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Cloud Computing

The Cloud Can Be A Useful Part Of Your Business Model

The Cloud Can Be A Useful Part Of Your Business Model

You use the cloud and don’t even know it. Do you go to Amazon and create a wish list? Do you have an email account on Yahoo? That is cloud computing. All your emails are stored on Yahoo servers somewhere. They are on physical servers, of course, but they aren’t on your laptop. The advantage is that when you spill your coffee onto the laptop keyboard, you haven’t lost all your emails even if you never backed up your hard drive. ( If you haven’t, shame on you, by the way.)

Here is a simple analogy to explain how the cloud works and why it might be a very useful part of your business model. Picture the small, very cramped office space of a little start-up. You and a few coworkers sit in tight quarters with messy desktops buried in mounds of papers, files, and pizza boxes. There is absolutely no room for storage. (Throw the boxes out yourself. There are limits even to cloud technology) It will be a long time until you can afford a larger office space. Your building manager offers to rent you an empty file cabinet in the basement. Although the basement space is shared with other tenants, only you and your team have keys to this locked cabinet where you will store all those piles of paper. Your rent is relatively cheap compared to other tenants, since you’re only paying for the cabinet, and not the larger lockers they have leased.

Suddenly, those once covered desktops are clean, leaving space to work. More importantly, the papers are all nearby, each of you has a key, but they are safe from everyone else in the building or outside. They are also safe from spilled coffee and pizza crumbs. You’ve avoided the dramatic jump in fixed costs required to find bigger office space, when all you needed were several feet of filing cabinets. Even better, the money saved is put back into the core goal of providing a product or service to a customer.

The cloud does the same thing. You rent only the space you need, it is safer from hackers than your on-site server will ever be, secure from thieves, and protected from accident prone employees. Unlike the rest of us, cloud service providers don’t have coffee cups near their keyboards or forget to do monthly backups. In short, the cloud provides scalable storage without large incremental leaps in fixed costs you really can’t afford.

Tech Quick Tips - Understanding Cloud Technology

Tech Quick Tips - Understanding Cloud Technology

1. What is the Cloud?

The cloud is virtual and therefore does not require any hardware of your own to deliver a service. Cloud technology can deliver that service to you, without having to install anything or have it on a server at your business. This is something that you can access remotely, or via the Internet through your web browser. Offsite, secure third party data centers manage all of your cloud data so that you can access it at your convenience. 

2. You May Already be Using the Cloud

Are you using Gmail? Amazon Music? A Kindle? Dropbox? These are all cloud services that store the data you access. All you have to do is log in to their servers to get what you need. If you use an Apple iPhone or iPad, then you're familiar with the iCloud service, the cloud technology that allows you to sync and upload your photos and contacts.

3. Why Use the Cloud?

The cloud is convenient for accessing and backing up data no matter where you go. With it, you can access servers anywhere, rather than just locally from your office. This allows you to perform your job duties at home and on the go! There is no need to carry around (and risk losing) USB drives with sensitive information on them. If you lose that USB drive, then your files are gone forever. If you back them up to the cloud or store them there, however, you can easily retrieve that data.

4. Why is the Term “Cloud” Used?

There is both a literal and figurative meaning here. Have you ever laid down in the grass, and looked up at the clouds in the sky? Oh, look, an elephant! A boat! Oh nice, a dinosaur! But the person next to you may not see the same shapes. They may see a sandwich, a skyscraper or an airplane in the clouds instead. The possibilities are almost endless, and not everyone has the same vision. Cloud technology is similar, offering a plethora of possibilities to help support and scale your business. Also, clouds are generally always above us. Just head on up, and grab whatever you need on-demand. The sky is always accessible. 

So, you can store and access files in the Cloud. You can use cloud-hosted applications, like Gmail and GoogleDocs. Finally, the cloud gives you access to your data anywhere with a network connection. This all sounds great, right? It is, but as with anything on the Internet, these services need to be used responsibly. Is your IT services provider helping to manage this?

STEPS TO ENSURE HEALTHCARE DATA AVAILABILITY IN THE CLOUD

STEPS TO ENSURE HEALTHCARE DATA AVAILABILITY IN THE CLOUD

2013 was the year the healthcare industry embraced cloud computing thanks to modifications to the HIPAA Privacy, Security, Enforcement and Breach Rules. With these modifications extending the definition of a Business Associated (BA) to cloud service providers, many of the data breach concerns that had previously kept the healthcare sector from taking to the cloud have been quieted.

But as more patient health data is electronic and residing in a virtual environment, the availability of this data is just as important, if not more important, than securing it. Unlike Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, the disastrous effects of data outages in the healthcare sector can have potentially deadly consequences.

Not only is high uptime mandatory in a healthcare cloud, business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plans are also crucial. The good news is the cloud’s virtualized infrastructure, coupled with the expertise and cloud monitoring of a trusted Managed Service Provider (MSP) can help healthcare organizations maintain uptime and reliability. Here are three helpful steps:

Risk Assessments Are Absolutely Necessary

While risk assessments are critical to protecting patient health information.These evaluations must be conducted regularly and require an honest assessment of probable risks ranging from malicious cybercrime attacks to acts of nature such as natural disasters, flood, earthquakes and power outages. Analyze both the architectural vulnerabilities relative to data availability and security as well as the effectiveness of the counteractive measures in place. The goal is to minimize the plausible impact of such an event and prevent service disruption.

Proactively Monitor for Cybercrime

It is often months before a security breach is detected. By this time, hackers have had ample time to infiltrate your system and feast on its data. Since cybercriminals use an unpredictable array of methods to strike, such as viruses, malware and phishing schemes to steal credentials, the strength of your detection system is key. Alerts should be set up to identify anomalies such as unusual application requests, forced entry attempts, suspicious spikes in traffic, and abnormal data patterns that suggest a breach. The proactive monitoring tools available through a MSP can help scan, pinpoint, and remediate such attacks.

Any BCDR plan must be built upon your organization’s recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). Your RTO is the duration of time in which your service level must be restored to avoid dire consequences. Your RPO is the maximum age of the recoverable files in storage to resume normal operations. A MSP can help determine the optimal scenario for your healthcare organization and prioritize the most critical health care information with near real-time replication.

Through this preparation and foresight, your organization can lay the groundwork to not only protect healthcare information in the cloud but potentially save patients’ lives in the event of an unforeseen outage.