On-Site vs. Hosted/Cloud Applications: Data Security and Technical Support

Regardless of where your data resides, it needs to be protected.  It may seem more secure to house your software and patient health information on a server within your facility, but this assumes you have well-maintained hardware, good backups, a bulletproof network, and secure remote access.  It seems scary for confidential data to be “floating around” the internet, but that’s not what really happens in a hosted environment.  Hosted systems are often as secure, if not more, than deployed, because of the dedicated performance monitoring, redundancy procedures, resilient connectivity, and both physical and virtual security measures.

Any technology vendor you consider should comply with HIPAA standards for a business associate and know all of the ins and outs of secure integration.  CCHIT certification is even better, or at least the vendor should demonstrate compliance with the functionality, interoperability, and security standards required to meet meaningful use criteria.

Finally, as with any technology acquisition, support is a major consideration.  If at all possible, get references so that you can ask other clients of the vendor about their experiences.  Were they satisfied with the implementation process?  Did it take longer than expected?  How responsive has the vendor been since the system went live?  What types of issues have they experienced, if any?

Hosted systems have the reputation of requiring less maintenance, fewer IT resources, and straightforward manageability.  In the past, vendors of hosted solutions were considered less attentive when it comes to support and service.  Deployed system vendors, on the other hand, have had decent reputations amongst clients who prefer personal on-site service and rapport.  These days, some vendors of deployed systems are developing hosted options, too, so the service you get in either arrangement should be consistent and of high quality.  Check out the vendor’s online support community, read their FAQs, and ask a lot of questions.  This should give you a good sense for what your experience will be like once the system is in place.

So, let’s recap. When considering a hosted/cloud versus an on-site application, there are inherent differences between the systems as well as several other general factors to consider. Functionality, cost, accessibility, data security, and the amount of implementation and technical support you will receive are all important elements to weigh when making your decision. That’s a lot to keep straight at one time, but any one of these factors could mean the difference between finding the perfect technical solution for your organization and banging your head against a wall. Happy hunting, and good luck!

Jill Devrick is a Product Solutions Advisor with 3M Health Information Systems.

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