The healthcare sector is finally undergoing similar technological changes as the rest of the business world due to the advent of mobility and cloud computing. If physicians and other caregivers want to deliver the best possible service to patients, organizations need to replace legacy network solutions with more advanced tools capable of supporting wireless connectivity.
A recent study by HIMSS Analytics found that the hospital IT leader's quest to implement more advanced technologies is riddled with both benefits and obstacles. As healthcare facilities make their way to the cloud to support the use of mobile and other advanced communication tools, decision-makers need to be sure they keep an eye on security and where they store mission-critical information.
"We found that IT network priorities for all participating hospital systems were consistently focused around accommodating greater mobile and wireless connectivity to their networks," said Jennifer Horowitz, senior director of research for HIMSS Analytics. "Simultaneously, the IT leaders were also concerned with ensuring the security of patient data, particularly as they relate to the challenges associated with bring-your-own-device environments."
Fortunately, embracing a cloud infrastructure can resolve these issues without jeopardizing the security of confidential information.
How the cloud is augmenting healthcare
The study found that executives are looking for highly scalable solutions to keep up with the varying levels of traffic commonly associated with hospital activity. Organizations also want network technologies capable of evolving to more sophisticated services in the future. Because cloud computing has both of these characteristics, decision-makers are considering the hosted environments to be a more viable option.
In a separate InfoWorld report, technology expert David Linthicum asserted that healthcare firms around the world are leveraging the cloud because of their ongoing need to reduce expenses associated with maintaining IT infrastructures. Because hospitals and other organizations continue to struggle with shrinking budgets, executives recognize the benefits behind eliminating on-premise equipment and moving assets to an off-site location.
Linthicum stated that implementing the cloud also enables facilities to optimize operations, allowing for a better return on investments - a critical advantage in the presence of dwindling healthcare budgets.
As hospitals and other organizations continue to face privacy and operational challenges associated with maintaining outdated and inefficient network solutions, it will become increasingly important that firms make a change within the next few years. By implementing the cloud, administrators can be sure their facilities are productive and adaptable to ongoing transformations in the IT landscape.
The presence of mobile devices in the workplace has changed how employees operate, driving the death of the PC era and supporting the dawn of cloud computing. Employees now demand the ability to leverage high-quality, mission-critical solutions via smartphones and tablets from virtually anywhere - a capability that can be achieved through the cloud.
A recent Vanson Bourne study of 1,300 companies across the United States and U.K. found that 66 percent of respondents said their employees want to access business-level applications through their mobile devices connected to the network. In fact, 82 percent of organizations believe this use of mobile software through the cloud will eventually become the norm.
"This increased focus on enterprise apps and mobility makes it imperative that CIO's transition workloads to the cloud so employees can access corporate data from any device, irrespective of geographical location," cloud expert John Engates asserted.
Mobile apps gain momentum
The survey found that nearly two-thirds of respondents plan to invest more heavily in business applications during the next year, with another 28 percent intending to develop an enterprise app store to make managing mobile solutions in the workplace less complex.
A separate IDC report highlighted how the rapidly evolving mobile landscape is driving the need for more agnostic software that can support access to a broad range of endpoints. This transformation, combined with the proliferation of big data and other technologies, helped bump the global software market to $342 billion in 2012, up 3.6 percent from 2011.
Because the cloud enables more flexible operations, it is an ideal solution to address the requirements of the workplace.
"What's interesting to see is how staff are wanting to access their corporate IT services; they're demanding the same consumer app experience in the workplace from their laptops, smartphones and tablets," said Brian Nicholson from the Manchester Business School. "With our reliance on the PC declining, the onus is on the businesses to deliver their IT services in a format that enables staff to access corporate cloud apps from any device or location."
As smartphones, tablets and other advanced gadgets evolve to support more complex business operations, using those endpoints in the office will be inevitable. By planning ahead and implementing the most appropriate cloud infrastructure, decision-makers can be sure their companies' use of mobile devices is efficient.
The emergence of virtualization, cloud computing and software defined networking (SDN) is changing the enterprise data center into a smarter, more collaborative environment. SDN in particular is having a major impact on the IT infrastructure landscape and will continue to influence changes in the coming years.
A recent GCN report highlighted this trend, noting that SDN data centers are those that have been virtualized, with the overall architecture being managed with the same policies that are used to maintain software in the workplace.
"What this emerging trend is essentially doing is taking what has happened over the last 15 years with server virtualization and bringing that to the network and storage levels," cloud computing expert Doug Bourgeois said, according to GCN. "Once these three levels of the infrastructure have been virtualized, the data center becomes orders of magnitude more agile than ever before."
Experts believe the proliferation of virtualized and SDN data centers will continue to change the IT landscape, making it easier to manage resources without adding too much complexity.
