Jul 05 2019

How Disaster Recovery in the Cloud Differs from Online Recovery

A cloud-based approach can be crucial for hospitals when inclement weather strikes.

The return of severe summer weather offers healthcare organizations a reminder of the value of cloud-based recovery — and how the model can substitute or complement a facility’s own data centers if disaster strikes.

That notion recently prompted Faith Regional Health Services to adopt a hybrid cloud model using Microsoft Azure and Nasuni file storage. Based in Norfolk, Neb., the healthcare provider’s two main data centers are square in the middle of Tornado Alley, so having a Plan B was crucial.

“If we lost our data center, all we would have to do is find a PC and point to a Nasuni share in the Azure cloud,” Paul Feilmeier, IT director for Faith Regional, explained in a Nasuni case study. “It would literally take minutes to recover our data.

Although healthcare organizations have been slower to adopt the cloud — a lag due in part to HIPAA regulations — awareness and momentum are growing. In 2016, nearly 47 percent of providers responding to the HIMSS Analytics 2016 Cloud Survey said they planned to use the cloud for business continuity and disaster recovery, up from 31 percent in 2014.

Gartner predicts that 90 percent of disaster recovery will run in the cloud by 2020. 

MORE FROM HEALTHTECH: Discover the five ways healthcare organizations are guarding against disaster.

Benefits of DR in the Cloud

Peace of mind may be the greatest perk. If a hospital experiences damage or service disruptions to its data center, there’s little question that the precious virtual contents are safe. 

But the notion isn’t foolproof: Organizations should consider a cloud provider’s geography to ensure partner facilities aren’t in the same danger zone or can deploy services in multiple regions. That worry became reality in 2012, when hospitals affected by Superstorm Sandy found that some affiliate data centers had also been flooded

A close call with inclement weather prompted Comanche County Memorial Hospital in Lawton, Okla., to move its critical resources to G Suite, the cloud collaboration suite from Google

“I personally sat here in our parking garage and watched a tornado touch down a couple of miles away, and hoped it didn’t come toward us,” James Wellman, the hospital’s CIO, told HealthTech. “We had offsite backup, but it would have completely hampered our ability to function as a hospital and provide timely patient care if we had lost the data center.” 

Speed of cloud recovery offers hospitals financial protection from lost time and resources if records are destroyed or not immediately available from affected data centers. 

Long-term fiscal benefits also exist, regardless of the forecast. 

Comanche County Memorial has seen six-figure annual savings after the adoption of G Suite. Faith Regional reduced its on-premises storage hardware capacity needs — and costs — by about 80 percent. It has also saved on associated costs of floor space, power and cooling. 

LEARN MORE: Discover how evolving cloud architectures might offer your organization flexibility, scalability and cost savings.

Scalability of DR in the Cloud

Using a cloud provider for disaster recovery means that hospitals don’t have to construct a duplicate data center, which presents a sizable cost savings. 

The approach is also scalable, so businesses can decide which data is most critical to recover from the cloud — and when. That can be accomplished by a multicloud model that involves several clouds or providers. 

“[B]usinesses that utilize multiple clouds can pick and choose which services they use based on which provider offers the best rates for those services,” former healthcare CIO Brien Posey explains in a post on TechTarget.

As a result, healthcare organizations can further spread vital resources across provider data centers, decreasing the likelihood they’ll be impacted during a disaster.

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