Does the idea of using ‘The Cloud’ feel a bit like storing your money under someone’s mattress… someone with a tendency to move a lot and forget to lock their front door….?

The cloud can be such an unknown quantity that even contemplating it can be a hugely daunting prospect; however with the advantages of increased flexibility, security and agility that cloud services offer, it’s no wonder that so many healthcare organisations have already made the move!

According to a recent survey carried out by the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), 83% of UK healthcare organisations, both public and private sector, are using cloud based services.

Calling it ‘The Cloud’ can be misleading – giving the whole concept an ‘air of mystery’, which is not how you want to describe where your business data is stored. However, taking away all the smoke and mirrors, you are essentially using the server capacity of the organisation providing the service for you.

All the companies advertising cloud services are not selling pieces of the same pie.  There is no single entity called ‘The Cloud’.  There are VAST differences in the offerings (and the costs).  One man’s ideal solution is another man’s disaster waiting to happen.

birmingham_datacentre_six_degrees_group

Knowing where the data sits and the type of environment in which the cloud platform is located is of paramount importance.  Certain high volume, low cost cloud service providers will move your data around on a whim and contend the services you are paying for to keep costs down.  If the cloud platform is built on reputable hardware, hosted in a high specification data centre and managed by qualified staff that own the data centre itself; you are heading in the right direction.  If the company can also offer server replication to a second cloud platform in a geographically separate data centre (which they also own and manage) you are onto a winner.

Cloud services offer many advantages for healthcare organisations – removing the need for expensive hardware and the associated maintenance and support contracts.  It removes the onus on a single site to have an adequate network connection to support multiple sites connecting to the IT infrastructure.  It also removes the costs and headache of running an on-site comms room, which, no matter how large your budget, is unlikely to be as resilient as a Tier III aligned data centre.

Cloud services are easy to expand at short notice, gone are the days of waiting for delivery of a new physical server or additional memory or hard disk space, now a reputable cloud service provider will be able to provision the increased capacity you need straight away.

You will also have numerous flexible offerings for Data Backup, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity, which can be supported by cloud services.  Healthcare organisations have specific criteria for security and resiliency and a reputable supplier will be able to offer assurance around the protection of your data, whilst ensuring you are compliant with legislation.