The worldwide public cloud market is expected to grow from $91 million in 2015 to $236 billion by 2020 (a projected 22% annual growth rate) according to the analyst firm Forrester.
Driving This Migration is the Great Promise of the Cloud
From a business perspective, the cloud promises to deliver increased productivity at reduced IT costs. Companies can add new users and software applications at significantly reduced IT cost when compared to the cost of traditional hardware and software systems. Businesses can rapidly scale computing needs up or down in response to market conditions. Server and server maintenance costs will disappear as applications and data move to the cloud. The business’s physical footprint and utility costs can remain relatively small as IT and worker space requirements go virtual.
A recent survey of 2,100 North American and European business workers (including 700 IT executive and 1400 office employees) indicated that 84% of the companies involved believe making the digital move to the cloud is critical to remaining competitive.
Employees want the cloud, too. The study, cited by Forbes, indicated that over 60% of the employees expressed the desire for cloud services. Workers believe these services will provide several benefits, including:
- make their jobs easier (access to more productive applications and better data)
- enable them to develop new skills (additional applications)
- able to work for companies across the country or the globe
- able to work from home or the local coffee shop
- able use their own devices (including mobile phones) to access data
- avoid the daily commuting grind
From both the business and the employee’s point of view, the ability to connect to the cloud from anywhere provides convenience and flexibility. Easy access to applications and data enable employees to work remotely while still collaborating with coworkers and clients across the globe. In addition to reduced IT costs, working remotely reduces company travel expenses and office space requirements, as well.
Despite the perceived value and strong desire for adoption, over half of the IT execs surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with the speed of transformation in their companies. Forty percent (40%) admitted they lack the necessary skills to integrate the new technologies with their existing systems.
Interestingly enough, 28% to 32% of the employees in the survey expressed concerns about the new technology, believing it made their jobs more difficult and added to job stress; twenty-seven percent (27%) confessed they didn’t have the know-how to use the new tools. Much like with the IT execs, underlying this dissatisfaction is the lack of training on how to use cloud technology effectively.
So what can decision makers learn from this information?
- The cloud is already here. Ninety-five percent (95%) of companies surveyed by Right Scale are using the cloud. Seventy-one percent (71%) are currently using a hybrid system—a combination of onsite and cloud-based servers. Chances are your competition is already in the cloud. For you to remain competitive, you need to be there, too.
- Employees want the cloud as much as you do. The promise of flexibility and productivity are enticing.
- The reality of the cloud may not be living up to the promise.
- Smoothing the transition to the cloud requires additional resources you may not be providing.
What additional resources do you need to provide?
Identify those resources through proper planning. An effective cloud strategy includes:
A realistic plan that identifies needs beyond those of hardware, software, and other cloud services.
- Identify personnel training requirements to speed transition to full utilization
- Identify all possible productivity gains and cost savings and what else might need to be implemented to achieve them
Access to expertise you currently do not have.
- Expertise comes from training current employees or hiring skilled talent.
- It may be more expedient to hire qualified third party providers. An experienced third party service provider can get the project done faster, and you don’t have to carry the workers on the payroll 365 days a year after the job is done.
Employee training and access to knowledgeable support, 24/7.
- Training employees on how to access and use data and how to use software applications
- To fully utilize the remote capabilities, employees need 24/7 access to knowledgeable support
By fully using the cloud, businesses have a lot to gain. It makes good business sense to make the transition as smooth as possible, both from a technological and employee point of view. By including employee needs and interests in the implementation plan and gaining access to expertise you currently do not have, businesses can more quickly attain the great promise of the cloud.
Ways Using The Cloud Can Help With HIPAA Compliance
Healthcare providers are looking for the latest innovative solutions to streamline and improve their HIPAA-compliant software to cut costs and increase efficiency, but most importantly to protect patient data. The traditional methods of back-up, disaster recovery, continuity and archiving solutions are fast-becoming obsolete due to high costs and dated accessibility, while more affordable and refined software is more readily available. Amid the technological revolution evident today, the ways HIPAA compliance is traditionally met can prove problematic for healthcare organizations looking to keep their applications running in real-time, ensure security is at an optimum and provide access to information 24/7.
Healthcare providers are looking for an all-encompassing solution to their HIPAA-compliant needs – cloud internet-based computing could be that solution.
The benefits of cloud computing
Cloud solutions are not only a cost-effective way to overcome the issue of outdated hardware and software but can also improve security. Advanced encryption tools enable healthcare organizations the peace of mind they require to switch their HIPPA-compliant software over to the cloud. Cloud computing is the latest technological resolution to maintaining and managing the complex infrastructure required to support any organizations’ activities. Cloud offers healthcare providers with the HIPPA -compliant tools needed to keep track of procedures and policies to ensure their workforce have access to the latest information. There are also several other benefits to switching to cloud computing: improved archiving for patient records, builds a bridge between medical teams and healthcare providers, saves on in-house storage needs, aids with medical research, improves out-patient experience and can increase interactivity between patient and organization. There’s no doubt cloud technology can most definitely streamline a business without the need for expensive and antiquated systems that are no longer up-to-scratch. A report by MarketsandMarkets predicts that healthcare cloud computing will rise at a CAGR of 29.8 percent to 6.5 billion USD by 2018. By 2020, Cloud computing is expected to become the IT infrastructure norm across the healthcare industry.
