Healthcare IT – A Guide to the Cloud & Managed Server Hosting

Adnan Raja
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Virtualization has created new possibilities and opportunities for the health care segment of technology. Health care IT Professionals specializing in virtualization technologies are now finding more attractive and lucrative opportunities, especially with the new Health Care Reform and health care IT initiatives introduced by the new Administration.
Virtualization is the technology behind cloud computing and it makes such a pool of network resources a genuine possibility.

Managed Hosting:

Managed hosting is a phrase used to describe the way a hosting plan is designed to function. Managed hosting is the better way to host your critical infrastructure, providing high security and fully redundant backup power supplies, 24/7 monitoring and access, round the clock engineers and much more. Managed hosting revolutionized the way organizations established their working presence on the Internet which  enabled them to conduct commerce online. Managed hosting handled by the Service Provider is ideal for organizations that don’t have the time, resources or operational expertise to handle server operations, applications and upkeep of their key infrastructure. Organizations that have a need for dedicated resources generally choose the managed server hosting option.

Dedicated Virtualization and the Structure of a Private Cloud:

Private cloud technologies have revolutionized the way the Internet accesses information over the Internet. Using VMware, Xen or Hyper-V, a private network is set up with an operating system that uses very little system resources.

This creates the possibility to include more than one virtual server on one physical hardware server. It creates a more efficient usage of system resources and delivers content faster than other dedicated server solutions. It’s all a matter of receiving as many resources as you need. Server A might only need one core and 3 GB of RAM to function properly, while server B might need a custom-tailored cloud hosting solution.
Grouping more than one virtual server per physical hardware server also keeps costs affordable and within the spending budget of almost everyone! There’s no need to overpay for resources which you do not need at a certain point. The scalability cloud hosting creates is unprecedented.

Public clouds are also created using virtualization technology and utilize the same shared hardware, providing a more cost efficient way to use cloud hosting as a business solution. Public and private clouds only differ in how they use physical hardware. Public clouds share their resources, while private clouds are linked to dedicated hardware designed to serve a single purpose. With a public cloud, you can opt to only pay for the services you use and none of what you don’t. You can pay per hour, day, week, month or even year. Less resource intensive server applications will be able to take advantage of the functionality of cloud hosting without any exorbitant fees.

Understand What Your Hosting Needs Are and How They Relate to Cloud Computing

Cloud computing, by the right Service Provider, offers a higher level of security and the ability to alleviate the problem of multiple physical server locations. All server resources are shared on the cloud, making any maintenance efforts and customizations faster than ever before.
Private clouds are much more reliable and robust than public clouds. Public clouds have to serve a great majority, while private clouds are designed to serve a select few. Even though cloud computing is a much more efficient and faster way of doing business, public clouds fall short in ability  when compared to private clouds.

If you are an enterprise class business or an organization with a large computing resources and bandwidth requirements, you may want to choose  a private cloud. However, although they more easily meet compliance requirements and have higher uptime guarantees ,  they generally cost more than the public clouds, which is something to take into consideration when deciding which cloud option to choose.

Organizations that demand less resource intensive applications and are simply looking for a low cost infrastructure and online presence will be more attracted to a public cloud hosting solution. Public clouds are relatively inexpensive and offer the same features as a private cloud without the need for resource intensive dedication. All users of  public clouds are provided the resources they need according to the current server resource demand. Everyone shares the same resources, and unless your application is extremely taxing on the server, public clouds  are a perfectly viable solution to help your organization prosper.

If your organization is currently using dedicated hosting solutions such as under-utilized servers running only a few programs, you will love cloud computing. Cloud computing has all of the resources and system processes running through a shared medium. Even on the private cloud, resources are allocated according to the current demand on the server configuration.

If you have deployed a huge server infrastructure in the past and had no choice but to deploy multiple physical servers,  you now have a new option with cloud computing.

Cloud computing groups together everything you need to run your server applications and does it more efficiently than ever before. No more wasted system resources and hardware or employees with nothing to do. Cloud computing makes sure everything is streamlined and handled with extreme efficiency.

The Versatility of Cloud Computing, Private and Public Clouds

Because everything about cloud computing is based on a virtual schematic, scalability, upgrades and downgrades are much simpler. Scalability doesn’t require any of the physical labor that was once a big part of dedicated server solutions. Instead, upgrading and downgrading of virtual servers and feature includes are done with the click of a button. New virtual servers can be brought online to serve a company’s growing demand and escalating requirements with ease. Cloud computing is the new hosting definition of flexibility, scale and cost effectiveness.

