Cloud Computing: The Benefits and the Concerns

The Benefits of Cloud Computing have been touted for the past several years as the data storage wave of the future. There is good reason for this. Data is held by a third party storage company and a single access code makes it available to whoever has that code. This enables patient records to be instantly available no matter when or where the patient needs them. Because these records are not stored on a specific computer in their doctor’s office, but in the “cloud” of the Internet, there is no delay from a closed office, a busy data clerk or a host of other issues that can delay information from getting to where it needs to be as quickly as possible. It’s quickly and easily accessible from any computer, tablet or smart phone.

The security of these records is normally only as good as the security of the company holding them. This has been the biggest issue for most care providers and hospitals. Within the healthcare field, patient records are sacred. It is vitally important to protect that information from those not authorized to see it. Intense security of data is the top priority of cloud servers. They are responsible for the security and accessibility of the information.

The primary advantage of cloud computing is accessibility; the ability to retrieve the information instantly from anywhere. This is also a primary security concern. If something should happen to the data in the cloud there could be untold problems. Because of this concern and the probability, not possibility, that eventually something could go wrong, cloud servers back up the data frequently. This is considered part of data security. After all, not only are clinics and hospitals required to keep patient records confidential they are also required to be able to give them to the patient. This can’t happen if the data is gone. Until January 19th, 2012 this was not even a concern.

On January 19th, 2012 The New Zealand Government, acting on direct orders from the U.S. Government, raided the offices of Megaupload; one of the largest cloud storage facilities on the Internet. The owners and programmers have been accused of copyright infringement and piracy, among other crimes. What matters here is that millions of legitimate customers who have had their data stored in the cloud via Megaupload, have now lost that data. It was seized by the federal government and is slated to be destroyed.

There are a couple of points here that are of importance to healthcare providers. Aside from the obvious concern of data loss is that the federal government read through the files to determine which ones they needed and then discarded the rest thus violating the privacy of every individual whose file was read. Secondly, that without notice or wrongdoing your property can be taken and destroyed rather than returned to you.

Many within the IT community fear that this has set cloud computing back several years. Time will tell on this matter. In the meantime it might not be a bad idea to use two cloud computing servers. Just in case.


Originally Published on Dr.