Ensuring the cloud is HIPAA-compliant
Security has been a major barrier to cloud adoption in the healthcare industry, HIPAA-compliant cloud solutions are now becoming more secure but risks still exist. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in order to fulfill the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the Security Rule must be adhered to. “The Privacy Rule establishes national standards for the protection of certain health information” while “the Security Rule establishes a national set of security standards for protecting certain health information that is held or transferred in electronic form”. There are three main safeguards needed to ensure HIPAA compliance. First are the technical requirements which includes a minimum 128-bit encryption, plus deletion and destruction of data in line with the Department of Defense’s standards. Second are issues relating to the physical infrastructure such as security to the mainframe. The Physical Safeguards in the HIPAA Security Rule include “standards for facility access controls, workstation use and security and device and media controls”. Thirdly, there are also several administrative requirements that must be followed to meet HIPAA compliance. These include a provider’s “security management process, assigned security responsibilities, workforce security, information access management, security awareness training and contingency planning”. The HHS states that HIPAA covered entities and business associates are “questioning whether and how they can take advantage of cloud computing while complying with regulations protecting the privacy and security of electronic protected health information (ePHI)”. According to the HHS, when a covered entity engages the services of a cloud solution provider (CSP) “to create, receive, maintain, or transmit ePHI (such as to process and/or store ePHI), on its behalf, the CSP is a business associate under HIPAA”. What’s more, when a business associate subcontracts with a CSP “to create, receive, maintain, or transmit ePHI on its behalf, the CSP subcontractor itself is a business associate”.
These national standards mean that every party that touches this kind of healthcare data must be compliant. The steps highlighted above ensure CSPs and healthcare providers are following the correct procedures, protocols and policies to ensure they remain HIPAA-compliant at all times.
Cloud enhances data sharing but does it pose a security risk?
Cloud benefits healthcare providers because it can develop, grow and adapt to the business rather than the organization having to spend vast sums on database solutions, there is also a reduction in staff numbers, therefore cost, and the need for maintenance is reduced dramatically. According to HIT infrastructure, healthcare providers are fearful of HIPAA violations that stem from cloud technology which could damage their business. The main concern is the amount of hands-on control in-house IT departments must relinquish to enable cloud operations onto their system. Advanced encryption has ensured cloud computing has eliminated the once prevalent security concerns surrounding the software. According to Healthcare IT news, there are two types of data that should be encrypted, structured data and unstructured data. They state that the most common options for encrypting these data types include: “whole disk encryption, database encryption, agent based encryption and application layer encryption”.
Although it is clear cloud computing can offer increased security and significant cost-saving benefits the service does come with certain risks that need to be addressed.
HIPAA-compliant software on the market
Healthcare providers are looking for new types of cloud platforms that go beyond back-up to provide the most comprehensive and easy-to-use data protection solutions.
The Axcient Business Recovery Cloud is a market leader and “securely protects every part of their patient record and health information infrastructure, keeping data accessible, applications running, and doctors and administrators productive and in compliance with HIPAA regulations”.
Egnyte provides HIPAA-compliant hosting solutions. They also offer a free trial, a try before you buy deal, and a special cloud storage solution for the healthcare industry. Egnyte is also a market leader.
Carbonite can be used as an offsite back-up tool for disaster recovery and stores all data in encrypted form. Their data centers are extremely secure with many protective measures in place that restrict personnel access using advanced security measures.
Box.com is also a respected HIPAA-compliant cloud platform which has experienced widespread commercial success of late.
Understanding cloud services
According to HIT infrastructure, the “as-a-service” tag is the main identifier for cloud technology, which uses the CSPs resources for storage, app development, or management. Healthcare providers will pay monthly subscriptions to be able to use cloud services which reduces the need for constant technological updates and maintenance. Cloud computing is internet-based and includes several different elements but the main are “software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)”. SaaS solutions are “used for several healthcare IT functions, including electronic health records (EHRs), medical practice management systems, and health information exchange (HIE)”. PaaS offers more control over cloud environments through “an application hosting environment allowing organizations to build and deploy custom applications without having to build or maintain the infrastructure”. Finally, IaaS provides organizations with “storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources to deploy and run arbitrary software, such as operating systems and applications”.
