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Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative’s Custom Migration to AWS Drives Cost Optimization and HIPAA Compliance

Eric Russo | | January 24, 2019

Nearly 8 out of 10 businesses have already begun the transition to the cloud. Recent surveys reveal that cost optimization is a primary motivation for transitioning to cloud resources among 60 percent of adopting organizations.

In addition to the opportunity to reduce data storage costs, migrating to AWS from on-premises window resources provides businesses with the opportunity to reduce the burden on internal IT staff and enable greater business agility.

While businesses across industries recognize the potential benefit of cloud adoption, many organizations have unique business requirements that can act as a barrier to traditional migration and cloud architecture approaches. 50 percent of cloud adopters report technical re-platforming is the most challenging aspect of successful cloud adoption. Compliance-related risks and the need for heightened security around sensitive data are the single most commonly-reported barrier to adoption, according to the same survey.

Creating a secure and compliant plan for cloud adoption can help organizations in highly-regulated industries realize the cost-saving and growth benefits of the cloud. While these organizations may require a custom approach for a successful migration, the payoff can be immense. One healthcare organization, Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, was able to realize significant cost optimization and risk reduction benefits despite numerous challenges on the road to Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative’s Cloud Motivations

Faced with a growing need to manage 10 terabytes of sensitive healthcare data, Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative (MAeHC) needed to switch from an on-premises SQL Server 2008 environment to a solution that enabled greater agility. MAeHC is a non-profit services firm that specializes in strategy, project management, data warehousing, and analytics services for organizations in the healthcare industry. To keep up with client needs, there was a recognized need for a solution that could deliver infrastructure improvements such as:

 

  • High Availability
  • Security
  • Growth
  • Superior Control
  • Scalability
  • Cost Optimization

 

Any solution MAeHC adopted needed to be HIPAA-compliant to protect PHI post-transition and during the migration process from the on-premises solution. Despite the massive scale of the on-premises infrastructure, the Collaborative realized that achieving their goals of optimization would require external partnerships to strengthen technical expertise.

Transparency during migration and post-transition was also a necessity for MAeHC. “We needed 24/7 monitoring…with a single-pane-of-glass view into the environment so we could see what was happening,” says Senior Project Director David Delano of MAeHC. Finally, there was a recognized need for external technical expertise. MAeHC partnered with Datavail on project design and implementation to drive an optimized infrastructure design and seamless migration.

A Non-Traditional Approach to Common Cloud Challenges

Storing over 10 terabytes of data on-premises was creating substantial issues for MAeHC. “On a daily basis, we were reviewing capacity, growth, and looking at where we needed to adjust to add infrastructure…in a real-time way that did not disrupt client activity,” says Delano. To meet the projected data demands of a growing client base, MAeHC needed a solution that offered real-time scalability.

MAeHC’s primary motivations for migrating to AWS are shared by many other organizations in healthcare and other highly-regulated industries. The organization needed security, availability, and cost optimization. However, it was clear to the project team that the best approach was not a traditional architecture. The team settled on a multi-phased approach that started with securely migrating data to AWS and designing the right architecture.

How MAeHC Achieved a Secure, Cost-Effective Migration to AWS

MAeHC was running SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition on a Windows Server 2012 data center. In this environment and on-premises, the Collective had a standalone server for clouds; reporting and data warehousing were segregated by the environment. With over 10 terabytes of warehoused data assets, one on-premises database alone contained over a terabyte of data.

The project team knew that securely and cost-effectively transferring this massive volume of data from on-premises to AWS with minimal outages would be a challenge. AWS Direct Connect wasn’t an option due to cost, so the team opted to ship backups through a Snowball to the new environment. Log shipping through VPN was set up to automate the process with very minimal manual intervention.

 

  • The SQL Server 2008 environment was upgraded to SQL 2016
  • High-performance database mirroring on all databases minimized costs
  • All database backups were archived to comply with HIPAA

 

The right-sized databases for MAeHC’s migration were R4 high memory Amazon Ec2 instances with provisioned IOPs. The MAeHC project team ran in production using an on-demand model until AWS resources for CPU, memory, and storage had been configured optimally.

After migration, MAeHC implemented a custom Datavail solution for 24/7 monitoring, proactive response, ongoing performance tuning, and testing.

Transparent Cloud Control Enables Compliance, Cost Optimization

The benefits reaped from MAeHC’s migration to AWS include cost optimization, improved transparency, and the ability to achieve a HIPAA-compliant environment without sacrificing agility. Lowered costs and stronger regulatory compliance were both immediately apparent. Says Delano, “we have a focused effort right now to look at cost optimization across our platforms. We’re finding some great opportunities to adjust our model according[ly].”

Migrating to AWS provided MAeHC with the ability to improve compliance as well. The custom approach to migration enabled the organization to gain a single-pane view of terabytes of sensitive health data without sacrificing security, cost, or control.

Interested in making a cloud migration of your own? Get started by reviewing our Cloud Migration solution page.

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