By Monty Zarrouk, Senior Solutions Marketing Manager, NetApp


The volume and speed of patient data generated in the healthcare sphere is at an all-time high, courtesy of sophisticated healthcare applications, data intensive technologies such as MRIs, and the proliferation of new personal devices and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. Add stringent regulations mandating secure, long-term records retention, and it’s no wonder healthcare providers feel challenged in meeting all of these requirements while also containing costs and improving the quality of patient care.


As senior solutions marketing manager at NetApp, it’s part of my job to help healthcare customers meet these challenges. I recently sat down with Frank Tollefson, assistant director of Network Services at Engage, the technology division of non-profit Inland Northwest Health Services (INHS), to discuss how their team leveraged NetApp to improve backup processes and deliver better services to INHS’s member hospitals and clinics.


What were some of the challenges you were seeing in delivering your services?

Nearly 40 hospitals rely on our hosting services to manage and protect their critical data, such as MEDITECH electronic health records. Our monthly expenditures were going through the roof so we needed to figure out a way to help member hospitals and clinics easily, securely, and affordably protect expanding data volumes. We initially offered tape-based backup services, but the time and cost to create, manage, transport, and store them quickly skyrocketed. To continue to provide customers with cost-effective solutions, we needed to make our backup processes more efficient.


What led you to NetApp?

We first considered purpose-built backup appliances, but that meant purchasing expensive redundant boxes with limited scalability outside of sizing up to the next appliance. That’s when NetApp AltaVault® cloud integrated storage soon caught our attention. To a business already invested in the freedom and flexibility of open source architecture, AltaVault’s straightforward, secure, and efficient operations, coupled with seamless integration with any backup software or cloud, held great appeal.


How did the deployment process go?

Testing began immediately, combining a low-cost virtual AltaVault appliance with Engage’s existing MEDITECH-certified BridgeHead backup software. To provide off-site replication, AltaVault targets the division’s newly created Engage HealthCloud ObjectStore-purpose-built, healthcare-specific, enterprise object storage located across the organization’s existing data centers. Not only did the pilot validate the solution’s worth with fast, simple, and cost-efficient backup in Engage’s hosted MEDITECH environment, but it also laid the groundwork for a whole new off-site backup-to-cloud service. 


Within hours Engage had deployed a physical AltaVault AVA400 appliance capable of accommodating over 4PB of logical data in the cloud-enough to support its hosted MEDITECH backup environment for years to come. Engage uses equally easy-to-deploy virtual AltaVault devices and virtual appliances, with the option to use small virtual machines in smaller environments, to support its customer backup-to-cloud services.


What are some of the results you’ve seen since deploying NetApp AltaVault?

We quickly realized that our successes with AltaVault could easily be replicated in hospitals and clinics facing the same backup-to-tape challenges. The flexible, easy-to-deploy AltaVault architecture and an Engage HealthCloud ObjectStore-orchestrated infrastructure enabled the division to quickly introduce an affordable and attractive service to member hospitals and clinics.


 AltaVault appliances, Engage HealthCloud ObjectStore, and even new data center deployments (such as a cutting-edge NetApp FAS8000 series storage system running the NetApp clustered Data ONTAP® operating system within Engage’s hosting environment) are making it easier than ever for a growing roster of Engage customers to direct more time and money into patient care.


This HIMSS 2016 customer interview is a part of a series that highlights our customers’ successes in the healthcare industry. To learn more about what NetApp is doing at HIMSS, visit our event guide.