to the public cloud can quickly move the needle from “headache” to “nightmare.” Businesses attempting to push their on-premises software out to the cloud while maintaining compliance with vendor licensing agreements may want to consult with a third-party expert to ensure they do not inadvertently violate rules and open themselves up to audits and fines.
5. Develop Skills to Support the New IT Environment
For those who have never undertaken a major move to the cloud, it might at first seem simple. After all, the thinking goes, the cloud is meant to simplify life for IT and end users: removing management burdens, creating instant scalability and adding flexibility. However, managing a hybrid cloud environment requires a different skill set from managing traditional on-premises infrastructure. If an IT team’s skills lie primarily in the latter department, that can result in a rocky transition.
Some cloud use cases have matured to the point where they really are fairly simple. These include Software as a Service migrations of infrastructure applications (such as moving on-premises Exchange to hosted Exchange), which are so well documented and well understood that they’re widely considered to be slam dunks. Moving business-value applications to the cloud, however, is typically a more stressful experience, with an accompanying level of risk, complexity and expense that might cause some organizations to hesitate.
6. Prepare Healthcare Staff for Cultural Shifts
For healthcare organizations, data regulations may prohibit the placement of some workloads into the public cloud or require data to stay within the organization’s state or country. Moreover, healthcare business leaders may simply be uncomfortable with the idea of placing resources outside the enterprise security perimeter — whether these fears are legitimate or not.
Finally, cultural concerns within the IT department may slow down organizations’ journeys to the cloud. Some corporate data centers are staffed by the same workers who have “kept the lights on” for years or decades, and a move to the cloud will force system administrators into the new roles of cloud service managers and brokers. For some, these new roles are either unappealing or simply don’t align with their skill sets.
Learn how to build your hybrid cloud strategy by reading the CDW white paper “Hybrid Clouds Deliver the Best of Both Worlds.”