Disaster-ready and saving money: Medical practice goes to virtualization
HealthPoint, a network of 12 not-for-profit clinics in suburban Seattle, reaped significant cost savings by consolidating IT that was spread throughout seven of the network's 12 facilities.
It's a virtualization project that also provides improved disaster recovery. In the winter of 2009, record levels in the Howard Hanson flood control reservoir in the Cascades damaged part of the ground that abuts the Howard Hanson Dam, according to local news reports. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said another storm might have forced them to release water, flooding the Green River Valley.
Then and now, the threat of the Howard Hanson Dam breaking posed a significant risk of flooding in the vicinity of HealthPoint's main administrative office, which housed the medical practice's main server.
Clinical data from the HealthPoint's NextGen electronic health record system came through that administrative office, and Harald Upegui, HealthPoint's IT manager, knew he needed to find a way to keep the medical data safe.
CDW came in with a virtualization proposal – a solution that HealthPoint had looked at three or four years earlier, when it was just coming to market.
This time Upegui took a closer look.
"It was a way to back up all the data within minutes," he said. "When or if our main office gets flooded, we can quickly turn on the servers at another site."
Upegui – and all of HealthPoint – was sold.
"The majority of businesses that suffer a catastrophe such as a fire or flood are, as a result out of business within two years."
It's a quote from research firm Meta Group that Upegui uses often.
HealthPoint began its virtualization implementation in January 2010, consolidating its servers from 20 to 14 so far. The intention is to go server by server and to reduce the number, Upegui said. He recommends to others who might undertake a similar undertaking to "take your time during server consolidation."
While HealthPoint has not had to deal with disaster recovery so far, it is prepared, says Upegui. Meanwhile it is reaping other benefits from virtualization – among them saving physical space, power savings of $2,000 to $5,00 a year and cooling savings of $2,000 to $3,800 a year.
According to Forrester Research, organizations that employ virtualization can save up to 50 percent on hardware costs, as well as delay new server purchases for 12 to 18 months, depending on their consolidation ratio.