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Moving to Hybrid Cloud: a Health Insurer’s Journey

When Mark Ross took over the management of  IT infrastructure for Concordia Plan Services two years ago, it had a single point of failure with just one firewall employed, and nearly all data and every application—except payroll and benefits—resided on in-house servers.

Sounds like a typical health care services organization, right? The need to comply with all kinds of regulations, the concern that important data might be compromised or lost, and the all-around fear of losing control kept and still keeps many of them from using colocation, managed services or cloud.

However, utilizing just one firewall to protect the entire infrastructure to guard against viruses, intrusions, and the like from the inside and out is not typical, or safe.

Today, the provider of health plans to nearly 2.3 million members of Lutheran churches is operating in a truly hybrid environment: All business applications and data reside on either a public or private cloud; Concordia has a colocation site in St. Louis, Missouri, and a backup site in Omaha, Nebraska.

Ross, who spoke at the Data Center World conference in Los Angeles Wednesday, uses managed services to support a number of systems that would either be cost-prohibitive to keep in-house or require a skillset the company’s staff did not have.

The new and improved infrastructure also contains redundant firewalls and circuits that can failover from one to the other without any interruption. Plus, instead of having multiple desktops and laptops floating around the workplace, Ross chose to populate the organization with thin clients in order to keep things as clean as possible.

“We can blast out patches to all the workstations or isolate certain ones,” he explained.

The changes Ross made to the infrastructure increased security, reduced costs, enhanced customer experience, and laid the groundwork for the future success and growth of Concordia.

Here are three key things you need to know as you transition to a hybrid environment, according to Ross:

Know why you are implementing a hybrid cloud solution. Whether this is a hardware-based technology or software-service based technology, there is always a specific reason (or number of reasons) why your organization is implementing this new technology.

Know exactly what you need to meet the goal set out by implementing a cloud solution.  Once your organization knows why they are implementing a hybrid environment, you can then go about finding exactly what is needed in order to accomplish this.

Involve all key stakeholders. The ready-to-install nature of cloud computing leads business users to feel they don’t need to involve IT specialists and other subject matter experts such as contractual or legal specialists who will thoroughly review the contract and understand the implications. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

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About the Author

Technology writer and editor Karen Riccio spent 15 years as managing editor for Data Center Management magazine, published by AFCOM – a leading industry association whose mission is to advance the professional development of individuals in the field of data center and facilities management. She is currently content editor for AFCOM.com as well as its weekly newsletter. Karen also oversees the Industry Perspectives section of Data Center Knowledge. She can be reached at karen.riccio@penton.com.

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