How SDN is changing the data center
Network solutions expert Anthony Robbins told GCN that the continued use of SDN will drive the cloud infrastructure market forward and eventually influence the end user by introducing new opportunities for social media, bring your own device and other next-generation IT services. Meanwhile, the future data center will make it easier for decision-makers to migrate applications across various virtual and physical environments.
When individuals can access solutions from virtually anywhere on any device, the future enterprise will be much more connected and efficient.
"Perhaps most important, the software-defined data center will finally allow the IT organization to shift resources away from operations and towards helping the mission respond to changing business needs," Bourgeois told GCN.
A recent study by Cisco highlighted that 71 percent of companies plan to deploy SDN solutions within the next year, largely due to the technology's ability to reduce costs and make it easier to scale infrastructure resources. As the demands of tomorrow's business world continue to change, executives will be encouraged to dip their toes into new waters, including SDN and cloud, if they haven't done so already.
By planning ahead and implementing these solutions effectively, organizations of all sizes can augment their data center to make room for future innovations.
As the business world increases its use of cloud computing, organizations that are considering making the transition need to be alert and aware of the prospective change and how the adoption of hosted services will impact current operations. If companies are not prepared for the transition to the cloud, they will have trouble ensuring mission-critical resources are available, accessible and secure.
In many cases, building a strong governance strategy will make it easier for decision-makers to manage the cloud. This was highlighted in a recent report by ISACA, which noted that executives should be aware of several key factors when deploying a cloud infrastructure, as unreadiness can lead to significant problems.
To begin, firms need to recognize the cloud for what it really is: a unique opportunity.
"Board members need a clear understanding of cloud computing benefits and how to maximize them through effective governance practices," said Marc Vael, an ISACA board member. "This requires the board to see cloud computing not as an IT project, but rather as a business strategy."
Cloud governance must-haves
Having a plan for cloud computing projects means decision-makers have already valued the benefits and opportunity costs associated with the technology, ISACA noted. If businesses have not yet recognized the inherent advantages and operations they have to give up with the cloud, they are not prepared for the transition and should conduct more research.
Enterprises should also be sure that their use of the cloud aligns with long-term objectives, according to the news source. This is important in today's increasingly competitive landscape, as any unplanned detours or off-course initiatives will only make it more difficult for organizations to stay relevant and on pace with the rest of their respective industries.
A Computer Weekly report stated that executives should work on integrating business and IT through the use of next-generation applications. As the software landscape matures and evolves, this collaboration will become increasingly important for organizations to experience success in the coming years.
Computer Weekly also noted that an organization's use of the cloud means risk assessments need to have a broader range. As the cloud market continues to expand, businesses of all sizes and industries need to be sure they implement the proper governance strategies before investing wholeheartedly into the cloud, as failing to embrace the appropriate management approach will only invite trouble.
Although cloud computing evangelists forecast the technology to grow exponentially in the coming years, this will only happen if the business world comes to grips with what the hosted services actually are. In many cases, the term "cloud" invokes a sense of confusion, as some decision-makers believe everything web-based exists in the cloud, while others are still unsure of how the solutions can augment current operations.
A recent Smart Business Network Online report highlighted that the cloud market will only experience true growth when executives comprehend the technology's benefits and implement the proper techniques to ensure its deployment is safe and efficient. Because the term is somewhat ambiguous and misleading, getting beyond the misconceptions will be critical to long-term success.
"Cloud computing means so many different things to so many people and there is a lot of confusion," cloud expert Pervez Delawalla told the news source.
While some companies think the cloud is some magical, virtual entity, this is not the case. In fact, the cloud is just someone else's data center. In other words, there is still hardware, such as servers, routers and switches involved with the public cloud, it's just hosted somewhere outside the user's infrastructure, SBN Online stated.
Why use someone else's stuff?
Time management is among the most important characteristics of a successful organization. By using the cloud, decision-makers can use advanced automated technologies to streamline operations, reduce time to market and access mission-critical resources without delay, giving them new opportunities to acquire a competitive advantage, SBN Online noted.
At the same time, a cloud infrastructure is highly scalable, which means it can support a wider range of complex applications than traditional environments, according to the news source. This is especially important as the consumerization of IT and mobile trends make their way into the business world.
A recent study by KPMG revealed that roughly 59 percent of organizations are adopting the cloud to reduce costs, while 31 percent are doing so because the process can be completed quickly. Another 30 percent are implementing the cloud to transform business processes.
By taking the time to understand internal demands, executives can assess which cloud models, services and providers best align to these objectives and select the most appropriate offerings. This comprehension will also clear up some of the confusion surrounding the hosted services, allowing the market to prosper and grow in the coming years.
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