Data Storage

Storing Medical Data in the Cloud

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From doctor-patient confidentiality to insurance non-disclosure agreements, we do all we can to ensure our medical data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands—and for some healthcare organizations, this makes the idea of storing such data in the cloud quite alarming. Though the cloud promises to reduce costs and streamline records management, it’s all too often (and wrongly) associated with the specter of cybercrime and other security breaches. Fortunately, it’s much safer than you might think.

A slow revolution

In 2011, only 4% of healthcare providers had moved to the cloud. Adoption rates have since skyrocketed to over 70%. However, it appears that some in the industry are still reluctant to make the leap, and the main concern among detractors appears to be the possibility of a security breach.

However, when it comes to sensitive data, a security breach isn’t the only thing you have to worry about—data might also be lost as the result of a physical event, like a fire or flood. When keeping your data in the cloud, it is being secured by IT professionals at groups like Microsoft and Google, whose only job it to secure your data. In other words, storing data in the cloud might be the safest option available.

Meeting industry standards with HIPAA

The good news is that you no longer have to determine for yourself whether or not a cloud provider is able to protect sensitive medical data. In 2013, the federal government expanded the privacy and security protections established under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) so that they now apply to electronic health records. The act outlines strict procedures for storing such records using data encryption and destruction. It also imposes significant penalties on non-compliant organizations.

From the clinic to the cloud

When a healthcare organization decides to move to the cloud, it should check that its cloud provider is HIPAA compliant. The U.S. Department of Health doesn’t itself authorize any HIPAA certification programs. However, cloud providers can voluntarily undergo an audit that takes into account the HIPPA Audit Protocols. If they pass, you can be confident that they’re capable of storing your data in a safe and secure environment—which means that the prognosis for your organization’s medical records is very good indeed.

Current Technologies is here for all your data storage needs

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The Right Data Storage For Your School

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A Datacenter Filled With Small Servers


As the economics of cloud computing continues to evolve, many school districts are asking whether moving their entire datacenters to the cloud is the best way to improve IT response and keep IT on budget. There are certainly advantages to some cloud services, and any modern educational IT infrastructure should contain some elements that are cloud-based. But there are also reasons to keep some IT functions local. For those, a datacenter furnished with multiple small servers can be the perfect answer.

Converged, Not Hyper-Converged

The arrival of converged systems means that educational IT professionals have an ideal answer for many applications. Notice that it's converged systems we're talking about and not hyper-converged systems.

The highly virtualized and automated operation of a hyper-converged system is perfect for organizations with rapidly changing load levels and requirements, but most educational IT systems value stability and regularity. For those characteristics, the overhead of the hyper-converged system is difficult to justify.

Converged systems have little additional overhead compared with separate components deployed around a datacenter and a host of benefits. Converged systems tend to reduce, rather than increase, the management load of an IT staff.

  • There are physical savings that come from putting as much as possible into a single rack enclosure

  • There is the assurance that all of the components are certified by the vendor to work together

Ultimately, the key to justifying and successfully deploying small servers in a district datacenter boils down to understanding the applications that prefer the local hosting treatment.

Examples of data that might benefit from staying on local servers rather than being transported to cloud servers include:

  • Sensitive personnel records

  • Student records with personal identification information left intact

  • Financial information

Where The Cloud Comes In

That is not to say there's no role for cloud services in the modern IT infrastructure. The secret is understanding which data can best be stored in the cloud and which needs to remain in the local datacenter.

The decision should be somewhat easier with a converged datacenter because an integrated hardware stack can be configured to more easily be deployed as part of a hybrid system with cloud services.

The networking piece of the converged stack is especially important to ensure that data is shared as part of a seamless process, rather than simply being passed off from one type of computing equipment to another.

From an economic standpoint, the self-hosted pieces of the infrastructure have an advantage in that the ongoing cost will be fixed over the life of the converged stack. That cost can be lower than many professionals anticipate because, for most districts, small servers will be sufficiently powerful to handle the applications and data sets required. Current Techhologies has found that when multiple small, on-site servers combined with the right cloud services, the result will be a secure, economical IT infrastructure that will handle school needs for years into the future.

