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On-prem or off, health organizations struggle to choose optimal data storage system

Despite an array of effective storage options, including flash, health IT managers still face a tough decision when it comes to storing and protecting the organization’s data.

Jeff Rowe | Jan 26, 2018 12:00 am

One of the biggest data storage challenges healthcare organizations face is how to piece together legacy systems while integrating new systems into the infrastructure. 

In a recent piece at HITInfrastructure, editor Elizabeth O’Dowd spoke with a number of storage experts as she explored the fact that not every healthcare organization will benefit from the same type of data storage, which makes choosing a storage deployment a challenge for any organization.

As Pure Storage Vice President and CTO of Healthcare Vik Nagjee explained, for example, healthcare organizations are more likely to lean toward on-premise storage than other industries because the control they have over an environment kept in-house.

“Hospitals tend to want to build their own datacenters,” Nagjee said. “It happens all the time. Uptime is super important in healthcare; you can’t afford to have these systems go down.”

For one thing, on-premise storage does not require a wireless internet connection to retrieve clinical data, making it considerable less risky. And due to the nature of healthcare data, organizations want to deploy the storage solution they feel is the most secure, which is often the solution they have the most control over.

Similarly, Forward Health Group CTO Jeff Thomas noted that there is a comfort level for organizations in knowing that their data is in their data center.

“They can walk up and touch it, and sometimes it's that emotional comfort factor that has some healthcare organizations leaning toward keeping data in house,” Thomas noted.

On-premise storage has also evolved over the past several years to include rack servers and hyper-converged solutions. Rack servers, which often use flash-based array and thus have lower operating costs, are more scalable than dedicated tower servers because they contain racks where more hardware can be placed. Flash-based arrays use solid-state drives (SSD), meaning they do not have fans or get as hot as traditional datacenter hardware. 

Hyper-convergence can also be hosted on-premise, but uses cloud and virtualization technology to store and run a health IT infrastructure.

Overall, O’Dowd said, healthcare organizations are building their IT infrastructures to be more flexible and scalable to meet the growing data demand. But with value-based incentives for data analytics and the increased number of connected medical devices constantly collecting data, organizations are challenged with storing clinical data in a way that is both HIPAA-compliant and easy for authorized users to access.