Planned Parenthood Mar Monte (PPMM) is the largest Planned Parenthood affiliate in the U.S., providing medical and education services to more than 250,000 people annually at 35 health center locations in 42 counties in mid-California and northern Nevada.
Why did PPMM start thinking about using cloud integrated enterprise storage?
PPMM was experiencing a dramatic growth in the storage required for electronic medical records. Their existing SAN storage was having difficulty handling the millions of files that PPMM needed to store.
Not only does PPMM need to store the medical records for all of their current patients, but HIPAA requires them to retain the information for a minimum of seven (7) years, and frequently much longer. Nothing is ever deleted from PPMM’s storage, and once stored, much of the data was rarely, or never, accessed. However, if a patient returns to any of their health centers, PPMM needs to be able to retrieve their medical history immediately.
“Upgrading NAS to support our expected growth would have cost half a million dollars.”
Planned Parenthood Mar Monte
PPMM currently has just one data center location and wanted a more robust disaster recovery solution. They wanted to improve upon their current strategy of mirrored volumes on-site combined with online backup through a service provider. PPMM needed a cost-efficient method for storing the ever-increasing volumes of data, as well as an off-site storage solution for disaster recovery.
What was the solution that PPMM implemented?
PPMM set up file shares and moved their repository of electronic medical records to the StorSimple appliance. The appliance serves as one box for cloud integrated enterprise storage encompassing primary, archiving, backup and disaster recovery. Current medical record information is written to internal storage on StorSimple and then automatically tiered to the cloud as it ages.
A second StorSimple appliance is set up at an off-site location to provide disaster recovery capability. In the event of a failure at their primary data center, the secondary system will become the active file server for all of PPMM’s offices. Because only the metadata needs to be downloaded to start accessing data, the secondary system will be available within minutes of a failure.
Did PPMM have any technical challenges or concerns?
PPMM had no problem setting up the StorSimple appliance. They simply set up a new file share and pointed the applications to that volume. No changes to the applications were needed.
Security was a critical issue for PPMM. Only certain people are allowed access to the confidential medical records. Putting this data in a public cloud was a major concern. While PPMM knew that StorSimple encrypted data in the cloud, PPMM had their own encryption in their application. They confirmed during testing that this existing encryption worked as designed with StorSimple, and through it to the cloud, with no changes required.
Performance was another key issue to PPMM. One of the reasons that they started looking at new solutions was due to the overload on their existing storage systems. PPMM evaluated storage performance as part of their testing and was satisfied that StorSimple could meet their requirements, even with the anticipated growth.
How much growth in storage is expected?
The first deployment needs 40TB and with traditional storage purchase the full capacity and resources have to be purchased up-front. PPMM would have to hope they estimated correctly, or face multiple storage upgrades over a short timeframe. The StorSimple solution, on the other hand, could scale to support the expected growth and PPMM would only pay for as much cloud storage capacity as PPMM actually utilized.
How has StorSimple helped reduce IT costs?
The cost to upgrade their storage infrastructure from PPMM’s existing vendor would have run half a million dollars ($0.5M). The purchase of StorSimple and the cost of cloud storage was just a fraction of that. In addition, StorSimple helped to reduce power and cooling costs in their data center.
What other benefits did StorSimple provide?
Because the one appliance provides primary storage, archiving and disaster recovery, it also saved PPMM time and money they would have spent on additional hardware, software and management to provide the additional capabilities.
“Using StorSimple and cloud storage allows us to provide disaster recovery capability and five nines reliability with just one data center.”
The combination of StorSimple, with its fault-tolerant design, and the reliability of the cloud providers gave PPMM five nines availability (99.999% uptime) at a greatly reduced cost – much less than it would have cost them in their own data center.
The StorSimple appliance delivered what PPMM needed:
- On-premises access to frequently-accessed data
- De-duplication and compression to reduce storage footprint
- Automatic tiering to the cloud for infrequently accessed data
- Cloud clones for disaster recovery
- Immediate access to archived data
What other options were considered?
PPMM considered adding more storage in their data center and evaluated other service providers, particularly for off-site backup, but at the end of the day the StorSimple appliance provided the capabilities that they needed at a much lower price.
Why did PPMM choose StorSimple?
StorSimple delivered the right solution, at the right price, meeting their RPO (recovery point objective) and RTO (recovery time objective) requirements. “Like its name, it’s simple,” said Patel, “and it does what we needed.”
Has this project changed your perception of using cloud storage?
“At first, it’s a little scary to think about putting your data in the cloud,” said Patel. “But the providers have enough track record to provide confidence in their ability to retain data and maintain availability.”
Now that PPMM has started using StorSimple, they see the potential of cloud storage and looking at other ways to leverage the cloud to simplify storage management and reduce costs.
What would PPMM recommend to others looking to take advantage of cloud storage?
“Don’t get stuck in thinking about traditional solutions – think out-of-the-box,” commented Patel. “Products like StorSimple making implementing cloud storage much easier, without changes to your applications.”