We Can Build A Custom Hybrid Solution For You

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How to Make Big Data work for You

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The "Big Data" Problem

International Data Group (IDG) tells us that 90 percent of the world’s total data has been created in the past two years. Thanks to the sharp rise of social networking and mobile computing, data is now being created as fast as it is being consumed. Making sense of this volume of data is difficult, and now businesses of all sizes are turning to "Big Data" for an answer.

What Is Big Data?

Big Data by definition is the collection of very large and complex sets of data. The term also refers to the technology required to manage, store, and interpret this data. The challenge is that most of today’s data is unstructured and comes in a variety of different types (media feeds, images, streaming video, text files, documents), so Big Data needs to read and interpret everything from documents and electronic forms to emotion and expression.

Big Data’s Big Splash

In December last year, IDG reported that 70 percent of American enterprise organizations had deployed or were planning to deploy Big Data projects. On average, the enterprise organizations had spent $8 million on Big Data initiatives. Clearly, Big Data has struck a chord among large companies because it promises a novel way to understand market forces, adapt to them, and connect meaningfully with customers. But does Big Data deliver on its promise? It depends what you do with it.

Most Customers Don't Know How To Use Big Data effectively

According to Brian Hopkins, an analyst for Forrester Research, statistics like those from the IDG study only tell half the story. He says that while businesses have improved the way they collect data, they haven’t changed the way they use it. Big Data is about insights, but many businesses are not adopting the sophisticated approaches necessary to analyze the information they collect. You don't have to be a multi-million dollar company to effectively analyze data, you need to be able to recognize trends and build strategies to capitalize on trends. That is much easier said than done though.

The problem facing your business

You may want to interpret varieties of data to help you improve your service, create a new market, or launch a new product. The problem is that you may not be able to justify the cost of extra resources to get these Big Data insights. However, there is an assortment of discrete data sources such as CRM or Google Analytics that will be more than helpful in your endeavors.

So, what should you do?

 The concept of Big Data is still quite new, but if analyzed and applied correctly, it can take your business to new levels. However, before any data is even collected, you must have a place to store it. That is where Current Technologies comes in. We can provide you with either physical or cloud storage solutions and backups to make sure that no matter what happens, your vital data will be available to you when you need it.

We Can House Your Big (or small) Data

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Data Center Upgrade: Not All Or Nothing

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Everyone wants one screen to rule them all: one console display to monitor and manage all systems in a data center. According to some vendors, the only way to achieve this management “nirvana” is to bring in the forklifts and replace every system you own in one swoop. If you have an unlimited budget and no executive committee to report to, that's a suitable and realistic plan.

For the rest of us, the good news is that there is a better alternative: updating servers as they hit the end of their life cycle according to the refresh cycle. A mixed fleet of servers can be highly manageable if you consider a handful of key issues while you're building and evolving the servers within.

Picking The Server Management Framework

Several decisions follow the initial decision of which server management framework is selected. The basic split is between a framework from a hardware vendor and a framework independent of any hardware tie. While they are alike in many ways, there are key differences that will have major implications for your hardware choices.

Hardware-Tied Or Vendor-Neutral?

First, it seems obvious that a hardware-tied management framework should be at the top of your candidate list if all your servers are from a single vendor. While each new generation of servers has features that work more closely in concert with management applications, the vendor's software will typically work with at least three previous generations of hardware.

Vendor-neutral frameworks may lack the ability to take advantage of some specific server features, but they tend to offer consistent management across all servers of a particular generation and across two or three previous generations. They also can be cheaper depending on a multitude of factors. The real advantage of these frameworks involves existing analytics packages that you want to continue using. Integration with a wide range of third-party software is a strength of several vendor-neutral management systems.

Preparing For The Future

With all of these management frameworks, one of the most important considerations is how well the package prepares you for the future, since changing the software that manages a fleet of servers is not something to be taken lightly. Whether the management framework comes from a hardware vendor or not, it will be the tool that allows you to manage new servers and server blades as they are brought into service through the normal hardware refresh cycle.

