So everyone seems to be talking about “the cloud”, yet for many this elusive term is something they know very little about or why it is important for their business.
What is the cloud, and how does it work?
The cloud refers to software and services that run on the internet, instead of locally on your computer. Some examples of cloud services that you might be familiar with include Gmail, Netflix, and Dropbox. Companies that provide camp and school software use different cloud providers to host their services – Amazon Web Service, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform.
- The advantage of the cloud is that you can access your information on any device with an internet connection.
- There are disadvantages, for example without an internet connection you can’t access your data or cloud-based services. The same applies if your software has technical issues or server outages.
So what happens when the cloud goes down?
A mission critical system, like CampDoc.com or SchoolDoc.com, is expected to be available at all times. Our team knows that medical emergencies can happen anywhere, at any time. At DocNetwork, we aim to ensure High Availability (HA) of the services we offer. High availability means that our end-users are able to access data and applications whenever needed with an expected level (99.9%) of performance.
We do this by not only storing your data and running our application in the cloud, but with Data Backups and Redundancy. Often times data backups and data redundancy are used synonymously, but they are not the same. Camp and school software with Data Backups save a copy of your data for the purpose of being able to restore access in case of data loss. Software with Data Redundancy is better equipped to prevent service outages and keep critical systems online, as they ensure that your data is always accessible in two different places.
Many cloud platforms offer a basic form of redundancy, called Availability Zones (AZs). For example, if the camp or school software company storing your data uses servers located in the Central region of the United States, they have a choice of multiple zones within that region. Availability Zones are protected from the failures of other zones in the group, making them a simple form of redundancy. Some companies implement Multi Availability Zone (Multi-AZ) deployment, but this is not enough for High Availability and Redundancy.
High Availability of operations, deployment, security, and scale are strengthened with a geographically distributed Multi-Region solution. The ability to withstand regional Availability Zone system failures, and enabling part or all of a system to effectively transition load to an alternate region is critical to High Availability and Redundancy.
Why is this important to my camp and school software?
As the transformation of our world by technology continues, and smart phones and tablets guide the way we communicate, it is essential that camps and schools leverage this technology to improve the flow of health information and do everything in their power to reduce unnecessary risk and liability.
No company, including CampDoc.com and SchoolDoc.com, can guarantee 100% availability, and even with a commitment of 99.9% uptime, this means there is a possibility of 8 hours, 45 minutes, and 57 seconds of downtime each year.
Communication from an organization is key during downtime, and at CampDoc.com and SchoolDoc.com we have developed procedures to keep our camps and schools updated during these times through email, a status page, Facebook and Twitter.
Downtime has never been an issue at my camp or school, why should it matter to us?
We encourage all of our camps and schools to create a downtime procedure for both scheduled downtime (e.g. system maintenance, patches and upgrades) and unscheduled downtime (e.g. internet outages, power failures). Typically you will not know the length of unscheduled downtime, and how long before you are back online. When this is the case, you should be prepared to transition to a paper process until you are back online.
A few key recommendations:
- As part of your planning download and store a backup copy of every health profile to keep on a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone. These records can then be accessed without the internet.
- Keep a copy of every health profile on a fully charged laptop or tablet, so you can access these records if there is a power outage too.
- Saving or printing any other relevant reports for your organization (e.g. allergies, medications, emergency contacts).
- Clear staff communication and direction – how will downtime and alternate processes be communicated to your staff; how will health staff document patient care during downtime; how will downtime documentation be transferred to the EHR once systems are live again.
Is there anything else my camp and school should keep in mind?
There is more. Keep in mind all technology is not created equal, and understanding a company’s Failover and Disaster Recovery model is essential to your camp or school’s success. At CampDoc.com and SchoolDoc.com we focus on health and safety, as we know this is the most important thing for your camp or school. But downtime can impact other mission critical operations for your organization. For example, should the cloud go down during camper or student registration, this would impact your organization’s financial stability.
At CampDoc.com and SchoolDoc.com, we’re committed to developing our electronic health record and online registration system beyond the limits of traditional software and our competition. We’ve implemented detailed monitoring systems to track our infrastructure and have Disaster Recovery processes in place to limit downtime should it occur. We make use of the latest technologies to ensure High Availability, and not only offer Redundancy through Multi Availability Zones, but Multi-Region solutions as well.
No matter what service you are using, and especially for mission critical services, you should not be afraid to ask your service providers questions about their cloud and how it works. It is essential that you truly understand how they ensure High Availability and their Failover and Disaster Recovery processes.