5 Reasons Why Cloud Computing Is Taking The Industry By Storm
When cloud computing was first introduced as an up-and-coming business solution for added functionality and capacity, there was a lot of hesitation and doubt that surrounded its usage. When test groups tried to use it as a business solution, they found that it exceeded their original expectation. Cloud computing proved to be a successful way to increase storage, perform additional functions, and scale operations without investing heavily internally for servers with limited capacity. The cloud’s popularity has spread across industries, becoming the norm rather than the exception, and often replacing internal servers completely. Over the span of just a few years the cloud has proven to be a valuable business asset. Let’s take a deeper look at 5 ways cloud-based computing has had a positive effect on businesses across industries:
1. Accessible Information
Imagine being able to give everyone in your company access to all of the vital information that they need in one place. By using the cloud as a company-wide storage solution, you can offer your employees an incredibly easy and fast way to access any pertinent business information from one place. Internal servers do not provide the same level of accessibility, speed or security, on top of which they most likely have no back-up. From a company standpoint, this is an extremely useful feature as it enables employees to work more efficiently throughout their day.
2. Increased Mobility
Taking accessibility one step further, cloud computing allows employees to attend to business needs securely, from anywhere. These days, almost everyone has multiple ways to access the internet either on mobile phones or tablets, in addition to their laptops or computers. This empowers employees to not be confined to an office or desk and provides a greater sense of flexibility, which in turn, improves an individual employee’s productivity. Regardless of their location they are able to respond to clients, keep up on business changes, and monitor their projects as needed. More importantly, it also encourages employers to support healthy work/life balances which typically results in happier, more productive employees.
3. Unmatched Flexibility
Regardless of your business demands, the cloud-based services that you use can be adjusted to make sure that it is meeting your needs. Smaller companies or start-ups that experience a lot of fluctuation in the size of their operations in the beginning, can enjoy the ability to make changes to their cloud capacity by being able to increase or decrease the amount of capacity or storage available to them. Businesses benefit from this as well since they can increase their cloud capacity as the company grows. Since the cloud allows you to only use what you need, you are able to easily scale up or down as needed.
4. Integrated Recovery Solutions
Most companies that aren’t currently using a cloud-based platform have a really difficult time recovering lost data in the event of a system crash or another catastrophic situation. Some companies have the available resources to integrate third-party solutions or additional IT personnel to ensure that their data is backed-up and can be restored if it is lost. However, smaller companies aren’t usually able to afford that kind of redundancy and quick recovery strategy. By using cloud computing, your information is more greatly secured on virtual servers dedicated to providing capacity and storage compared to a company’s own, expensive and risk-prone internal servers.
5. Extensive Reach
Being able to create cloud-based applications allows the reach of your business to expand way beyond the limits of your headquarters. This means that you can hire employees all over the globe, communicate with international businesses and customers effortlessly, and provide consistent information across all of the different parts of your business.
It is easy to see why cloud computing has quickly become an integral part of the businesses that are most successful today. No matter what industry your business is in, there is a cloud-based solution that can suit your needs. Whether you need software that helps manage your sales contacts, or enhanced data security, a cloud migration partner can help you ensure that your business has the capacity to run the applications and programs that you need.
How The Cloud Can Take Your Business To The Next Level
Even if your company isn’t currently using a cloud service platform, you have probably used the cloud as a way to store personal data. Many common personal email servers and even certain smartphone devices use cloud technology as a way for their customers to store the music they download and the pictures they take. While this is a fitting example of usage on an extremely small and individual scale, the same benefits still apply when the fundamental principles of the cloud are used on a larger scale, such as a business solution.
When it comes to using a cloud-based service for your business there are a lot of benefits that you may not have considered yet. One of the biggest benefits is that it provides a way to share data throughout your entire company in an easy and efficient way. It also allows for updates and changes to be made and distributed more quickly. Depending on the needs of your business, this can mean that you can share things like business contacts, customer information, track data, and store any type of information that is important to your business without overloading your own servers. This means that your employees will have the added benefit of transparency which helps departments work together more efficiently without creating information silos.
Cloud Capabilities: What’s Next?
This is just a brief glimpse of what cloud services can do for your business, but keep in mind the cloud has capabilities that are virtually endless. Currently, the cloud has been viewed as though it only has capacity to store information, in a file-drop sort of way. While using unused server capacity in other locations and selling the extra storage and processing capability began in that simple format, it has grown into a business-must, which is cost-effective and secure. Many tech companies, and individual start-ups would not exist without the innovation that the cloud provides to business owners. SaaS (software as a service) and PaaS (platform as a service) businesses provide great examples of how cloud computing can help to mold and shape successful businesses who fill a booming market. In fact, most businesses today have implemented a cloud-based system to help their employees stay productive while securely protecting their vital data.
Today, cloud services and platforms are becoming more complex and can process more complicated tasks. One example of this is that the cloud is currently making it easier to communicate with other cloud-based programs with the evolution of Inter-cloud computing capabilities. This allows different cloud-based programs to be able to communicate with one another, which could enable you to streamline some of your tasks, update in real-time and become even more efficient. This is especially useful as some of the hardware systems that we use now turn into software, which will happen as the cloud continues to grow.
There are many different cloud systems that have different interfaces so that they are able to accurately match the particular industry your business identifies with. Whether your company offers services to businesses, international companies, or is more sales-based, it is important to choose a service that can match your current needs, and help you make adjustments as the cloud improves its reach. This is the type of business partner that any company can benefit from, including yours.