I recently came across this article from last year about how the healthcare industry is increasing its reliance on data centers. The architecture and design publication emphasizes that as hospitals and the healthcare industry becomes more efficient, data centers and internet hubs are increasingly more crucial. Data centers are not simply used for insurance and personnel records anymore, but for the day-to-day operations of a global business. Whether it be implementing new software, supporting video teleconferences, transferring clinical records or for data security, addresses like 1102 GRAND are going to be more and more essential to the current and future needs of the industry.
From the article:“The goal for a data center is to maximize reliability and minimize dollars spent, all while maintaining future flexibility. To do this most efficiently, each system should be supported to its level of recommended reliability—but no more.” There’s also this graphic of the type of dual-active approach that Healthcare Design says is most effective for hospitals, stating that “this approach may provide more reliability to the end user at a smaller price tag. Using this concept, hospitals can also get some value out of old data centers, which can act as a second active backup site to support the most critical applications. This will allow a facility to operate if there is a major problem with the communications grid.”
Greg Elliot With IT Executive Consultant & CIO Brad Rein
By Greg Elliott
I have heard the discussion many times, should I invest capital in a data center at my current facility or should I move to an off-site facility? I met Brad Rein recently and he had a great insight into the topic at hand. His particular case was a little different, he was looking to move his primary data center to an off-site location and have his DR [disaster recovery] site remain at their main office.
1) What were the components that made the move make sense?
Our operations consisted of one data center, so as the company achieved the current level of maturity and demands from our clients, I had to begin planning for the advancement of our DR/BC [disaster recovery/business continuity] plan. My decision to develop an off site hosting model for our primary data center operations was based on several factors. First, the buildup of our server, network and storage infrastructure was essentially complete so the level of hands on activity had been reduced to periodic maintenance and other occasional physical changes. With our heavy emphasis on virtualization, and remote management capabilities, having direct access to the primary physical components by our infrastructure team was no longer an issue. This previously had weighed heavily into the decision to keep our primary data center operations in our corporate office facility.
Second, given the nature of our business (medical device, healthcare information centric), we were capturing and maintaining highly sensitive data. Our clients and business partners were placing significant emphasis on comprehensive security controls that we were obligated to meet. The focus on the physical data center was becoming increasingly important to them, and the requirements were beginning to exceed what we could justify from a cost/benefit perspective in terms of hardening our existing data center.
2) What did you discover as key benefits to the potential move?
My model was to essentially transfer our primary DC [data center] operations to a remote facility and continue to operate the corporate office data center as the fail over, backup. This was a strategic decision based on the previous points, with the intent of taking our DR/BC capabilities to the next level while mitigating the cost of building the requisite functionality into our existing data center. Additionally, this move would also allow flexibility in the event that, for instance, the company outgrew the leased space in the building and was forced to seek new space elsewhere. Business service interruptions were limited to narrow scheduled maintenance windows – too narrow to take down and move the data center. And, as previously stated, the increasingly stringent operational and security requirements coming from our clients and business partners related to data center operations would be easily met under this model thus expediting the acquisition of new business, and meeting evolving SLA’s [service level agreement].
3) Was there a cost saving by making the switch?
The initial cost analysis showed that by making this change we would eliminate the need to invest in additional (redundant) data circuits, upgrade the fire protection solution, security, HVAC [heating, ventilating, air conditioning], etc. The savings on the fixed and recurring costs far outweighed the cost of the hosting solution. In a high density, virtualized infrastructure, the footprint is significantly reduced, so the monthly costs for the hosted solution is minimal by comparison.
4) What obstacles did you encounter with the process?
In our discussions and planning, I did not see any issues whatsoever in making the change. Any major player in the hosting services space have the engineers on staff to assist with this process, and I felt comfortable with the approach. Having moved data centers on two occasions throughout my career, I understand the process, what to plan for, and how to execute. The bottom line is plan, plan and plan some more. Get the key people involved in every step of the process.
5) What advice would you offer to a CIO contemplating a similar move?
In the current economic climate, most CIO’s are facing increasing pressures on budgets, with expectations to deliver world class, best of breed solutions. Often that creates a paradox in that an adequate capital expenditures budget is essential to accomplishing the mission. It is a fairly simple mathematical exercise to establish the cost to a business when mission critical functions are lost. Approach it from an insurance mindset, and consider ways to reduce the impact. Whether you are hosting a single data center, or multiple operations, hosting makes sense in that you have the full attention and skill of the staff in a facility specifically designed to support critical technology operations.
So there you have it, straight from a CIO. Let me know what topics you would like to see covered in our five questions with… posts. Coming soon…equipment financing with Commercial Capital Company and data backup with DataEdge.
Brad A. Rein
Brad A. Rein has a broad background as a senior executive with over 20 years of leadership experience in medium size, private equity held company environments. His experience history has been primarily focused in high growth, strong return businesses with key roles in Information Technology. Mr. Rein has extensive experience in establishing vision and business strategy, building and managing IT project teams and initiatives, with depth and mastery of key technology areas.