• Why is Cloud Computing Worth the Effort for Regulated Companies?
  • What Are You Up Against?
  • What Can You Do to Adopt Cloud Effectively?
  • Partners that Understand Compliance

The businesses that run into the most difficulties when transitioning to cloud computing solutions are strictly regulated, such as finance and healthcare. What are the challenges? How can they be overcome? And why is the effort worth it?

Let’s start with the last of those questions.

Why is Cloud Computing Worth the Effort for Regulated Companies?

According to a presentation at the 2014 annual meeting of the IEEE Computer Society, there are four primary benefits of the cloud:

  • Software patching and updating are handled by the provider.
  • There is no need to worry about on-premise equipment maintenance.
  • Cloud is usually more affordable.
  • Virtual machines offer real-time scalability, adapting resource levels to meet your needs.

These advantages are all compelling. After all, cloud computing isn’t just useful for startups: mega-enterprise General Electric has said it is cutting down its data centers to 10% of their original size in favor of the public cloud.

Even the Department of Defense is on board. “Procuring [cloud-based solutions and services] will allow the Army to focus resources more effectively to meet evolving mission needs,” explained Gary Wang, Army deputy CIO.

Let’s move on to those first two questions, though – cloud challenges and strategies – so that your organization has a clear path forward.

What Are You Up Against?

As the authors of the IEEE paper, Beckman Coulter and Iyyappan Pandiyan, see it, three features of cloud present obstacles to regulated companies:

  • Within a cloud solution, the information is processed and stored through a distributed network at a distance, and federal compliance mandates strict control of all data.
  • Cloud providers update their systems often without their users even being aware that changes have occurred, and firms concerned with regulations want to validate all their tools.
  • A cloud virtual machine can deliver memory elastically, and regulated bodies want to ensure that all data and memory are accurate and reliable.

There is another, deeper challenge than any of the above, though. Adam Hughes of TechTarget indicated that regulated industries struggle with misinformation and confusion.

“If I’m a customer, I need a deep understanding of the regulatory issues, how I will address them and what my priorities are,” commented regulation specialist Brian Benfer of ShareFile. “No one seems to understand the regulatory environment and what’s needed, and what the right steps are to take.”

Larry Freedman, an attorney with Boston technology law firm Edwards Wildman Palmer, echoed Benfer’s sentiments.

Plus, there’s a real-world challenge to these virtual systems in the public sector, according to data center expert Larry Veino of Presidio Corp.: politics. The various government departments each have strategic plans that may initially seem at odds with a “Cloud First” approach. Veino believes that government IT is experiencing the same growing pains that the healthcare segment did a few years back.

What Can You Do to Adopt Cloud Effectively?

Beckman and Pandiyan suggested the following strategies so that companies can migrate to the cloud while maintaining federal compliance:

  • You want to validate the cloud architecture when it’s first adopted.
  • You want all updates to occur at specific, predetermined times.
  • You want all modifications to be aggregated.
  • You want to re-validate every time updates are performed.

Partners that Understand Compliance

I discussed the general challenge of confusion above. That confusion is because cloud providers are trying to sell you a service, which can sometimes contradict clarity. How best to pick out a provider? Dan Kusnetzky, IT analyst and founder of the Kusnetzky Group, recently outlined several characteristics that can help to establish that a cloud service provider deserves your business:

  1. You want the company to prioritize security with the latest industry standards. Two of the primary ones are SSAE 16 and Safe Harbor.
  2. You want to know that the provider has an established record of data safety. Breaches are too costly – $3.5 million per incident, according to the Ponemon Institute.
  3. Make sure that the company has private virtualization options. Private Cloud Hosting gives you your own set of dedicated resources.
  4. Your hosting company should have plenty of experience meeting compliance with federal regulations and other common standards such as PCI-DSS.
  5. You want to know that the hosting company’s personnel includes a team of engineers with specialized cloud and regulatory compliance knowledge.
  6. Finally, you want your cloud service provider to be financially strong.

That last element is a characteristic that is often overlooked when reviewing providers. Your business may be just launching, argued Kusnetzky, but bankruptcy at your hosting provider is a huge threat to business continuity.

Financial strength is just one of the many reasons why companies in regulated industries choose us as a partner.

“Atlantic.Net’s reputation for 100% up-time, their secure infrastructure, and expertise in Healthcare IT were key components in finalizing our partnership,” commented Complete Healthcare Solutions VP Joseph Nompleggi. “Our partner’s financial strength and proven track record are something we view with great confidence.”

Choosing a Compliant Hosting Provider for Your Regulated Industry

When companies plan to move their existing IT services to a private cloud, security and compliance issues can seem a bit daunting.  However, moving to the right cloud-based system with a respectable cloud hosting provider could reduce your compliance exposure.  A private cloud does not have a public address and is connected directly into your existing corporate network via a secure connection, such as a VPN (Virtual Private Network).  Therefore, only people inside your corporate network can access those services.

If your cloud service provider is flexible and will work with you on the connection, security, and monitoring, and authentication of applications in your cloud solution, the policies that you already have in place for protecting your data, authenticating user access, and distributing content can be used as they are.  Therefore, your company can receive the benefits of a private cloud without giving up security.

The only major thing that changes when you move to private cloud hosting is the location of where your content is being stored.  If your company is like most enterprises, then you probably already have data being stored in several different locations – remote servers, backups, mobile devices, laptops, etc.  The advantage of having a reputable private cloud provider is that you will always know where your data is being stored.

Your cloud hosting provider will be able to demonstrate the specific systems they have in place to ensure that your content is protected from unauthorized access.  If the location of the data center, backup systems, customer service, etc., meets the requirements of your business, moving to private cloud hosting with HIPAA-compliant online storage could easily enhance your compliance.

Do you need a robust cloud infrastructure for healthcare? Get high-quality, proven HIPAA Compliant Hosting today.

Learn more about HIPAA Compliance.