Apr 11 2023

How Can Healthcare Organizations Grow with a Smarter Backup Strategy?

Why many health systems or independent hospitals should move away from tape to a hybrid or cloud-native backup solution.

Healthcare organizations today face increasingly sophisticated cyberthreats, worsening IT staff shortages and mounting concerns about the economic landscape. With no end in sight for these challenges, health IT leaders need solutions and services that can protect their organizations and create efficiencies without requiring a major investment.

One way health IT leaders can tackle financial, technical and operational challenges is through a cloud-delivered backup and disaster recovery strategy. Having such a strategy in place will make an organization more agile not only in the event of a natural disaster but also during a cyberattack. However, it’s important for IT leaders to understand common obstacles to adoption and best practices to ensure implementation success.

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Cloud-Delivered Backup and Disaster Recovery for Healthcare

In addition to cybersecurity, staff shortages and finances, healthcare organizations have also had to contend with long lead times for purchasing during supply chain disruptions. Many organizations are bound by capital and refresh cycles and are now turning to cloud-based solutions because they can’t access hardware or don’t want to buy more hardware for an on-premises solution. Currently, most organizations use an on-premises solution for backup and disaster recovery.

Healthcare organizations, like most businesses, have a finite amount of space, power and cooling, which also makes an investment in cloud-based solutions more attractive.

Many hospitals are still tied to tape or other low-cost on-premises systems for backups, which are more expensive over the long term. It’s also difficult to recover data on tape and time-consuming to prepare that data for analytics. Leveraging the cloud for backup and disaster recovery is faster than having to go to an offsite storage facility and ask for tapes to be transported to the organization’s campus — not to mention, tape disintegrates over time.

While some organizations may use a colocation facility for backups, it can still be expensive to pay for the circuits, racks and power, and many organizations don’t test their disaster recovery plans often enough.

Another benefit of moving to the cloud is the ability to create a third copy of data in the cloud that is segmented off in its own environment to protect it from bad actors.

DISCOVER: Why storage and backups are a key component of healthcare cybersecurity.

Overcoming Obstacles to Adopting Cloud-Based Backup and Recovery

Some healthcare organizations’ IT teams and staff resources may be less experienced with cloud-based tools, which can be a challenge. One way to overcome it is to use a hybrid cloud solution. These solutions extend an organization’s backups from the on-premises solution to the cloud using the same management tool. Having that data behind the same pane of glass makes managing it simpler and more efficient. The next step would be to transition to a cloud-native tool that backs up directly to the cloud.

Nonclinical workloads like backup and recovery are often among the first workloads that healthcare organizations move to the cloud. This allows health IT teams to learn how to work in a cloud environment without risking an impact to patient care before migrating critical clinical applications to the cloud.  

Once an organization starts using the cloud for backup and recovery, it is easier to expand its cloud migration to enable data analytics. Most organizations will likely take a crawl, walk and run strategy, starting with hybrid tools, then leveraging cloud-native tools before building data lakes to support data analysis and the training of artificial intelligence and machine learning models.

Tips for Implementing a Cloud-Based Backup and Recovery Strategy

The backup and disaster recovery strategy should align with an organization’s business goals, so it’s critical to approach a cloud-based strategy with those in mind. IT leadership should work backward by starting with the overall goal and then creating the strategy and tactical efforts to achieve those goals.

Before an organization moves its backups to the cloud, the first thing IT decision-makers should do is gain a full understanding of what’s being backed up, end to end, and how often backups will occur.

When it comes to disaster recovery, it’s important for an organization to determine its recovery time objectives (how long their systems can be down before negatively impacting the organization) and recovery point objectives (what data needs to come back online first). Healthcare functions in reverse of most businesses in that it has more Tier 1 applications (patient- and clinician-facing applications) than it does Tier 2, 3 or 4 applications (those focused on supporting the business). The IT team needs to know what those Tier 1 apps are, how they’ll be backed up to the cloud, how the team will react in a disaster recovery situation.

EXPLORE: How rural healthcare systems can strengthen their resilience.

How a Partner Can Support the Healthcare Cloud Journey

Organizations looking to transition their backup and disaster recovery workloads to the cloud don’t have to begin this journey alone. A trusted partner such as CDW has relationships with the on-premises vendors many organizations are already using, as well as expertise with hybrid infrastructure. CDW’s Digital Velocity team has experience with cloud-native solutions when a healthcare organization is ready to go cloud-native.

CDW also offers managed services to help organizations monitor and maintain backups. Very few people get excited about backups, but we are here to help with that undifferentiated heavy lifting. We can manage the process from end to end, starting with moving an organization from on-premises to a hybrid infrastructure or cloud-native solution, and then monitoring backups. CDW also has disaster recovery experts who can run organizations through disaster recovery exercises when needed.

LEARN MORE: Build a plan with CDW to protect data during a disaster.

This article is part of HealthTech’s MonITor blog series.


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