D'Arcy Gue


Healthcare’s Top Hosting Options: Key Pros and Cons

May 14, 2015


Healthcare IT, IT Outsourcing 4 Minute Read

Just a few years ago the answer to the question “What is hosting?” was fairly straightforward and easy to understand. With the proliferation of solutions, including Healthcare IT, there is no longer a single answer, but a seemingly endless number of options and configurations which can overwhelm even the most seasoned industry veteran. While the list below will only scratch the surface, I have focused on the four offerings that most commonly attract healthcare organizations and their IT leaders.

TRADITIONAL HOSTING

COLOCATION

Colocation is still what comes to mind for most people when hearing the term “hosting.” At a high level, colocation is simply moving hardware and software to an offsite or centralized location. This solution is attractive to organizations that have specialized hardware, multiple locations, or other requirements that prevent them from moving to one of the cloud solutions listed below. While there are very few efficiencies to be gained by colocation alone, coupling this solution with managed services can free in house IT personnel to focus on higher priority tasks and projects.

Pros

  • Full control of entire hardware/software environment
  • Secure facilities
  • Power and cooling are fully redundant

Cons

  • Cost, especially related to capital expenditures
  • No elasticity or scalability
  • Increased complexity

expertVIRTUAL PRIVATE SERVER (VPS)

VPS offerings are similar to IaaS outlined below, but lack most of the enterprise features. VPS solutions are primarily targeted at organizations looking to move a single server or a single application, as these solutions do not contain the more advanced offerings necessary to build a true network.

Pros

  • Full control of software environment
  • No upfront costs
  • Lower monthly cost compared to colocation

Cons

  • No automation
  • No elasticity and very little scalability

CLOUD SOLUTIONS

INFRASTRUCTURE AS A SERVICE (IAAS)

IaaS is the most basic cloud service and most akin to the traditional hosting model, specifically VPS. IaaS provides all of the components found in a traditional data center (servers, storage, advances networks, etc.), but on a much larger scale. While it is similar in nature, there are many additional benefits that go along with choosing a true IaaS solution. IaaS solutions have grown over the years to the point where they can replace practically any data center for a fraction of the cost.

At this point in the maturity cycle, the smaller players have been squeezed out and the landscape is now dominated by the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. The competition between these companies has lead to increased capabilities coupled with ever-dropping prices. The primary drawback to IaaS is that most IT personnel are ill prepared to take on the increased levels of complexity involved in supporting this solution. As a result, many organizations must provide specialized internal expertise or outsource management of the solution. Even with the latter choice, major cost savings can be realized with IaaS.

Pros

  • Full control of software & networking environments
  • No upfront costs
  • Utility pricing (pay only for what you use)
  • Fully elastic and scalable
  • Very secure

Cons

  • Increased complexity

SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE (SAAS)

Software as a Service is, just as the name implies, delivering software without the overhead of managing the technical components. Hardware, storage, and even connectivity are managed by a third party and completely transparent to the end user. SaaS solutions are generally provided by the company responsible for the software being used, and delivered from a shared environment. While we’ve all been using SaaS everyday in our personal lives (Gmail, Netflix, Skype, etc.), it has also recently become a common solution for deploying applications in enterprise IT.

Pros

  • Easy to manage
  • No upfront costs
  • Flexible pricing
  • Fully elastic and scalable
  • Very secure

Cons

  • Increased complexity in managing vendors
  • No control or monitoring of underlying components

Every technical environment is different, with unique challenges and requirements, but, fortunately, none of these solutions is mutually exclusive from the others. Ultimately, you should choose the solution that best suits your organization’s requirements and internal support and financial resources. The focus, as always, should be on ensuring users have access to the applications they need, when they need them.

Without a doubt, understanding what solution will work for your organization requires more than a simple phone call to the hosting company down the street. Talking to just one provider is not advisable; quality and capability varies as much in the hosting industry as any other.

Also, asking about the technology solutions offered should just be your first question. Many hosting companies hope that will be the only one. There are many associated critical concerns that should be covered, in order to make the decision that will best protect your information assets and applications,  keep them available to users, and ensure stable and dependable operations.

We recommend… that you talk with more than one hosting provider, with the assistance of a strong network technology professional.  While the following is not a comprehensive list of issues to discuss, it should get you moving in the right direction.  Investigate questions such as actual capabilities, space, security, scalability, server management and maintenance, service levels (including uptime that can be expected), overall reporting, disaster recovery, support availability, pricing, potential bandwidth issues and much more. Including, of course — company viability. Of course, get references and call them.

To learn about Phoenix’ hosting capabilities — or to get consulting help in choosing the right hosting solution for your healthcare organization — please contact us.

You may also want to read Justin’s past blog post on Healthcare IT in hospitals.



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