|Questions About Cloud Computing? Answers from Cloudmason's Mark Carvajal||| Print ||
Cloud computing is popular topic these days, with companies announcing new offerings "in the cloud" on a regular basis. Even if you already use cloud-based services, and there are many out there, it's worth not only trying to understand better just what it is this concept means, but what the impact can be for pharmacy. To find out more about the cloud, we checked in with Mark Carvajal, the founder of a new outfit called Cloudmasons. Mark has more than 14 years of management and technology-consulting experience and has led his teams to provide some of the world's largest corporations with value driven strategy and technology solutions. Here he answers five questions that will hopefully lead you to a better understanding of the cloud, it's capabilties, and potential strategies for improving the efficiency and reliability of your pharmacy IT investments.
1. What is the cloud and what are some common ways people already use it?
Thanks to the internet people use the cloud today to read news, watch videos, listen to music, shop, store pictures, send email, collaborate and chat with friends. They often don't realize that behind these activities is a powerful, secure network of shared computers and computing resources. For some of us the cloud has changed the way we renew our vehicle registration, pay our bills, and even make dinner reservations. The days of waiting on the phone, taking a number, or standing in line are over - the cloud has generated efficiency in our daily lives by shifting tasks online.
Technically speaking, the cloud is a combination of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). IaaS replaces the traditional method of buying servers and managing your own IT system with a utility model in which you essentially "rent" server and processing power from professionally managed, secure datacenters (i.e. Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, Go Grid). SaaS provides business with access to applications via a Web browser, removing the need to install and update applications on each computer (i.e. Salesforce.com, Gmail, Hotmail, Google Docs).
Today, pharmacies are using the cloud to improve efficiencies within the workplace and generate additional revenue by focusing more time on filling prescriptions and satisfying customers and less time hassling with servers and software. Cloudmasons is currently helping pharmacies expedite routine IT tasks through the cloud by shifting tasks online.
2. What are the important concepts behind bringing software together in the cloud?
There are certain best practices used when setting up and managing software in the cloud:
- Security and compliance are very important in the cloud. Make sure you are using a secure connection with SSL.
- Secure sensitive data through world-class encryption.
- Monitor cloud servers to determine "health" and react proactively.
- Facilitate the access to cloud-based applications.
- Leverage a strategy that integrates SaaS applications and IaaS architecture.
- Be sure to implement a redundant Internet connection.
3. What common operational/business issues does working in the cloud address?
Through cloud computing, pharmacies can eliminate many of the headaches associated with traditional IT, such as:
- Server hardware and legacy software purchases and upgrades
- Unreliable terminal services remote access
- Lengthy server down time and loss of data
- Slow server speed and limited horsepower due to maxed-out CPU
Also, in the cloud pharmacies simply pay for what they use, nothing more. Now, pharmacies can:
- Scale unlimited server horsepower and capacity with a click of the mouse
- Remotely access all applications and data anywhere from any device
- Ensure servers are always working with redundancies in cloud infrastructure
- Automatically back up all data in the cloud on a routine basis
4. What are the risks of working in the cloud that most people perceive and how are they mitigated?
The largest concern by far is that of security. Pharmacies must trust these cloud infrastructure providers with their entire IT systems and regulated data, making some feel like they've lost "control" over it. However, we like to point out that leveraging cloud computing is exactly like flying in an airplane. When flying, passengers "give up control" to the pilot and his complex aircraft in order to traverse large distances quickly and efficiently. Statistically speaking, flying is much safer, efficient, and cost effective than driving.
Today, there are many standards put in place to ensure that these huge data centers are being managed properly. Redundant power from diesel generators, top-level security, world-class management expertise, and building reinforcements are all ways in which hosted infrastructure providers protect themselves and your data from any potential harm or theft.
5. What are the requirements at the software level to successfully migrate into the cloud?
The requirements differ with the type of software. For example, if you are using SaaS Web-based applications, all you need is a Web browser and Internet connection - you are already "in the cloud". But, for traditional legacy applications, you usually need some type of specialized program to deploy these applications in the cloud. Once deployed, the original data is backed up, migrated, and restored within the application. Now, this application has been "SaaS-ified" - it is now running on hosted infrastructure.
Cloudmasons has developed a product that allows your pharmacy to easily deploy and manage legacy applications in the cloud, such as pharmacy management systems and other traditional Windows software. We aim to remove any hurdles between your pharmacy and the cloud. Pharmacies can now leverage the cloud and use whichever software applications they prefer, without being forced to switch to a less familiar Web-based application.