As you begin your exploration of available Electronic Health Record (EHR) software, sooner or later you will have to decide how to save your client and administrative data: on your agency’s local computers and server or in the cloud.
If you’ve already encountered this term, you may have several questions. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about the cloud.
What is the cloud?
“The cloud” is a term that has come to be used quite broadly.
Simply put, the cloud is a group of online applications which manage and store your data in highly secure, remote servers spread throughout the country.
What this article is describing, could more closely be termed, “private cloud computing,” which means that the entity storing the information knows exactly where the data will be stored.
These servers are non-public, and can only be accessed by authorized users.
If you’ve banked online, you’ve already experienced this sort of cloud computing.
Are there any risks?
The risks associated with private cloud computing stem primarily from poor agency practices and control, rather than inherent risks in cloud computing itself.
They include inadequate access control policies, lack of staff education, and insider threat.
You can minimize these risks through good IT security policies, excellent user education (from your software vendor and your agency), and by choosing an application that limits user access to only those records, portions of records, or reports that the user’s job requires them to view.
How secure is the cloud?
You may wonder how safe your client information and reports will be if you store them in this sort of private cloud.
The answer is: very safe.
In fact, web-based applications are often much more robust and secure than local computers or servers, primarily because all data is encrypted.
Access to client records can easily be managed through the use of passwords, designation of specific levels of access, and privileges for individual employee, etc.
What are the advantages of using the cloud?
- Working with a software vendor that offers remote storage of your key client files, administrative files, and reports translates to far less (or maybe no) onsite-maintenance time by your IT department. This means saving time and money.
- Storing your data in the cloud in locations across the country ensures that you will always have complete access to all of your records at all times, regardless of any unexpected hardware tragedies that may occur locally. When you use your agency’s own hard drives or servers for data back-up, you put yourself at serious risk of data loss. Should your hardware be damaged by natural disaster (flooding or fire), or break down in some other way, such as computer malfunction or virus, there may be no way to recover that data.
- Agencies, schools, and programs located in more than one geographical location can access the same client record or stored document from any computer, anywhere.
(Reference: http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/cloud-computing-myths-vs-risks, accessed 10/13/11)
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