As servers become part of a growing ecosystem of platforms that support virtual or software-defined functions, a management framework that supports all components of an integrated environment, from the server to storage to the network, becomes more important.

A single pane of glass that allows you to monitor and manage absolutely everything in the infrastructure is not yet available, but you can have a data center management system that will provide direct management of the servers in a diverse fleet while allowing integration with platforms that manage networking, storage, and other functions.

Another valid option for network monitoring and management is hiring a managed service provider (MSP). The advantages of hiring an experienced MSP like Current Technologies are numerous and include spending less on IT personnel, the MSPs are experts, you can rest easy knowing that someone else is protecting your network, and it is cheaper than and easier than doing it yourself.  It isn’t surprising that 70 percent of CIOs partnered with outside experts to plan manageable growth in 2018, find out what we can do for you today.

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Connecting Branch Offices Made Easier

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Branch Offices Shouldn't Be Separate Worlds


Running a business across multiple locations has always had its share of IT challenges. Past approaches consisted of duplicating data between sites or relied on an often-unreliable wide-area network (WAN) links to make remote branches seem like part of the office network. With fast Internet connectivity now widespread, there are more ways than ever to securely connect staff at multiple offices

Extending corporate networks to remote sites has become far easier now that inter-office traffic can be routed across the internet without the need for expensive telecommunications links. With providers across the country improving their broadband services, it’s becoming easier than ever to link branch offices with rapid, secure, and reliable connectivity.

Keeping Your Data Safe

Data security, of course, is paramount when linking offices over the Internet. For this reason, you’ll need to encrypt your inter-office data by setting up a virtual private network (VPN) that creates a "tunnel" through the Internet between your work sites. Such tunnels have been widely and successfully used for years to link sites and to allow mobile users to log into corporate networks while they travel.

However, encrypting data is only one part of the challenge. With large numbers of branch offices in operation, you’ll need to develop and manage a coherent data architecture that controls where data goes, where it is stored, and how it is safely stored.

Previous store-and-forward models would see branch offices—particularly in time-sensitive retail operations—caching data at the remote site and periodically synchronizing it with central databases. Now that businesses are online and always available, data is more effectively transmitted in real time for storage in central transactional databases, which are often duplicated in a second, remote data center for redundancy and disaster recovery.

Cloud Solutions

Increasingly, smaller businesses are turning to cloud services to link up their branch offices in a different way. In this model, data is stored centrally in a cloud service and each branch office uses the same techniques to access it.

This approach lets businesses locate the data in whatever mission-critical data center is appropriate for the task while providing each branch office with the ability to access and collaborate on documents equally. This architecture also allows businesses to provide more consistent access to supporting services like unified communications, video delivery, identity management, security, and more, which are available to all employees at all branches.

With a cloud storage solution set up by Current Technologies, branch offices no longer need to be treated like remote outposts. By tapping into the flexibility and configuration of Internet-based services, it’s now possible to link even remote branch offices more seamlessly than ever before.

Do You Have Issues Connecting Remote Offices?

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With The Cloud, Power Failure Isn't The End

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What Happens When the Lights Go Out?

As if building up the IT systems that support your business wasn’t hard enough, you also need to have a clear plan for restoring your services if you lose power or if a natural disaster strikes. Downtime can be measured in thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per hour, so any sort of outage can quickly become a major problem that you need to remedy as quickly as possible.

But how do you get your business back up and running if your data isn’t available?
In the past, doing this meant maintaining a "hot" backup data center, typically located many miles away or even in another state. That site would be set up exactly the same as your primary site, with identical configurations of expensive servers and storage systems to keep copies of all your data. In the event of a failure, the business would switch over to the backup site until normal services resumed.

This approach was so expensive and complex that many businesses simply couldn’t afford it. Thankfully, recent advances in cloud storage make it easy to continuously protect your servers without having to maintain your own secondary data center.

Drop It Into The Cloud

The trick is to use cloud-storage services, which you may already be familiar with thanks to services like Dropbox and Mimecast. These services automatically synchronize your local data in a secure part of a cloud provider’s systems. These systems are housed in a robust data center that is usually far away from your own business. Server protection tools like Lenovo’s Online Data Backup for ThinkServers do the same thing for a whole server worth of data—or more.

