CIO: Time to recognize that public clouds can be secure

The development and adoption of cloud computing technologies has been more of a migration than a blastoff, according to Chuck Podesta, CIO at University of California Irvine Health.

With the introduction of any new technology adoption is slow at the start, but there's usually a tipping point, where all of a sudden what once was feared becomes essential.

Most hospitals and healthcare systems across the country have taken what Podesta calls a "piecemeal approach" to adopting the cloud. By his estimate, many more employ private clouds than those who have taken to public clouds

"It's time to dispel that," Podesta said.

He suggested that healthcare entities look at the off-premise data warehouse they've had around for years as a potential starting point.

"Executives should say 'you need to move faster with your cloud migration,'" Podesta added. "Take into account security issues. Work those into your contract, but it is becoming a very safe environment now."

Podesta pointed to Google, Amazon Web Services, Clear Data – and many other vendors – doing good work in this area.

"They're not sitting back. They're spending a lot of time on this issue because they know that healthcare and analytics is the next big thing for them," he said. "And they have roles of money."

When negotiating with a vendor, he said it is critical to "spell out the expectations, how things are going to be, how they're going to protect your data, migrating the data to the cloud, managing your data in the cloud."

With public clouds, Podesta said, "you're dealing with basically one multi-tenant cloud with a lot of applications in it."

The benefit of public cloud is cost to management and scalability, Podesta said. "You can imagine scaling all your systems across so many customers that a public cloud has. The cost of adding storage and things like that is much, much less than for a private cloud."

Podesta recommended bringing an expert who can help negotiate the deals and make sure nothing is missed.

"You want to make sure you don't make missteps on that contract," he said.