The Cloud makes it easy to accumulate data, but should it?

May 25, 2018 / By AJ Dandrea

As a traditional technology leader, it took me a few years to accept the Cloud and its ability to provide the agility of “adding” storage to solve any problem quickly. I was part of the problem that catalyzed the need for agility. In the old days, back in the 2000s, we spent a lot of time planning our storage forecasts. We did this not because we wanted to avoid providing service to our internal and external customers, but because of the immense cost of traditional storage (storage area network, network attached storage, etc.).

The limitation of time was the primary cause of friction between information technologists and their colleagues. The Cloud solved the problem of time. Developers could now attach storage without delay. What problems can come from this capability?

Data gravity: I have blogged about data gravity in the past. It gets a bit trickier with healthcare data as these solutions become complex quickly. This data becomes hard to detangle when needed and the result is mass accumulation and expansion. Sound like a super nova? And perhaps as dangerous to your company. One way to combat gravity is to have sound Privacy guidance and minimum necessary principles.   

Administrative bypass: Years ago, the industry had a popular role called “Database Administrator” (DBA). DBAs were responsible for provisioning storage as well as stewarding it. It took years to become a DBA and more years to become proficient at it. Now that this important role has been bypassed, organizations will need solid technical and administrative safeguards in place to ensure they avoid future challenges around storage.

Loss of trust: It’s one thing to accumulate data based on a need to solve a customer problem, but how transparent are you around the specifics? What the data is used for, how it’s used, its life in your system, sub-systems and when it’s deleted (if it’s deleted). One way to ensure long term trust with your customers is to promote a partnership of transparency. Data flow diagrams, knowledge sharing and review sessions are positive ways to continue partnerships of trust. It’s your data, don’t be afraid to ask for and learn more about how its used.

The ease of adding storage is an incredible capability. It took years for healthcare IT professionals to build discipline, buffered by time, to create a responsible system. The Cloud changed that, but for all the benefits it has provided in capability, it also has the potential to bypass discipline, knowledge and trust. It’s never a wasted effort to spend a moment to review your data strategy. After all, you have time.

AJ Dandrea is operations manager of the cloud hosting organization at 3M Health Information Systems.

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