Disaster Recovery in the Cloud
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Rethinking Disaster Recovery for Healthcare IT

A number of years back we used to watch our friend’s kid, who I would sit down with and play games.  I really enjoyed our time together, because he seemed like a 45-year-old executive trapped in a six-year-old’s body. When I would make a move on the board, he would say, “You’re doing it wrong.” It became our joke when he got older.

I sat in a CIO group this past week, where one executive was giving a presentation on how he had moved his entire data center off-premise and was now “in the cloud.” We can argue the “in the cloud” part later, but what fascinated me was the stern resistance that he received from his peers.

Disaster recovery was the primary concern. The premise was that, in the event of an emergency, the health system needed that equipment on-site in order to provide services to the community. However, the interesting thing to me was the use-case that prompted his move: his hospital had to close and move all their patients out due to a flood. All the patients were transferred out of the building where, supposedly, the computer processing needed to occur.

I wanted to stand up and say, “You’re doing it wrong.”

The Logical Next Step is Not So Logical, It Seems

We used to have mainframes and terminals. Then we had the PC movement, which resulted in data and processing moving out of the data center to the edge.

Servers emerged and were placed in workgroups and departments. Eventually, all of these computing and storage devices made their way back to the data center under the watchful eye of IT.  Over the last decade, the delivery of compute, storage, and network have been commoditized and moved to the cloud.

The next logical step is to move these systems to the cloud to leverage the efficiency, productivity, agility, and security benefits that are available… Right?

A common question I would ask my staff is what problem are you trying to solve?

Let’s walk this path for a minute first. If I can gain critical levels of efficiency and agility, then my system should leverage the cloud.  Well, if that is the case the problem to solve is how to provide business continuity and disaster recovery once we’ve adopted the cloud.

Our Disaster Recovery Distinctive

Healthcare is unlike most other businesses. In the case of an emergency, we need to have access to data at each and every hospital. In turn, there are special procedures and protocols to ensure that the data is available in the event of a disaster.

Short of manufacturing, there is no industry quite like it.

Our path has taken us to the point of moving all of our equipment offsite to provide for the benefits of cloud. With all of our equipment now firmly ensconced in a facility 100 miles away, what are we to do in the event of an emergency?

Architecting to Leverage Economies and Protect Against Disaster

I would like to suggest that we flip the entire paradigm on its head.

Production is off-premise, while disaster recovery is on-premise. Leverage the cloud, but be ready to spin up critical services on your sites in the event of an emergency. Bring data back on-prem, based on the recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives (RTO/RPO) defined in your disaster recovery plan.

Have a set of virtual instances of your applications ready to go onsite in the event of an emergency.

The hardest battle in moving to the cloud is not with the business… it is with IT. We don’t like change. It seems kind of ironic that the department which inflicts the most change on the organization is the one sometimes married to old and comfortable operating models.


Need help thinking through your own journey to the cloud? Robert Rice and I founded Health Lyrics for just that purpose. We’ve moved thousands of workloads to the cloud with a proven methodology. Give us a call when you’re ready to talk.

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