Business Continuity: Facilities Tackle Terabytes

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 Healthcare facilities are constantly increasing the amount of data they have to manage and store securely. From an increase in patient volume to more and more modalities that create larger datasets, double-digit growth year to year is not unusual. But a wide range of solutions for high data availability and redundancy offer a means to limit downtime as much as possible—if even at all.

In the summer of 2006, Iowa Health System experienced a complete failure of its PACS archive environment. It was corrupted beyond repair, says Bob Thompson, director of governance. It took weeks to recover images and months of confirmation. “That was fairly painful and it was only a 10 TB recovery,” he says.

Thompson was already in the process of looking for a new storage architecture based on new modalities that were in the planning stages and growth of about 15 TB a year. The health system was just getting started with PACS and Thompson saw a huge demand for the PACS environment within the state of Iowa. Cardiology PACS means huge image sets and he knew three new dual-source scanners were coming this year. “You rack up the storage really fast, regardless of how you pare down the permanent images.” That demand for storage—and that’s just for PACS—meant they needed a substantial storage solution, Thompson says. Their choice was the IBM GMAS.

Constant connection

Iowa Health System uses the IBM GMAS as its storage solution.

Thompson has dozens of clinics he needs to connect and rural hospitals and non-affiliates that would like to connect to the system. Installation went very well, even with Thompson insisting that his team perform the acceptance testing. “That meant a great deal to us because some of the problems we’ve had is that our storage team has a lot to do. This really automates a lot of that.” That automation results in less dependence on the staff’s expertise and less risk of human error.

Thompson and his team installed primary and secondary systems from Bycast with an initial size of 30 TB each. The solution was “one of the easiest sells I’ve ever done” to Iowa Health System’s administration, he says. “One of the biggest selling points was that the cost was no more than we were already paying. If you counted what you were actually getting, the cost was less.” Plus, Thompson could show that the system was easily expandable, an important concern for the future. Thompson already has expanded GMAS to three major applications and expects storage for each of those to grow substantially.

Drive to digital

Since signing on with InSiteOne more than four years ago, Tower Diagnostic Centers in Tampa Bay, Fla., has gone from almost all analog imaging to almost all digital imaging. The organization was drawn to InSiteOne’s ability to index data in addition to storing it, says Chief Information Officer Don Fulk. Since the organization is not stuck in a proprietary system, in the event of switching to a new vendor, there won’t be migration and conversion fees. Fulk also appreciated InSiteOne’s offsite redundancy in two locations, no need to purchase hardware and no need to dedicate an employee to the system.

Facilities have to decide what data are most important, Fulk says. “We are almost a 24/7 shop. All of our data are critical to us.”

Routine replication

Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Ky., has done more than talk about it when it comes to storage and business continuity planning. “Earlier this year we replaced our two main storage arrays with a DMX3 from EMC Corporation,” says Sean O’Mahoney, manager of client/server information systems. Norton had an 8730 Symmetrix as well as a DMX800. O’Mahoney replaced both and combined them into one DMX3. The DMX800 went to a remote site for replication. Norton also has two Clarion CX700s, two CX300s that are directly attached to servers at some of their hospitals and four Centeras.

All HIS data are replicated at the facility’s remote site. The Centeras archive radiology and cardiology PACS data, which is a switch from an optical platform. “We’ve got our archive and we’re able to use Centera’s native replication to send offsite,” says O’Mahoney. “We don’t have to spin it off to optical or magnetic tape, take it offsite and store it to have a third copy of data. We’re very pleased with it.”

Over the next 12 to 18 months, Norton is investing in a disaster recovery data center that they will either lease or construct. “In some cases, we’re looking at clustering, active-active or active-passive set-ups