ICYMI- Migrating On-Premises Databases to Amazon RDS

May’s RDX Insights Series webinar was Migrating On-Premises Databases to Amazon RDS. Hosted by RDX VP of Delivery Strategies and Technologies, Chris Foot, the presentation covered the entire Amazon RDS cloud migration life-cycle from initial analysis to final migration.

Continue reading ICYMI- Migrating On-Premises Databases to Amazon RDS

Microsoft Power BI Gets an AI-Driven App Update

Unlocking the power of business intelligence (BI) is reaching a whole new level with the deployment of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in Microsoft’s Power BI software. Power BI already uses AI to help users gain more insight into their enterprise’s business information. It can even ask the questions users didn’t know they ought to ask. Continue reading Microsoft Power BI Gets an AI-Driven App Update

The Importance of Hospital Data Security

Healthcare providers are no strangers to data security. When it comes to HIPAA, for example, they’ve long known how important it is to keep patient information safe and secure from prying eyes.

With so much hospital information now stored in digital form, primarily in databases, the need for strong hospital data security has never been greater. But what are the risks of database intrusions? And how can hospitals make sure their databases are as secure as possible?

Database Security Risks for Hospitals

Practically all the information hospitals collect, store and use exists in any number of databases. Everything from patient information (EHRs) to patient satisfaction systems, lab processing to employee records, financial results to billing and payment processing – most any application you find at a hospital runs on a database.

With that massing of data comes a certain amount of risk, much of it unexpected. Hackers have been diligent in their search for structural weaknesses they can exploit in databases. The Office of Civil Rights reports that, in 2015, more than 112 million patient records were compromised. Cybercriminals continue to try to gain access to healthcare records, which they see as a valuable commodity.

One of the more recent trends is the abundance of ransomware, which cybercriminals use to hold data hostage while demanding a ransom that must be paid before the data is released. Some hospitals feel they have no choice but to pay the ransom – such as the nearly $17,000 one Los Angeles hospital paid in 2016 to regain access to its computer systems – or else suffer the dire consequences of starting over from scratch.

As more and more hospitals look to the cloud as a way to share data and streamline internal processes among their employees, cybercriminals are hard at work searching for ways to break cloud security and steal patient records and other data. Utilizing mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops can also create security issues.

How Can Hospitals Keep Databases Secure?

There are a number of best practices hospitals can follow to strengthen security around their database information. Here are a some of the most common:

  1. End-to-end Encryption. Data is most vulnerable not when it’s created or stored but when it’s transmitted between devices. It’s important to make sure sensitive data is encrypted when it’s sitting idly in storage or being used in an application. It’s even more important that it be encrypted when being transferred, such as between internal systems and the cloud or between a network server and a mobile device.                                                 
  1. User Security. It goes without saying that strong passwords are essential for protecting data like patient information. Passwords should include special characters and be changed frequently. Even better would be a combination of a strong password and PIN code – such as those generated by a security token – to gain access to an application housing sensitive data.
  1. System Backups. Backing up data is a necessary step for any security best practice. If data is lost or stolen, it can be restored. But backups should be made on a different network from the live data. Otherwise, cybercriminals can highjack both the live data and the backup data. The backups should also be encrypted to prevent unauthorized access.
  1. Cloud Security. The convenience of the cloud is indisputable, as mobile devices make it easier for doctors and other practitioners to access patient information wherever they are. But cloud systems also create a riskier environment, where hackers can more easily intercept and steal data. It’s vital for hospitals to employ a cloud provider that understands and actively monitors cloud security.
  1. Securing Input and Output Files. Cybercriminals can target not just your databases and backups, but the files that ordinarily flow into and out of your databases. If these input and output files – such as reports and work files – contain sensitive information, they should be classified and secured to prevent cybercriminals from obtaining their contents.
  1. DBA Service Providers. When considering healthcare security solutions, hospitals might consider contracting with a database administrator (DBA). A quality third-party vendor can provide hospital IT solutions that both optimize database efficiency and protect the hospital from cyber attacks.

Hospital data security should be viewed as part of an overall strategy for managing database information for the best benefit of the hospital. A knowledgeable and sophisticated DBA expert can help hospitals protect their data. A DBA expert can also help hospitals use this data for business intelligence (BI) purposes beyond the scope of each individual database application.

HIMSS, the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society, is continually helping healthcare providers evolve and stay secure through the use of information technology. RDX will be exhibiting at HIMSS18, taking place March 5-9, 2018, at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas. We hope to see you there.

 

Healthcare Businesses Intelligence Use is Growing. Why?

If you’re a healthcare provider and you’re not using healthcare business intelligence to drive your success, then you may be losing out on some important advantages. The benefits of business intelligence (BI) for healthcare providers are many.

