NAS: The Right Prescription For Healthcare
Syscom Technologies uses NAS (network attached storage) to meet the departmental application needs of a healthcare company.
Syscom Technologies (Marietta, GA) is an expert in backup and disaster recovery. The integrator finds many of its customers simply by cold-calling clients in the Atlanta area. "We make sales by understanding infrastructure needs," says Michael Weldon, director of technology for Syscom. "We discover pain points and then recommend solutions. We engage customers in more of a consultative nature, trying to understand what their infrastructure is made of and the education level of the employees. We take that information and recommend different options that make the most sense." One of the customers Syscom discovered was a healthcare company in the Atlanta area.
Back Door Applications Create Problems
One of the biggest pain points for customers is what Weldon calls "back door applications." These are applications that are specific to departments within each company. Each department, including accounting, radiology, and human resources, will have applications that are used by that department but not the rest of the organization. "As these companies continue to grow, they get more distributed systems in their environments," says Weldon. "Every day those distributed systems become harder to manage and control."
The back door applications will have an effect on the company's storage as well. "Suddenly you have not just a distributed host, but a distributed storage environment as well," he says. "Customers need to be able to optimize the amount of server performance while minimizing the amount of risk on the back end storage application. Over time, this will enable them to have more powerful and less expensive servers, while investing in solid storage infrastructure on the back end that will scale and grow going forward."
Install NAS For Each Department
Weldon believes NAS (network attached storage) is a good solution in this type of environment because end users can install one appliance in each department. Each department can then run its specific applications. If departments are located in remote facilities, users can also install NAS devices in each remote facility. Those NAS devices can then be replicated to a centralized headquarters. "The solution serves as the start of a disaster recovery plan while optimizing their storage infrastructure," says Weldon. "We recommend that customers replicate data to nearline storage for faster restoration times and continue to use their current tape assets. Customers are able to better scale their storage assets and do their backups online during the day."
Syscom originally looked into a couple of different solutions, but costs were a concern for the customer. "We evaluated whether it made sense to go with a SAN (storage area network) or NAS," says Weldon. "After evaluating different solutions, we felt the best investment for them would be to go with NAS devices."
NAS Fits The Bill
Every customer environment is going to be different, so Syscom does not have a cookie-cutter solution that is a fit for each one. The InoStor (Poway, CA) PerformNAS product has the ability to back up directly to a tape device. That was a need for this particular customer, and the InoStor product was the only one at the time that included that capability. Another problem Syscom faces is the lack of a high level of education in some customer environments. "When that education level is not there, we need to leverage what they have been educated on in the past with their current infrastructure and their goals," says Weldon. "Then we can look at available technologies and determine which make the most sense. InoStor products were a good fit because the customer's employees were already familiar with them."
Weldon believes storage needs in healthcare will continue to grow, creating opportunity for VARs. One reason is the new HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) requirements. "This is an industry that is always looking to get the most bang for its buck," he says. "Healthcare companies want to implement new technologies with better performance and scalability but at a lower cost. Whether it is HIPAA or the demands of insurance companies, healthcare firms need the right storage solutions."