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Keeping IT current

Ways managed services experts are addressing your healthcare IT challenges

By Mike Stockwell and Ron Holton

The economy is beginning to rebound from its slump, and numerous signals arepointing to even more growth in the coming years. This change has prompted the IT managers of many healthcare companies to undergo audits of their current IT infrastructure, and some challenging trends are beginning to emerge.

The lack of capital in recent years has meant that a number of healthcare companies have had to postpone infrastructure upgrades and prolong technology refresh cycles. Administrators are seeking solutions that will streamline their IT and deliver scalable, efficient results.

Research firm Gartner Inc. recently conducted a survey of IT staffers from 1,004 large enterprises in eight countries to identify their top challenges and priorities as they moved into 2011. Below are some of these challenges and explanations as to how managed services experts are addressing these needs for customers.

Challenge: Space is limited

The Gartner study revealed that 47% of respondents ranked data growth as the biggest data center hardware infrastructure challenge. Data containment initiatives were named the second most common driver for strategic growth initiatives by 37% of respondents.

A growing number of healthcare companies are now utilizing complex hosting services to handle their critical data needs. Complex hosting is a premium managed service that leverages engineering expertise, deep experience, best practices, and enterprise-class infrastructure to deliver peak performance.

Companies that offer these services as part of their managed services portfolio help customers back up data to disk and tape, manage data backup on customer-provided hardware, rotate tapes, and manage customers’ backup library or replicate data to alternate sites.

Certain companies, for example, also offer cost-effective backup and storage, fewer demands on internal IT staff, enhanced tools for online management, improved security and availability, and real-time monitoring to their clients.

Challenge: Building to scale

While a return to growth is a positive trend, when coupled with the escalating popularity of Electronic Medical Records (EMR), the result is an increase in data that brings with it concerns of increased costs relative to hardware, software, associated maintenance, administration, and services.

Gartner’s survey revealed that 62% of respondents said they plan to expand their hardware capacity at existing data centers by the end of 2011, and of these, 30% plan to build entirely new data centers.

As an alternative to building your own data center, consider utilizing virtualization or cloud services from a managed services company. Virtualization services provide cost-effective high availability, quick provisioning of new servers, lower hardware cost, and a smaller data center footprint. These types of services are becoming increasingly popular; 67% of respondents to the Gartner survey said they plan to spend money on virtualization in 2011.

Gartner’s survey also revealed that 37% of respondents named system performance and scalability as the second biggest challenge for them in the coming year, while another 36% cited network congestion and connectivity issues. Cloud computing provides one of the most efficient and innovative options to boost the scalability of an environment.

Continuing to increase in popularity is the hybrid cloud model, which is a custom-designed solution that combines data center services with cloud services in a virtual and physical environment. Such a solution is unique in that it gives businesses in the healthcare industry access to cloud services and expertise that allows them to leverage the power of the cloud based on their specific needs.

Challenge: Playing by the rules

April Adams, research director at Gartner Inc., stated that data capacity on average in enterprises is growing at 40% to 60% year over year. This has been caused by a number of factors, including an explosion in unstructured data that must be stored due to regulatory compliance requirements.

Leaders in providing full-service managed hosting for businesses worldwide aggressively support customers in their efforts to meet the regulatory demands of their industry or governing agency.

For example, certain companies can assist its healthcare clients to be compliant with privacy controls like HIPAA/HITECH in addition to offering expertise in SSAE 16, CyberTrust, Food and Drug Administration, Payment Card Industry, Data Security Standard, European Commission’s Directive on Data Protection, Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), ISO 27001, and Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

Challenge: Forecasting the unexpected

Survey respondents indicated that business continuity and data availability were the chief motivators behind their strategic 2011 plans. Healthcare companies with mission-critical applications or IT operations know they have to be prepared for hardware failure or losing access to their equipment.

Many businesses are now using highly secure data centers in combination with their own IT facilities to provide a more complete business continuity solution. Managed services providers with the best business continuity and disaster recovery portfolios offer world-class data centers and a geographically diverse footprint.

When downtime is not an option and the failover must be as continuous as possible, a managed services company can provision and ensure a complete redundant architecture with automatic traffic redirection and hot site mirroring. Failover to hot sites keeps the additional effort of maintaining a secondary site from overloading the primary IT staff and gives geographic diversity without paying for constant travel to the secondary facility for maintenance.

Mike Stockwell is the vice president and general manager and Ron Holton is the director of customer engineering for the overall operations of Peak 10 Jacksonville. Peak 10 is a managed services company with world-class data centers. It delivers scalable, economical and reliable solutions for hosting and managing complex IT infrastructure. They can be reached at 904-279-1777, mike.stockwell@peak10.com, ron.holton@peak10.com, or through www.peak10.com/jacksonville.


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