Big Data could mean big opportunities for the channel

Jay Savaiano, director of healthcare business development for CommVault

The explosion of Big Data continues to ignite persistent challenges within the healthcare sector in the Middle East as organisations grapple with how to best secure, protect, retain and ultimately delete content in compliance with evolving regulatory requirements.

Healthcare’s pain with Big Data starts with sheer volume generated by a growing number of solutions being deployed in both clinical and operational environments. Solutions such as electronic medical records, expansive picture archiving and communication systems, operational applications in support of time tracking, finance, HR and messaging all compound the demands on healthcare IT to support complex Big Data environments.

According to IDC, the world generated more than one zettabyte (ZB), or one million petabytes, of data in 2010. By 2014, growth is predicted to reach 7 ZBs a year, fuelled in part by the rapid rise of machine-generated data. Clearly, exponential data growth, diversity of data types and never-ending demands for optimised retention will create the perfect storm unless healthcare IT steers toward a more holistic approach to data management. Technology solution providers that understand these challenges are best positioned to become valued and trusted advisors for healthcare organisations. Solution providers need to assist healthcare organisations in embracing the core principles for holistic data management and retention by viewing backups and archives more strategically while leveraging integrated solutions.  As a result, healthcare institutions can lower storage costs, mitigate compliance risks and extract maximum value from information in ways that produce valuable clinical and operational benefits.

Crossing Big Data’s Backup and Archive Chasm

For too many healthcare organisations, backup and archive functions are deployed and maintained as separate “silos” within an overall data management strategy. Multiple, disparate hardware and software products typically manage these data silos, which leads to duplicate copies of information that must be protected and preserved.

Unfortunately, effective and efficient healthcare record keeping has been severely constrained by data silos, traditional approaches and legacy systems, which now make it nearly impossible to streamline the search of information for legal discovery and compliance audits, not to mention the inability to expedite responses to individual privacy access requests.  As a result, proper personal health information policies are enforced through violations and penalties rather than organisational best practices and technology innovations.

Compounding the problem is the fact that different groups are traditionally responsible for data protection and preservation.  Storage and backup administrators oversee data protection and therefore are heavily focused on the impact Big Data has on backup windows and recovery SLAs. While information architects, clinical application specialists and compliance officers are fixated on how Big Data affects retention, discovery and information governance policies, they usually operate without much regard for how these functions can also be extended to address backups.

A chasm exists between backup and archive in ongoing Big Data conversations. According to Gartner, backup complements archive and vice versa—yet backup administrators and information architects traditionally haven’t spoken the same language, and most tools and technologies address either one or the other of these disciplines.

Taking a United Front on Data Convergence

Thanks to advances in data management technology, enterprise-wide data retention is now within reach of healthcare organisations. Today, it’s possible to unify the way data is processed for both backup and archive which presents a new opportunity for the channel particularly in today’s era of Big Data.

To converge backup and archive, solution providers must understand how applications, users and critical business processes need to access data throughout its lifecycle. This effort requires collaboration among clinical and healthcare IT stakeholders responsible for both data recovery and preservation. Solution providers need to work with this collective group to examine all the different policies and practices used to move, copy, catalogue and access data for backup, recovery, discovery, retention and disposition.

Solutions providers need to implement a modern solution that consolidates data in a single content store leveraging a common software infrastructure for backup and archive that is hardware agnostic.  The notion of a single data repository that eliminates redundancies and silos is compelling on many levels, including the opportunity to reduce the strain on congested IT networks, restricted hardware or software budgets and overburdened administrative teams. A holistic approach that captures data once and then repurposes it for data protection and preservation provides invaluable benefits for multiple stakeholders within a healthcare organisation.

In the world of Big Data, any opportunity to reduce the Tsunami-like flow of information is a step in the right direction. And solution providers can play a leading role in helping healthcare organisations converge data management and retention by embracing a unified approach to backup and archive. In doing so, healthcare companies can meet compliance requirements and improve accessibility to patient and clinical data while elevating overall protection.

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