Here’s why healthcare BI is growing and how it can positively impact your financial bottom line, improve the quality of your patient care, ensure healthcare security and aid in compliance with government-mandated regulations.

Not Just Big Data, But Massive Data

Healthcare organizations are producing and storing more data than ever before. From electronic health records to financial performance, from patient satisfaction results to industry health statistics, all this information forms a massive amount of data. Add to that the policy information from insurance companies and clinical trial results from pharmaceutical companies and you get what many experts describe as some of the most complex data warehouses on the planet.

Healthcare providers can use BI to process, present and analyze this enormous amount of data in meaningful ways. It can help them to track progress toward strategic goals, offering big-picture guidance that makes it easier to steer organizations in the right direction.

Skyrocketing Healthcare Costs

With healthcare costs rising at unprecedented levels, it has become increasingly important for providers to manage those costs. BI allows healthcare providers to gain more visibility into their financial operations, improving operational efficiency. It helps organizations monitor cash flow and make the proper adjustments to streamline it.

BI may also help healthcare providers identify services that are highly profitable or underutilized, generating the analysis they need to set pricing, control expenditures, allocate staff time and more easily process claims. BI can help organizations determine the effectiveness of their marketing efforts as well.

More and Better Healthcare

Per capita healthcare in the U.S. is among the highest in the world. With that expenditure comes an expectation for better outcomes from healthcare and higher patient satisfaction.

BI can help healthcare providers improve patient care and analyze quality and safety trends. It can offer information that allows providers to better manage logistics, such as patient flow in triage and optimal patient discharge times, making best use of bed space without sacrificing patient outcome. It can provide the evidence physicians need to make clinical decisions and to better monitor and predict patient diagnoses.

Mushrooming Compliance

Federal health reforms have led healthcare providers to take regulatory compliance seriously, especially as more quality-based requirements are implemented. Complying with HIPAA rules concerning patient privacy and information security is particularly important.

To meet the demands of complex regulations, healthcare providers must have quick access to many different kinds of financial and patient data. BI can help collect, organize, analyze and present data to regulators, making it less likely that providers will be audited, sanctioned or otherwise fined for noncompliance.

Getting Expert Help with BI

A comprehensive BI strategy is essential for healthcare providers. While some organizations may think of BI as simply a pretty way to present data, it’s really much deeper than that. A sophisticated third-party BI administrator can more fully optimize the BI strategy of healthcare providers and give them the results they’re looking for in a BI solution. They can help healthcare providers drive real competitive advantage from their IT by providing the expertise, services and scale they need to optimize the business value of their mission-critical technologies

RDX – the #1 provider and pioneer of remote DBA services – offers Microsoft BI services to help healthcare providers leverage Microsoft’s industry-leading BI product suite, turning raw data into revenue. From strategic planning to production and beyond, our BI analysts are with you every step of the way, managing your solutions, empowering your success and maximizing your BI investment.

HIMSS, the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society, is continually helping healthcare providers evolve through the use of information technology. RDX will be exhibiting at HIMSS18, taking place March 5-9, 2018, at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas. We hope to see you there.

 

Google & Cisco are Partnering Up with a Hybrid Cloud Solution

Question: What do you get when you pair the largest networking company in the world with one of the premier cloud storage providers? Answer: Cisco-Google hybrid cloud services.

The two companies will be working together on a comprehensive solution to develop, run, secure and monitor customer applications and data. The Cisco-Google partnership will offer hybrid cloud services that allow customers to plan their cloud migration in accordance with their own strategies and within their own timeframes. It’ll prevent companies from being locked into expensive, outmoded or unmanageable systems. It’ll also help to maximize any investment companies make in cloud technology.

Bringing the Power of the Cloud In-house

Exactly what this solution will look like has yet to be detailed, but the goal of it is to bring the power of the cloud in-house. Once rolled out, developers and other IT professionals will be able to take advantage of Google’s secure cloud-storage tools, using them seamlessly to create applications within their own internal systems environment.

Both Cisco and Google have said that it’s important for customers to be able to take their networking and security capabilities with them when utilizing cloud resources. They say that any multi-cloud solution must also include support for customers’ policy requirements, as well as the ability to get real-time networking and performance data.

Managing Applications Like Never Before

Many companies rely on a combination of public and private cloud services, but there are significant differences between the two. Because of those differences, it’s difficult for developers to write applications that can move easily between environments. Developers must learn to operate in each environment separately. They’re not able, for example, to develop an application in the public cloud and deploy it in the private cloud.

Some applications belong on-premises, and some belong in the public cloud. But what if those applications could all work together? What if applications were able to extend across environments, where they can take advantage of applications and services housed in other data centers and clouds?

