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From HIPAA to hyper-converged – a healthier storage scenario lies ahead

By Shridar Subramanian

In 2017, HIPAA turned 21. Had you told a health care IT professional in 1996 that health care data would grow 48% YoY, and the projected total volume by 2020 would be close to 2,500 exabytes, their head would have spun at the massive task of managing cost, complexity, risk and compliance.

If that weren’t enough, when HIPAA was enacted into law, just 13% of the U.S. population had Internet, only 15% owned a mobile phone, and the smart phone hadn’t even been imagined. Today, a third of a billion smartphone users have a health app on their phone.

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Oh, and just to rub salt in the wounds, 1996 also saw the birth of cryptovirology – a cryptoviral extortion protocol – that would grow up to form the basis of what we know today as ransomware; which grew over 89% in terms of health care-targeted attacks in 2016 to 2017.

That’s some coming-of-age party — massive volumes of high-value, critical and personal health care data spread across multiple locations, becoming increasingly vulnerable through factors including human error, natural disaster and malicious threat. Of course, the crux of the problem is not simply HIPAA. The scale of the data management, compliance and protection challenges that health care organizations are dealing with today is unrecognizable from twenty, ten, even five years ago.

For example, a petabyte worth of storage used to be a Fortune 500 problem. Today, a petabyte of storage is commonplace to organizations of all sizes – particularly health care organizations. It’s easy to understand the scale of the problem by looking at just one scenario of a StorageCraft customer – a regional health care leader with eight imaging centers, two radiation therapy centers, and four hospitals that initiated a proactive breast health strategy by going beyond the standard mammogram, and introduced high-resolution 3-D mammograms. With the move came a massive increase in data-storage requirements. What was formerly a gigabyte-scale storage operation, immediately turned into a petabyte-scale operation.

The struggle with data management, compliance and protection is reaching breaking point for many organizations. A recent independent survey by StorageCraft among IT Decision-Makers (ITDMs) showed that more than half of U.S. organizations are at risk from potentially disastrous data recovery practices. Fifty one percent are not confident that their IT infrastructure can perform instant data recovery in the event of a failure, and nearly half of the surveyed organizations are struggling with data growth. In fact, they believe it is only going to get worse. Health care organizations appear to be struggling the most, with 56% of health care ITDMs saying their organization would benefit from more frequent data backups, but the scale of data growth and their backup technology infrastructure doesn't allow it.

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