Protecting Growing Amount Of Patient Data With Virtual Tape Storage

By Jim Tarbell
08:00 AM

In the recent divided decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA), healthcare industry players are anxious to realize how they fit into the dramatically altered new world. What is not in question, however, is the realization that the new healthcare structure will bring in an influx of patients. Some estimate that more than 30 million Americans will now receive insurance and be eligible to receive care, and with more patients comes more patient data to be managed, stored and protected.

Both sides agree that the medical community will be under extreme pressures to ensure that the quality of care provided does not suffer. There’s no doubt that this commitment will require supreme innovation in operational processes, information technology, and patient care.

As the number of patients in the system increases, so does the amount of information that needs to be preserved. Electronic patient medical records, emails about status, treatment options, and care are all compounding information elements. An efficient data backup and recovery solution― with an emphasis on data safety ― is needed to store and manage all of this new information. 

Virtual Tape Library (VTL) storage systems are gaining visibility in the healthcare industry. With new advancements in disc storage, many are looking to the technology as a safer, smarter, and more efficient alternative to traditional tape backup systems.

There are two primary reasons why healthcare organizations should consider Virtual Tape Library – or disc – storage systems.
•    Data safety - In the effort to better serve patients and comply with privacy and data security regulations like HIPAA, medical organizations need to create multiple copies of sensitive data. This causes significant challenges, including how and when additional copies can be made, and how those tapes can be securely transported (either physically or electronically). A VTL solution allows hospitals to replicate data across the enterprise and to on and off-site locations automatically. The virtual tape systems can run multiple jobs simultaneously, and create duplicate copies to multiple physical tapes, if required, and replicate to its data repository site. VTL solutions also allow administrators to send data off to data replication sites encrypted for an extra layer of security. This can be done in a fraction of the time and without the risk of manual intervention or error, improving reliability by at least 50%.

•    Speed - VTL systems speed the process of backing up data and of retrieving stored data. Disc storage compresses backup processes and administration, and manual operations for backups are reduced significantly with VTL because of replication and automation features, where many jobs can be run simultaneously. Because backups are now on an automated schedule with VTL, data center operators are freed from the time consuming and risk-laden tasks involved in managing backups. Users estimate virtual backups are drastically faster than tape backups, often reducing administrative time and costs by upward of 75%. In addition, it is much faster and easier to find, retrieve and work with data stored to disc rather than stored in an off-site location on a tape.

In addition to providing improved data security, faster back-ups and easier access to stored data, the cost of VTL storage solutions are also coming down as disc storage technology becomes more mainstream. Reducing the total cost of ownership allows smaller medical practices to obtain disc storage technology that was previously cost prohibitive outside of large hospitals and corporate environments.

With new enhancements to virtual tape appliances, these systems have been shown highly effective for hospitals and healthcare providers who need to protect, backup, and restore data at high speeds. And, by significantly reducing administrative time and costs with automated processes (through policy management), the potential for cutting costs is significant. The benefits of VTL will enable healthcare organizations of the new world to keep their laser focus on patient care while remaining committed to patient privacy and data security.


Jim Tarbell is president of Dynamic Solutions International, LLC. (DSI).