Once key corporate data and applications are set to automatically back up to the cloud, a power outage is no longer a problem, because you can access your data from anywhere you can get online. This means you can still access your core systems and data even if your office is flooded, has suffered fire damage, or has otherwise been compromised. Just set up your employees on laptops in a safe temporary site, and your business will be up and running in no time.

Power Without Interruption

Although cloud storage services will protect your data from outages, they’re not the only thing to consider when dealing with power outages. If you’re not already using an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for key servers, it’s well worth acquiring one so that your systems can ride out short power outages and you can gracefully transfer data to cloud-hosted applications in the event of a longer interruption. Just be sure you get a UPS with enough battery capacity to keep your servers running for a while. That way you can also plug your broadband modem into the UPS and stay online even when the lights go off.

Protecting Your Data From The Unpredictable

New technologies can help you to build a coherent business continuity strategy that will keep your servers online—or at least keep your data accessible—even when nature strikes. Current Technologies has been keeping businesses afloat through power outages and natural disasters for 20+ years. Our team has the experience and knowledge to design a plan that will work for you, no matter what the future brings.

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Which Data Backup Type Do You Need?

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Every Businesses Storage Needs Are Different


Data is vital to your business. It likely plays a huge roll in determining every decision you make. An array of technologies exist for protecting and backing up your data, and it is important to find the best solution for your needs. Here are the most popular options:

USB Drives

USB-connected drives are not ideal for business, because they rely on human intervention, and the software is usually not very sophisticated. Thumb drives are also easily misplaced. On the plus side, retention periods are reasonably good and quality of restored data tends to be high. The larger external USB hard drives can be unreliable due to moving parts. USB drives are fine for home use but they are not ideal as a business-grade backup option.

Magnetic Tape  

Tape is one of the cheaper ways to store large amounts of data and is still a popular backup medium. However it is largely outdated and it can be complex to manage multiple tapes. Lastly it is slow for restoring small amounts of data. Often tape is used in conjunction with other backup solutions as a long term repository for data.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

A Network Attached Storage (NAS) device can provide large amounts of data storage on the local network at a reasonable price. It has staging options for spooling off to other locations as well as a facility for storing and compiling snapshots of multiple servers. NAS devices can be a great source for rapid restoration of missing files or folders, but they are not the right long-term data storage solution.

Cloud Backup

Cloud is the new frontier for backup. There are many cloud backup solutions, and the quality of the service varies by provider. VMWare is one of the most popular cloud computing platforms for small to medium businesses, however Google, Amazon, and Microsoft also offer effective cloud platforms.

 Offshore data storage can be much cheaper than local storage but may cause issues with speed, security, privacy, and sovereignty. When cloud backup solutions are built right, they can be robust and hassle-free, as the scheduled backup is totally automated with no disks or tapes requiring manual intervention.

Keep in mind the cost involved in sending data over the Internet and the time it might take to restore data over a low-speed connection.

Hybrid Solutions

Like peanut butter and jelly, often times, multiple technologies combine to make the best backup solutions.

Taking regular snapshots of system files and data files throughout the day can create a point-in-time, rapid recovery option for individual files or groups of files. These snapshots are best stored on your networked server or on a NAS.

At least once a day, a data differential of the changes made during the last period should be stored on a second, external storage system. This is where a second, off-site device, tape, or cloud backup are useful. The usual approach is to backup from disk to disk, then disk to offsite.

A Final Thought

If you have personal or business data that is worth protecting, it is well worth getting professional advice on what systems will optimize your chances of recovery. Backup is a simple concept but implementing the best solution is not straight-forward, so getting good advice from the experienced team at Current Technologies is a good first step. For over 20 years, we have been helping businesses just like yours find the best way to backup their data. Every business has different storage needs, so why would you buy a generic, one size fits all storage system.  Current Technologies will customize a system for you to last long into the future.

Start Properly Storing Your Data Before It's Too Late

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