As with most businesses, decision-making processes for medical device manufacturers are becoming more data driven. Efficiently capturing, analyzing and sharing information becomes more challenging as the volume and variety of data continues to grow. The ability to quickly harness and collaborate on information internally as well as with subcontractors and customers can be the difference between the next medical device breakthrough and a lost opportunity.
Information architects are now considering emerging cloud-based solutions because they boost collaboration between the manufacturer and external entities via mobile and BYOD (bring your own device) practices. Expensive upfront investments in servers and/or data centers is often required to manage indefinitely growing data repositories on premises, but the cloud offers a more elastic and scalable IT infrastructure.
Security concerns have slowed cloud adoption in many highly regulated industries. Regulatory compliance is a must, while efficient collaboration is often viewed as a “nice to have” by many CIOs. Another common misconception many companies have is that their information is too classified to be stored in the cloud. The truth is, a “cloud-only” approach is not a realistic option for any company.
The Hybrid Cloud
The most viable and cost-efficient information management strategy for many businesses is the hybrid cloud. In fact, a recent study from Gartner revealed that by 2018, 50% of enterprises will manage their content via hybrid cloud approach.1
In a hybrid cloud deployment, certain systems such as CRM and ERP applications remain on-premises and new cloud services are adopted for other processes, such as information management. Ideally the on-premises solutions are tightly integrated with the cloud services, so look for providers that offer open APIs and support for federated authentication and single sign-on.
Medical device manufacturers and companies in other FDA-regulated industries must follow stringent regulations about how and where they manage and store information. Modern information management systems let you choose the location of an information asset based on its attributes (i.e., metadata). For example, users can use the same application to manage R&D data and marketing collateral, but the marketing brochures reside in the cloud, while the R&D documents are kept behind the firewall (on premises). In this example, the sales and marketing department is happy because sharing their brochures and other collateral with customers becomes extremely easy. IT is happy because their ability to cost-efficiently support big repositories containing large files (videos, images, etc.) is easier, and customers are happy because the content they want is accessible directly via their mobile devices. In addition, R&D has peace in mind knowing that their latest plans are not exposed to unnecessary risk for information breaches or data loss.
First Steps towards the Hybrid Cloud
If the hybrid cloud approach for information management sounds right for your business, begin by assessing cloud vendors. Security needs to be a top concern, and the services need to meet your expectations in the area of authentication, user provisioning and encryption. Many regulations also require that your data reside within a specific region, so make sure that you can choose the physical location for your data.
It is also important to remember that a key part of your evaluation criteria should be that your cloud solutions connect seamlessly with the on-premises systems and vice versa. Too often, new cloud solutions are not integrated with existing systems, so avoid having cloud repositories that become isolated data siloes. Look for solutions with robust open APIs and connectors to your company’s specific on-premises systems.
The hybrid cloud enables enterprises to leverage the scalability, anywhere-anytime access, and on-demand nature of the increasingly popular cloud model while maintaining the security of enterprise information stored on premises when required. Focus on augmenting your current enterprise systems, reduce IT burden, and improve collaboration without sacrificing compliance. That’s a win for everyone.
- Bittman, T.J., (September 6, 2013). Private cloud matures, hybrid cloud is next. Gartner, Inc.