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Streamlined Backup

June 17, 2013
by Richard R. Rogoski
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Hospital’s DR plan incorporates single-platform solution
Samaritan Medical Center

In a bold move aimed at eliminating multiple backup systems and to simplify the retrieval of data in case of a disaster, Samaritan Medical Center, a 294-bed not-for-profit community medical center in Watertown, N.Y., has implemented a single, enterprise-wide backup platform provided by Woburn, Mass.-based BridgeHead Software.

According to Jeff Wood, Samaritan’s technical services manager, the hospital had been using the BridgeHead Healthcare Data Management (HDM) integrated serverless backup (ISB) platform for its Magic Health Care Information System (HCIS), supplied by Westwood, Mass.-based Medical Information Technology Inc. (MEDITECH), since 2009. It also was running EMC NetWorker backup and recovery software (supplied by EMC Corp., Hopkinton, Mass.) for non-MEDITECH enterprise services; SonicWALL Continuous Data Protection (CDP), (supplied by Dell Inc., Round Rock, Texas) for its Windows file servers; and RoboCopy, a Windows-based tool from Microsoft, for its PACS data.

Wood says it took two staff members three hours a day to monitor the daily log files and manage each backup system. In addition, he says, in the event of a disaster, it would take too much time to recover all data from each of the four systems.

Speaking from his own experience, Wood says that in 2007 Samaritan’s main storage disk failed and corrupted files were discovered on some of the drives. As a result, he says, “We had to restore all MEDITECH data, and that took 60 hours.” But he notes, “At no time was patient care compromised.”

By the fall of 2012, Andy Short, CIO and vice president of information services, decided it was time to move to a single backup solution.

Keeping the MEDITECH backup system in place, Samaritan deployed BridgeHead HDM across the enterprise to back up and facilitate the retrieval of all hospital applications, including the MEDITECH electronic medical record (EMR) as well as solutions from eClinicalWorks, MedHost and Picis Surgical Services. In addition, BridgeHead’s FileStore was rolled out as the archival solution for the hospital’s Fuji PACS.

“We have over 40 applications from 40 different vendors,” Wood explains. “Radiology alone has four different vendors.” The hospital also runs 330 servers and uses a combination of disk and tape backup solutions, he adds.

After the decision was made to consolidate Samaritan’s maze of backup systems, Wood and his transition team needed only two months to make the conversion.

To a large degree he credits BridgeHead’s serverless approach in helping to make the transition quick and easy since it creates a “mirror” copy of all data on each drive at the storage level. As a result, clinicians were able to access hospital applications even during the transition period. Before pulling the trigger on this transition, Wood says, “We had to catalog all our servers and evaluate all backup systems so we knew where everything was going.” The only real challenge in the entire process, he says, was getting all the vendors to communicate with each other.

The effort definitely paid off, Wood says. By switching to a single, integrated backup platform, Samaritan claims it has improved data availability; preserved application performance by using a serverless approach; simplified IT operations through the use of a single interface for managing backup, archiving and recovery; and streamlined and optimized storage with an integrated archival system.

Wood also says the consolidation has reduced by 75 percent the time it takes to monitor and manage normal backup operations. “Now, with one system, it’s 15 to 20 minutes a day to manage everything,” he says.

As for offering advice to others who are planning to implement a disaster recovery plan, Wood says those who rely on multiple best-of-breed systems face the biggest challenge. “Make sure you get all the vendors at the table,” he advises.