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By Stephen Szycher
Data Centers Article Use Policy
Storing information is one of the most important challenges organizations face, especially those in the healthcare sector. Many facilities turn to data centers to ensure that their stored data is organized, available, and secure. One of the hardest parts of this process is that the data not only consists of the existing records that companies acquire over time, but also the continuous stream of new, incoming information. As methods of retaining and storing information have changed, the actual asset, the data center, has not. Fundamentally, we are now able to translate old information archives into digital data to be stored with the new. But the actual physical location of this data is another evolving issue to contend with, and it poses the issue of whether it is better to retain a piecemeal approach or go new.
In the case of healthcare institutions, federal law now requires patient data to be stored electronically. While practical and effective, it is a method many institutions were not using, and have had to put into practice. One of the biggest unknowns with healthcare providers, which retain and receive large amounts of patient data, has always been the volume of data. How much space, both virtual and physical, that data will take up is also unknown.
Throughout the process of acquiring and storing digital data, institutions have gone from requiring hard drives and servers to needing buildings full of them. The biggest problem here is that most organizations don’t know that, when they begin storing data electronically, they might have to build 20,000 square feet of clean, fully redundant, server storage space specifically for this purpose. This leaves organizations in one of three positions:
1. A patchwork of spaces in different buildings across the corporate campus, which houses a multitude of data centers.
2. The data centers are consolidated into an existing building that is not suited for data center programs, primarily the white space and necessary infrastructure backup. The space might not be efficiently laid out or structurally robust, or it might be located in a high-risk location.
3. The most desirable position is when the institution has invested in the construction of a new building that is specifically designed and located to be its new data center.
Healthcare institutions are businesses, and while the construction of a new data center does not generate new revenue for healthcare institutions like a new medical facility does, data centers can cost as much as a new medical facility. That’s the reason most hospitals find themselves with a patchwork of data center spaces or a data center in an existing building not really suited to the purpose. However, the data center needs to be viewed as being just as much a part of a healthcare provider’s overall revenue stream as the medical facilities themselves. Data should be treated as generated revenue in this regard; if the data stops, so too does a large part of the medical machine.
It’s possible the cost of storing an organization’s data in an inappropriate facility or spread out in high-risk buildings can, over time, outweigh the cost of building a new data center. It comes down to being proactive, not reactive. The one-time capital expenditure for a new data center, which offers the efficiency of new technology, should provide returns on investment that justify the costs, not to mention improvement in risk mitigation and marketability.
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