Healthcare News & Insights

Cloud storage systems: Separating fact from fiction

There are many benefits to cloud storage systems, but there are risks, too. That’s why it’s critical for hospital executives and administrators to know both the advantages and disadvantages of cloud storage.

156813954Fact or fiction?

1. Cloud storage is extremely new: Fiction. It’s been around for nearly 30 years. And over the years it’s been know by a number of different names, such as timeshare, service bureau, application service provider (ASP), software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), utility computing and hosting, reported Physicians Practice in a recent post. Then about five years ago, the name cloud stuck.

2. Cloud storage doesn’t use a lot of hardware: This would be 100% fiction. One thing to get straight right away is that cloud storage isn’t some nebulous concept. It consists of computer servers and data-storage systems located in a service provider’s data center, rather than onsite at the user’s location. Typically, a cloud-hosting facility has massive amounts of hardware and software systems.

3. Your hospital can’t go wrong using cloud storage: That’s complete and total fiction. While it may sound magical and foolproof, it’s not. Considering all the complex hardware and software needed to run cloud storage systems, there are a lot of things that can go wrong just like with any IT installation. It’s just these massive IT systems have a lot more “computing horsepower,” reported Physicians Practice, in another recent post. Plus, since they’re designed to support thousands or millions of users, they’re configured and managed by highly skilled technical resources.

4. Cloud storage is safer than onsite storage. If you’re thinking fiction, because of the above information, you’d be wrong. While cloud services have risks attached to them, properly designed, configured and maintained cloud storage systems actually are more reliable than onsite storage systems. Typically if there is an issue, it’s due to human error because IT principles weren’t followed.

5. Electronic health records (EHRs) hosted in the cloud are HIPAA compliant.  According to PhysiciansPractice.com, “Whether an EHR is hosted in the cloud or onsite, HIPAA compliance (with the EHR) is more or less a given.” The thing is, the 700 plus HIPAA breaches reported by the Department of Health and Human Services since 2009, involved data that had been exported out of an EHR, and stored locally on a server, a workstation, a laptop or a portable USB drive. Therefore, it’s not the EHR that needs the benefit of a secure cloud hosting facility, it’s all the other items.

Warning: That doesn’t mean cloud providers are HIPAA certified. In fact, there’s no such thing. If a cloud provider says they are “HIPAA certified,” that just shows their ignorance of HIPAA in general.

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