Ensure the Health of Your Information with a Backup Plan

The following is a guest post by Aidan Finley.

Aidan Finley, Backup Exec Product Marketing Manager, has been with Symantec for 16 years, concentrating on data protection. He has extensive experience implementing, creating, and designing data protection solutions as part of the Backup Exec software engineering and product management teams, prior to joining Product Marketing.

Like overworked parents with their children, healthcare facilities can be so caught up in serving their patients that it’s easy to overlook their own needs. Keeping the business healthy will enable better service, and one of the most important areas requiring focus today is information. With the deadline approaching for electronic health records system adoption, and ever-increasing regulations regarding personal health information, the industry is beginning to take notice of the need for better information management. What is still missing, however, is sufficient discussion among healthcare entities on the need for backup as part of an overall data plan.

For most businesses, implementing a backup solution (and using it on a regular basis) is like going to the doctor for a regular checkup. We don’t typically go to the doctor unless something is wrong with us. But just as a doctor would tell you that eating right and exercising would be excellent advice to prevent a heart attack, waiting until patient data is lost or stolen before implementing a backup plan is unwise.

Several ongoing trends in technology are making the need for information protection even more apparent. The first is that threats to information continue to rapidly evolve, and are not only being directed at large enterprises – in fact, in the first half of 2012, more than one-third of all targeted attacks were directed at businesses with fewer than 250 employees. Mobile devices are also having an impact on information security, as more employees use devices such as smartphones and tablets to access business information, including patient data. The result is that a large amount of information is being stored and accessed from outside the business, creating potential data loss and compliance issues.

Meanwhile, the adoption of electronic health records is changing the IT side of healthcare even more, giving clinicians and staff members access to more information in more ways. But while this presents new challenges in security and compliance, it is also an opportunity to implement an effective backup program as preventive care for the business. As you look for a backup solution that will meet your facility’s needs, consider the following:

Keep it simple: With more disparate technologies than ever used by companies to access their information, there are a large number of backup products that are specifically designed for different environments – one for traditional computers, one for tablets, another for smartphones and yet another for virtual desktops or servers. In order to keep backup tasks and costs manageable (and increase the likelihood that you will perform regular backups), look for an integrated solution that will keep your information safe regardless of the environment or device from which it is being accessed.

Rethink retention: Industry regulations demand that you retain information for a certain period of time, but too many businesses have a “save everything forever” mentality that leads to increased storage costs and challenges organizing their information. Look for a backup solution that will allow you to search effectively for eDiscovery requests and set policies regarding the expiration of information.

Keep it safe: In the healthcare industry it is critically important to ensure patient files are kept safe from prying eyes.  Data protection solutions often include encryption capabilities that are required by regulation; ensure your data protection solution can includes strong encryption and can safely encrypt data whenever that data is backed up, moved, or stored.

Go for speed: A recent survey conducted by Symantec revealed that nearly three-quarters of businesses would switch their backup products if it doubled their speed. And while we tend to think of backups as slow, resource-intensive processes, the latest generation of solutions is much better at performing fast backup and recovery tasks.

Find the right platform: There are three basic types of backup solutions: software, appliance and cloud/hosted. Backup solutions are available in three different deployments: software, appliance and cloud.

  • Backup software allows you to retain your information on the premises, which makes compliance easier and helps speed information recovery time. It can also be used with existing infrastructure elements. The flip side is that someone on-site is required to set up and manage the backup on an ongoing basis.
  • Appliances provide the same on-site retention and recovery abilities, in an all-in-one machine that contains both the hardware and software. This works well for businesses with more limited IT staff, and especially in remote office deployments. Unifying the software and hardware also allows for efficiency as both are updated together.
  • Cloud-based backups work best for businesses that have no onsite IT staff or where their time is limited. This model provides continuous backup of files, hosted offsite by a secure service provider. This eliminates the need to work with hardware or software onsite, as it is all done through a Web-based interface. Cloud-based backup also works well for multi-site businesses, creating a unified backup resource.

The key is to stop putting it off and begin now to create a plan for protecting business information. Regardless of how much we try to limit the information we create, most organizations are having to deal with increasing information even as budgets shrink. Backup shouldn’t be a luxury, especially for the healthcare industry where data loss can have severe consequences. Consider your organization’s needs and evaluate your options, then choose the best backup tool for your business. A backup a day keeps information loss away.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.