The Cisco-Google partnership will offer open-architecture hybrid cloud solutions that allow customers to better develop and manage applications either in-house or in the cloud. It will help developers to make use of open source platforms, such as Kubernetes and Istio, GCP Service Catalog and service mesh monitoring.

Cloud Expertise Gets Companies in the Game, Keeps Them There

The roll-out of the new hybrid cloud solution is expected to occur in early 2018 with a limited number of customers, followed by a full roll-out later in the year.

In the meantime, companies considering Google-Cisco hybrid cloud services would do well to consider taking advantage of the hybrid cloud expertise third-party database managers have to offer. Whether companies are considering the cloud or are already there, a knowledgeable DBA or cloud expert can help them get the most from their cloud investment.

RDX – the #1 onshore provider of remote DBA services – has the people, processes and technology required to speed and simplify cloud deployment, optimize assets and help you achieve business benefits faster. From needs analysis to production deployment, our cloud solutions help you successfully navigate every phase of your cloud journey. Once you’re in the cloud, we can help solidify your presence there with reliable, secure monitoring and administration services. Contact us today for more information on how you can make the cloud work for your business success.

Pros and Cons of Cloud Storage for Businesses

Each year, more businesses turn to cloud solutions for storing business files – documents, spreadsheets, images, etc. As security in the cloud becomes stronger, especially through token and encryption techniques, business leaders have warmed to cloud storage as a way to cut costs, create efficiencies and take advantage of third-party expertise. Forbes estimates that, by 2018, at least half of IT spending will be cloud-based. Before business leaders move their company information offsite, there are a number of cloud storage pros and cons worth considering.

Why Businesses Store Files in the Cloud

Companies realize a number of obvious benefits of cloud file storage:

1. Cloud storage allows users to work wherever they are. Documents are shared seamlessly across office locations, facilitating better collaboration among staff. Employees can access information whether they’re at the office, at home or on the road. All that’s needed is a laptop (or other electronic device) and an internet connection.

2. It may save on company bandwidth. When files are routinely emailed back and forth, it can stress a company’s IT infrastructure. Like a crowded highway, it slows down traffic and creates storage challenges. Storing business files in the cloud, however, places the burden of keeping traffic flowing squarely on a third-party provider. Plus scalability can be accomplished almost instantaneously.

3. Cost savings are another big benefit of cloud storage. Cloud providers distribute storage and service costs across many businesses, passing much of the savings along to their clients. Storing files in the cloud enables most businesses to cut back on hardware and maintenance expenses, including labor costs.

4. When a business suffers a catastrophic event – a fire, natural disaster, data hijacking or total systems crash – cloud storage is a reliable way to manage disaster recovery. Files are stored securely offsite and can be easily and effectively replaced.

5. Most cloud storage platforms have the added benefit of applications and other tools that allow businesses to optimize their information. Many cloud providers make it possible for businesses to stream files (such as audio or video) directly to customers, upload and download content directly from mobile apps and websites, host and serve the static assets of websites, and run data analysis programshave developed business intelligence (BI) analytic tools that help companies sort, understand and use the big data they accrue throughout the course of doing business.

Considerations of Cloud Storage

Security has always been a top consideration when it comes to storing information in the cloud. Businesses with sensitive information may be especially concerned about public cloud security, as firewalls between company information and that of other businesses could, theoretically at least, fail.

Despite the improved security most public cloud providers demonstrate today, some data-sensitive businesses have resigned themselves to internal or private cloud storage of business files. A private cloud may be good for companies that have already established their own data centers, but it does require on-premises IT staff to manage it, not to mention the expense of maintaining hardware.

Other businesses prefer to use a storage service that’s fully administered by someone else but still has an increased level of privacy. These operate a lot like the other public cloud storage services but with one major difference: the data is encrypted and stored in a way that nobody except the business can access it. Even the employees of the service can’t access the files.

Some businesses are now using a hybrid of private and public cloud services. Certain files are stored locally, while other files are deployed to the cloud. A hybrid cloud solution must meet certain key requirements to make it work. For example, it must appear seamless to users. Hybrid clouds also depend on policy engines to define when specific files get moved into the cloud or pulled from it.

Cloud Storage Options

Cloud storage options are expanding rapidly, as more and more vendors enter the market. For storing flat files, businesses often look to Amazon (AWS), Microsoft (Azure) and Oracle (Cloud File System and Cloud Infrastructure Storage) for various products or platforms that address their individual needs.

Companies looking for help in selecting, integrating and taking full advantage of these platforms might find it beneficial to engage a technology consultant. As the #1 onshore provider and pioneer of remote DBA services, RDX puts technology to work for business worldwide. From needs analysis to production deployment, RDX’s cloud solutions help businesses successfully navigate every phase of the cloud journey. RDX enables customers to fully leverage the inherent benefits of cloud architectures and assists them in overcoming some of the more challenging cloud activities.

