Doctor using a tablet

Is Microsoft Azure Right for Your Healthcare Organization?

20 Apr 2016 by Jessica Hall

Offering world-class privacy, compliance and security capabilities at a low cost, healthcare organizations can easily take advantage of the many benefits Microsoft Azure provides. Also, Azure doesn’t have to be used in place of your existing infrastructure — you can also take advantage of a hybrid cloud, using this leading cloud-computing platform as an extension of your present environment.

A move toward a hybrid infrastructure highlights just one of the many trends in the evolution of data centers. As you discuss alterations to your own environment, consider these five ways data centers are evolving to meet the needs of healthcare organizations.

Compliance is a critical challenge.

David Mayer, vice president of product management for software at Insight, says that healthcare organizations have to carefully account for regulatory compliance measures when making decisions related to their data centers. As a platform, Microsoft Azure is compliant with the Healthcare Insurance and Portability Act (HIPAA), but that’s just a starting point. “You also have to take the connection path into account,” Mayer suggests. Then, he says to consider the following:

  • Is your network compliant?
  • Do users have the appropriate level of authorization and data access?

“The process of how information can get there, how it moves around and who has access to it — all of those processes aren’t really the responsibility of a cloud provider,” says Mayer. “That’s the responsibility of the customer.”

Because the platforms can only address regulations as a landing point, healthcare organizations need to plan and account for all of the elements that exist outside of or influence the environment, and ensure that they are compliant.

The cloud market is undergoing changes.

As reported by DataCenterKnowledge.com, large telecommunications companies had heavily invested in data centers to enter the cloud services market. However, because Azure, AWS and, to some extent, Google Cloud Platform have acquired the majority of the market share, it has become challenging for other providers to match or exceed their by-the-hour virtual compute solutions. For this reason, many of these telecommunications companies are now looking to offload their massive data center portfolios.

Consider the hybrid cloud.

Data centers are evolving to fulfill the role of bridging the gap between traditional IT environments and numerous cloud platforms. Mayer says many are recognizing the hybrid approach is the right fit for their organization. He also believes the industry will see an escalation in this trend in late 2016, with migrations to hybrid environments increasing dramatically in 2017. DataCenterKnowledge.com estimates that this trend will last until 2020.

Which is right for healthcare, Azure or AWS?

Both Azure and AWS offer flexibility. While Azure is built on the same technology as Microsoft’s software stack, healthcare organizations can run versions of Linux and the company is beginning to enable the hosting of nonMicrosoft-based applications within Azure. “Azure is a flexible solution that matches the majority of your regulatory and security needs,” Mayer says. “It also uses your existing management tools."

Growing in popularity, AWS is an end-to-end, self-contained solution. Without existing software to draw upon, everything has to be contained within their solution. Your full IT environment can run in the cloud with AWS. However, Mayer cautions that by selecting AWS, you do need to provide, “…all of your IT infrastructure, directory, security information and networking information — everything about your IT organization — to Amazon.” He warns, “That’s a decision that each organization will have to make based on their own view of the provider’s strategy and offering.”

Know that Azure is secure, accessible and scalable.

Because Microsoft has made an unprecedented commitment to security and Azure offers enterprise-grade security capabilities, the solution has allayed worries and gained the trust of many healthcare organizations. Offering a 99.95% monthly service level agreement, Azure allows your organization to run and develop highly accessible applications. Its superior architecture ensures applications and servers experience fewer delays and offer increased availability. Scalability is much greater, too — users have access to 1TB of virtual memory with Azure.

Leveraging our long-standing partnership with Microsoft, we can help your healthcare organization determine if Microsoft Azure is the best solution to address your needs. Talk to a specialist to learn more.