Cloud computing is bringing us closer to the utility information technology (IT) model: functionality on-demand, elasticity to increase or decrease resources as needed, and accessibility—the ability to access it from connected devices in any location. Deployment models can be private (services from internal hardware), public (services from a public provider), or a hybrid (services delivered by a combination of both). Service delivery models include Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS), each with unique characteristics chosen for your needs. In simple terms, IaaS refers to getting your IT infrastructure needs for computing, storage, and networking from external providers, while PaaS is providing a software platform for developing custom software applications. SaaS refers to obtaining completely developed software application(s) from providers.
Cloud computing increases reliance on third party providers, hence partnering and deciding the correct vendor is critical. Providers should be selected based on your current and future business needs, technologies and services roadmap, reliability and performance, and financial sustainability. The benefits of using cloud are numerous, including increased agility in delivering products to market, reduced capital expenditures, and increased data security. For all the promise that cloud demonstrates, organizations must be vigilant in proper implementation and tracking to avoid increased operating costs. To realize the enhanced benefit of improved data security, the various security features and tools must be configured and utilized. Investments should be made in attaining the appropriate training and knowledge to perform configuration management, change management, migration between multiple service providers, security audits, billing, and service level agreement management for cloud.
Recognizing the desired business outcomes is critical to selecting business and technical specifications and defining cloud strategy, which involves governance and control, vendor due-diligence, contingency planning using a multi-cloud approach, and developing cloud talent within organizations. In my opinion, a hybrid cloud strategy that uses existing infrastructure and cloud together remains the best approach. We are still many years away from an “All-Cloud” strategy in the healthcare industry, mainly due to the unique challenges of regulatory changes, our multi-application environments, legacy systems, and nascent vendor adoption. A more practical approach for community blood centers is to migrate non-core applications and use a cloud-first approach for any systems that will be implemented moving forward. Based on a recent ABC IT survey, blood centers are implementing applications with cloud computing capabilities such as Office 365, WebEx, file storage, customer relationship management, and software version control systems. Also, 78 percent of participating member blood centers are using at least one Software as a Service (SaaS) product and 32 percent are using at least one Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) product. The ABC office will migrate file storage, the phone system, and the endpoint protection tool to cloud as part of our virtual office conversion. Cloud continues to play a big role in increasing innovation—allowing organizations to embrace agility, create new products or services at a faster pace without substantial capital investment. It is here to stay, and we must adopt and use this technology to our advantage.
Sameer Ughade, Director, Information Technology & Business Intelligence