Comment: First, premium economy, or economy: choosing the right class for your data

Chris Burden, managing director of Civica Cloud & Managed Services, discusses how healthcare organisations can learn from the aviation sector when it comes to data management

Airlines have been revamping first-class flying. In 2014 Abu Dhabi airline Etihad unveiled The Residence, a three-room, 125sq ft suite with lounge, bedroom and bathroom, which includes a sofa seating six guests. These luxuries may justify the price tags, but they’re not for everyone.

Healthcare leaders walk a tight rope between enabling innovation and avoiding risk

In the same vein healthcare organisations need to choose what class of cloud best suits their data requirements.

It’s no secret that the NHS is suffering space, staff and security problems in its ongoing battle with paper medical record archives. Earlier this year, Beverly Bryant, NHS England’s director of strategic systems and technology, outlined a service plan to digitise data for health and social services using a ‘click and collect’ strategy. Her plan includes electronic health records and other innovative technologies to streamline health and social service care procedures over the next five years.

Cloud technology is undoubtedly a crucial part of this. However, healthcare leaders walk a tight rope between enabling innovation and avoiding risk. The recent news of high-profile hacks on both large organisations and A-list celebrities means that many are approaching the cloud with caution and Bryant has a long way to go in persuading all leaders that adopting the cloud is the right strategy.

For all healthcare organisations, when approaching the cloud, precautions should be taken, border security protocols should be followed, and seat belts should be fastened.

First-class data

For all healthcare organisations, when approaching the cloud, precautions should be taken, border security protocols should be followed, and seat belts should be fastened

When embarking on a cloud strategy, healthcare organisations need to consider the value of their data and whether they need to invest in and protect all data in a style that befits first class. In this digital economy data is king, which means it should be duly managed. The key is to know your data and segment it accordingly.

In the cloud computing world, hosting your data in a managed private cloud is tantamount to travelling first class. This is the most-expensive VIP cabin for your data, but the perks are plenty, such as guaranteed service level agreements (SLAs), high levels of security, resilience, redundancy, optimum performance and uninterrupted availability. It’s the best-possible environment for business critical data, such as patient records. This is why, according to a recent report from HIMSS Analytics, 37% of IT healthcare organisations chose to deploy their cloud applications on private cloud architecture.

Economy data

Increasingly healthcare organisations are thriving in a fully-managed hybrid cloud environment, where there are tight SLAs, vigorous security protocols and defined disaster recovery windows

At the other end of the spectrum we have the economy class, which can be equated to the public cloud.

Firstly let’s not denigrate the public cloud. It provides affordable access to on-demand resources for IT managers and line of business managers alike across the organisation. The public cloud democratises access to this data and the innate benefits of cloud computing, such as more collaborative working, greater flexibility, automatic software updates and more. Its price tag means it’s the ideal cloud solution for non-business critical, low-risk data scenarios.

The public cloud particularly suits high-capacity projects over short defined periods of time such as R&D or Test and Development. It comes with more-relaxed SLAs and security and its data recovery strategy rests on restoring data within an agreed amount of time, rather than placing guarantees on not losing the data in the first place. However, it does require higher level of IT skill sets at a service management layer.

Premium economy data

Premium Economy is fast marking its place in the aviation space. Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy welcomes passengers on board with a glass of champagne and British Airways has recently given its premium economy service a makeover, with much bigger screens.

Innovation in the NHS is about making a real and tangible difference to the lives of millions and taking services to the cloud will increase the agility and responsiveness of the NHS, transforming patient outcomes

Premium economy, synonymous with the hybrid cloud for the sake of this article, is a good option for different kinds of business data. A hybrid cloud is a blended approach: some data can be hosted on premise; some externally. This mixed environment is then brought together by a service layer, managed by a specialist cloud partner, to offer companies the benefits of first-class treatment - such as heightened security for business critical applications - without having to put all their data in a top-dollar suite.

Increasingly healthcare organisations are thriving in a fully-managed hybrid cloud environment, where there are tight SLAs, vigorous security protocols and defined disaster recovery windows. Premium economy class effectively straddles two worlds. It provides some of the comfort of first-class travel (ie you can define your service requirements to suit your needs), without the commensurate drain on expenses (ie ensuring that the right data is in the right-sized environment).

Bursting into the cloud

Stepping away from the airline industry, it’s important to make the point that all classes of data must be able to move across environments interchangeably.

However, it’s not a straightforward affair. It requires specialist partner support to help classify data, manage issues such as interoperability, enable the transfer of data from one cloud to the next, and crucially ensure water-tight security. In reality no one size fits all; there are many different shapes of cloud.

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, recently claimed that he wanted the NHS to be a world-class showcase of what innovation can achieve. Innovation in the NHS is about making a real and tangible difference to the lives of millions and taking services to the cloud will increase the agility and responsiveness of the NHS, transforming patient outcomes. So, for healthcare organisations, it’s crucial that they understand their business requirements and develop a cloud strategy from this point.

Have a safe flight!

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