Small and medium size businesses with limited IT resources must explore cloud computing for their computing needs - the two primary options to consider are:
1. Using cloud services like software-as-a service (SaaS)
The easiest way use cloud computing is to use software delivered to your computer as a service by the cloud service provider (CSP). In fact most of us already use many SaaS applications such as Gmail, Hotmail, Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps, Salesforce etc. The CSP provides the entire application via the internet. The consumer or the business doesn’t need to download or install anything on their computer, nor do they need to pay for upgrading to new versions of the software. Only an internet connection and computer is required.
Healthcare businesses can start their journey to the cloud by using cloud based email services, backup and disaster recovery solutions, automated reminder solutions, practice management and other operational workflows. Even cloud based EMRs are used by a number of healthcare practices. However all CSPs are not equal and the choice of the cloud service provider needs careful research and planning.
2. Migrating existing applications to the cloud
In this case, the existing applications and data on your local server are migrated to a server hosted on the cloud. The CSP such as Amazon Web Services ( AWS) provides the hardware as an Infrastructure-as-a service (IaaS) and charges the business to run the applications on its servers. Many businesses run their entire business on AWS infrastructure. AWS even signs a business associate agreement as required under HIPAA.
Migrating applications to the cloud does involve technical expertise for the initial implementation and on-going operational issues. So why would you consider moving your applications and data to the cloud when you always need a dedicated internet connection?
The main advantage-your business doesn’t have to worry about buying, maintaining, and repairing any physical servers in the future. It is also easier to launch a new server in the cloud in case you can’t access the existing one, thereby considerably reducing business downtime. Compare this convenience with what happens when a local server in your office goes down and you can’t access your applications and data. Basically all hell breaks loose. You have to call emergency IT support which is costly and you lose time and money until the server is repaired or replaced.
Cloud computing can make your healthcare business more efficient, flexible and scalable.
If you are thinking of replacing your old dying server, looking to expand your business to more locations, adding more personnel or if your workforce is mobile and needs fast, convenient access to applications and data from remote locations, you should seriously consider using the cloud. With appropriate planning and implementation, cloud computing can provide you a competitive advantage that takes your business to a new level.