Google Cloud Security Best Practices

Many businesses employ powerful cloud platforms such as Google Cloud to store company data – spreadsheets, documents, databases, images, applications, software and much more. But some businesses contemplating Google Cloud Platform wonder: Is Google Cloud safe? Is data stored in Google Cloud secure?

The answers to these questions appear to be “yes,” as long as companies take extra steps to make certain that data won’t be compromised. Below are some Google Cloud security best practices that business leaders should be aware of when working with their teams to ensure the security of company information.

Why Use Google Cloud?

As might be expected, Google has put a lot of resources into making Google Cloud a state-of-the-art storage platform. Unlike some upstart cloud providers, Google Cloud has evolved a reputation for quality data storage performance. Accessible anywhere in the world, Google Cloud claims to be “cost-effective and constantly improving.” It delivers all the high-performance infrastructure companies need for storage of their data.

Google Cloud also includes powerful tools for analyzing big data. Companies generate all kinds of data that can be useful in tracking business transactions, identifying customer or client trends, pinpointing inefficiencies in systems, and making informed decisions on the future of the business. Google Cloud’s customizable business intelligence (BI) analytics can propel businesses to greater success.

Keeping Google Cloud Secure

Along with Google Cloud’s respectable track record comes a commitment to security. Google works strenuously to ensure that data stored in Google Cloud is protected from intrusions. Although a public cloud platform has inherent security risks that a more expensive private cloud would not, Google nevertheless understands that the security of company data must be a major concern of any cloud platform.
While Google is doing its part in keeping data protected, security is a shared responsibility. Here are some Google Cloud security best practices companies should take into account:

Data Classification. Data has different degrees of sensitivity. Classifying data allows companies to categorize any data that should be restricted from wider distribution or otherwise confined to certain user groups. This is especially critical for data containing private information that could identify a specific individual, whether an employee or a customer.

Access Control. Companies are responsible for controlling access to data. It’s important to set user permissions at the project and application levels. This includes preventing end users from sharing critical information outside the corporate network or public cloud infrastructure.

Password Protection. Insisting that users have strong passwords is always a security best practice, especially when working in the cloud. Passwords should be as unpredictable and as random as possible. Two-factor authentication solutions (such as a password and token, password and emailed code, password and fingerprint) make it even harder for attackers to gain control of an account.

Data Encryption. Encrypting data is essential for creating a secure working environment. This is especially important when transferring data into or out of the cloud. Employing strong encryption, at all phases of data management, makes it more unlikely that data will be compromised.

Vulnerability Testing. It’s also important that data environments be routinely checked for vulnerability. Vulnerability assessment and penetration testing (VAPT) look for code flaws and application leaks that might make data insecure. If a vulnerability is found, it should be reported to Google via the Vulnerability Reward Program.

Security Sharing with Consultants. When hiring cloud platform consultants, companies should look for ones that takes security and privacy seriously. Any third-party vendor that handles business information should have the highest certification available when it comes to security processes.

At RDX, security is of paramount importance. Although we don’t store or process any data for our customers, we adhere to one of the most comprehensive security and privacy frameworks in the IT industry and have audited every security control possible within our organization. We reduce the risk of business disruption by leveraging RDX’s expertise and controls – which includes SSAE16, AICPA SOC 2 and PCI DSS compliance – ensuring the security, availability, integrity, confidentiality and privacy of data and transactions. You don’t become the #1 provider and pioneer of remote DBA services without paying close attention to data security.

ICYMI- RDX Insights Webinar: Microsoft SQL Azure Overview & Demo

This month, RDX’s VP of Delivery Strategies and Technologies, Chris Foot, and RDX Azure Expert, Jim Donahoe, teamed up to present Microsoft SQL Azure Overview and Demo.

During the webinar, Chris and Jim took a deeper look at some of Azure SQL DB’s most popular and interesting features in addition to how the product differs from its on-premises and IaaS counterparts. They also covered a wide range of topics from purchasing and provisioning to geo-replication, sharding and advanced automations.

The presentation concluded with a demo from Jim explaining how to:

  • Deploy a DBaaS instance
  • Configure a DBaaS firewall
  • Configure resource locks
  • Use Query Performance Insights(QPI) to analyze DBaaS workloads
  • Perform failover group configurations and use cases

If you missed yesterday’s webinar, you can view a copy of the slides on SlideShare.

You can also get access to the live recording of the presentation here.

 

Join our mailing list for updates about future RDX Insights Series presentations by emailing info@rdx.com.