While server upgrades and the addition of new servers used to be a manual process, cloud computing changed all that. Now, in association with current server demands, cloud servers automatically create new virtual servers to handle the increase in resource demands. This keeps employees from having to perform repetitive tasks and operations that a cloud configuration is capable of handling by itself. As new virtual servers are added to keep up with the increase in demand, new machines are enabled and put into use. This keeps any growth in demand from ever being able to affect the overall performance of the cloud network.

Which to Choose? Managed Hosting, Public Cloud or Private Cloud?

As an overview, managed hosting is much more expensive than public and private clouds. Usually reserved for organizations with exacting standards and resource requirements, managed hosting solutions still hold a great deal of the market consumers.

However, public and private clouds have all the features of a managed hosting solution , without the need for continual upkeep of the servers.  There is simply no availability to take part in the expansion operations, or at least, much less than that which would be required with dedicated server solutions.

Large organizations with rigorous requirements should opt for a private cloud.  While more expensive, it has the most options and features available for your dollar.  Larger organizations are simply not designed for a public cloud, as they require too many system resources for it be a viable solution.  Although there is no such thing as one-size fits all in cloud computing, a lot also depends upon the applications being provisioned and the utilization the of machines.

Small organizations that require fewer resources could be better suited for the public clouds, as they can more adequately share system resources without causing a conflict.  If your application doesn’t need a large scale private cloud and you can save money by using a public one, then this would be an effective option.  That, or choose to go with a managed hosting solution.  Just be sure to pit the positive aspects of each Hosting option against any negative possibilities.

As far as the Healthcare Industry is concerned, cloud hosting represents the future because scaling up or down sometimes becomes a necessity.  For example with open enrollment for insurance and new patient registration, flexibility is of the utmost importance, and cloud hosting represents an extremely important step in the right direction.  As a Health care professional, understanding that even standard managed dedicated hosting is sometimes not able to satisfy the needs of your project is a must.  You also want to make sure you have considered all regulatory and compliance requirements.

With so many requirements, including The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) compliance, Statement on Accounting Standards (SAS 70) and Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance, there are serious considerations to be made towards security and implementation of controls; these should be the key objectives.

With the fast adoption of electronic medical records (EMR) and Electronic Health Records (EHR), there are also serious considerations to be made to ensure patients’ privacy and the protection of records.

Multi-practice data management can represent a challenge for quite a few reasons, and cloud hosting is a solution which provides the right balance of reliability, flexibility and scalability. Because cloud hosting is a relatively new type of HIPPA Compliant Hosting service and not all providers are equally knowledgeable, it’s important to establish partnerships only with companies that have proven themselves.

Data Centers and Savings

In the past, a majority of organizations opted to handle the hosting aspect of their business in-house, but now with more options and choices, traditional methods are a thing of the past.  More importantly, cost could be the driving factor in comparing traditional internal solutions versus new and innovative and cost effective hosting solutions in a data center environment.  There are serious costs involved with traditional in-house hosting and a lot of logistical challenges will need to be taken into consideration.  How much will it cost to train and remunerate your staff?  How much will it cost to replace broken hardware?  These are just two of the questions you need to ask yourself in order to determine if handling everything internally is worth the effort.

Data centers put a lot on the table in terms of reliability, affordability and features (such as advanced cooling systems and regulatory compliance).  Since they operate a large number of servers, it is possible for them to keep costs reasonable and pass the savings on to customers.  At the end of the day, numbers do all of the speaking,  if you want to host your applications in-house, those numbers might not add up.

Future Hosting Solutions

The future of hosting solutions in our current day and age is definitely exciting.  What may seem to be a perfect solution today might not work tomorrow.  Bear in mind that there is always a new wave of technological advancements that could be more efficient, robust and cost effective.  Six months down the road, you may find yourself loathing the contract you signed and desire the features and options of new technologies.  Because technology is continually changing, signing a long-term contract could hinder your future growth objectives and could impact the overall profitability of your organization.

What can you do to safeguard yourself against making a mistake? You’ll need to calculate all the potential and foreseeable avenues of possibility.

You now know what public and private clouds are and how they can improve your current online efforts.  Understanding how these hosting solutions convert to your health care applications is critical to your overall success. All in all, which hosting solution you choose should be decided by the level of resources and features you need.  Public and private clouds are all about virtual resource management.  All aspects of cloud computing are designed to be more efficient than dedicated server solutions.  Not a drop of water is wasted on your journey and the lower cost of the Cloud Hosting  option will reflect this.