Business Continuity Takes Over for Disaster Recovery

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Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center in Lincoln, Neb.Gone are the days of disaster recovery, when organizations had strategies in place to recover their data. Now, most healthcare organizations need to stay operational at all times so they are partnering with vendors to develop strategies. With a range of prices and scalable, flexible systems, there is no excuse for not adequately protecting your data.

Any organization with information management systems should be planning to not only safeguard that information but have a plan in place to make the information available during a disaster, says Jeff Pounds, executive director of IT at Baylor College School of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and speaker on the subject.

Overall, Pounds says healthcare organizations are doing well with disaster recovery planning. There has been a shift in thinking over the past few years, however, from disaster recovery to business continuity, he says. Disaster recovery traditionally meant that you back up all your information, bring your information systems down, ride the event out, and as soon as possible bring everything back up online. Rather than just thinking about how soon after a disaster they can get operational again, organizations are planning for remaining operational during the disaster. Hospitals are first responders during a disaster. “More and more, and particularly in healthcare organizations, you need levels of ongoing information during the event.”

Preparing to continue operating through a disaster includes identifying the categories of information that you do and don’t need during an event. Essential personnel require that certain information is available to continue to function during the event, Pounds says. “Some organizations determine that they don’t need much electronic information,” he says, “while others decide that they need as much as they can get.”

A slick setup

That business continuity idea applies to the strategy of Andrew Pipp, director of IT at the Center for Diagnostic Imaging, a group of freestanding imaging centers headquartered in Minneapolis. He started working with Acuo Technologies after another archive failed. “Our first archive decided to blow up on us. The database corrupted itself and because it was not a redundant product, all we had left was 1 terabyte of images on a tape jukebox.”

Acuo helped CDI migrate the old tapes to the current spinning solution. “Today, we have everything on spinning [EMC] Centera storage duplicating itself to another Centera storage device.” The goal in setting up an architecture with Acuo was ensuring that even a total disaster with one Centera unit would not bring down the network, Pipp says. By using the products to mirror images in real time on two separate infrastructures, Pipp hopes his customers won’t even notice any problems. All information is stored in the data center in Minneapolis and “dumb” devices are in each facility, forwarding images to the central location.

“It’s a pretty slick set up,” he says. “We don’t have to put much thought into our remote sites.” That includes not needing anyone to staff this at each facility and only needing one overall administrator. “That’s another thing we liked about [the Acuo product], it’s pretty self-sufficient. Once it is set up properly, it just works.”

New companies appear every year, Pipp says, offering “something bigger and better, but most companies’ products are in a proprietary format while Acuo does straight DICOM and keeps it open.” He recommends getting your plan down on paper first. “Understand how you’re routing,” he says. “If you don’t have that, it will cause major issues down the road.”

Being more proactive

Continuous computing is the goal at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Mass., says John Kilroy, vice president and CIO. “That’s a more proactive way to think about it,” he says. The facility worked with EMC Corporation to develop a storage area network (SAN). “We need to keep things running come hell or high water,” Kilroy says. High water could be a real concern since the hospital’s computer center is very close to Hyannis harbor which connects to the Atlantic Ocean. The strategy includes a redundant data center at another hospital 25 miles away, where the database is perfectly replicated as timely as possible.

It’s important to realize that you can phase in a business continuity strategy over time, says Pounds. “Don’t feel like you have to bite it all off at one time,” he says. “In many instances, people find a lot of lessons learned as they go through the