By Tracy Collins, Opengear
Healthcare, like every industry, continues to adopt more technology, increasing the dependency on these advanced systems and devices. Should a disruption from a ransomware attack, for example, cause a network outage, hospitals and other healthcare organizations would be unable to access their valuable, life-saving technology.
These disruptions force staff to revert to paper systems and have people manually monitor equipment and run records between departments. Unfortunately, this exact scenario is becoming increasingly more common, with AP News reporting that several hospitals and clinics experienced lengthy network downtime this last summer due to cyberattacks.
Network downtime and technology inaccessibility negatively impact operational and financial performance, including brand reputation. Moreover, these disruptions jeopardize patient safety. Healthcare organizations must ensure their networks are resilient so that engineers can get those networks back up and running as fast as possible.
What Are the Main Challenges Healthcare Networks Face?
Cybersecurity threats are one of the greatest challenges facing healthcare networks. Today, healthcare is one of the top two industries breached by hackers, costing hospitals and clinics hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost productivity, recovery expenses, and even regulatory fines. Ransomware attacks, in particular, can shut down a hospital’s computer systems, including its Electronic Health Records. Sometimes, the mean time to recovery can take weeks.
Another issue for healthcare organizations is that as they undergo acquisitions of smaller organizations, they consolidate those new networks into the parent network. This integration can be challenging because there is typically a wide variety of hardware and software within an existing network. In fact, research from Forescout found that 40% of deployments in healthcare use over 20 different operating systems.
Additionally, unexpected outages can compromise a healthcare network’s lucrative, always-on status. There are several reasons why these outages occur, including cyberattacks, user error, hardware failure, natural disasters, and construction. Likewise, network elements, such as cable interconnects, power supplies, and dense compute chassis, can lead to potential problems. Regardless of the cause, outages can strike at any time; regrettably, many healthcare organizations fail to plan appropriately.
Promoting Greater Network Resiliency with Out of Band Management
Network failure is not something any industry wants to endure – however, due to the critical care that healthcare organizations provide, failure isn’t an option. As such, hospitals and medical facilities need to bolster the resiliency of their networks to recover quickly from downtime. One approach to achieving greater resiliency is by implementing Out of Band.
Out of Band is a network strategy that provides an alternative path to devices located at remote sites when the primary network is inaccessible. It operates independently from the in-band or primary network, helping administrators minimize network disruptions through an always-on connection. Likewise, Out of Band integrates seamlessly with existing IT network and management systems, permitting network administrators to securely monitor, access, and manage devices without impacting normal operations.
Furthermore, when a healthcare organization combines Out of Band with a Failover to Cellular solution, its network will automatically failover to an alternative cellular interface, connecting the main site during an outage. By maintaining this connection, network engineers can troubleshoot issues despite the inaccessibility of the primary network, ensuring vital business operations remain uninterrupted. Ultimately, Out of Band makes networks more resilient, reducing operating expenses and decreasing downtime.
Advanced Out of Band Features and Capabilities
Hospitals and medical practices can augment traditional Out of Band solutions with automated intelligence, enabling network administrators to effectively manage the infrastructure of hundreds of sites and thousands of devices to protect business continuity at the hardware layer. These advanced automation capabilities can also send alerts through email or SMS, notifying relevant personnel of network issues, inconsistencies, or unusual activity. By detecting and remediating issues automatically, hospitals can prevent faults from spiraling into system failures.
Not only does Out of Band help hospitals and medical groups be more prepared for the worst days when there are network disruptions, but it also empowers administrators to be more flexible for everyday management and day-one provisioning. In particular, network administrators can use a single inference to monitor, manage, and remediate dispersed IT infrastructure from anywhere, significantly reducing the time and expertise required to provision new equipment. These Out of Band solutions help administrators remotely access all necessary network equipment, from hospitals and clinics to labs and data centers, ensuring critical systems remain functional even during an outage.
Preparing Today for Tomorrow’s Connectivity Requirements
Healthcare systems and devices continue to escalate in complexity while becoming more closely tied together digitally. This growth places an enormous strain on the network, increasing the likelihood of disruptions. Of course, healthcare organizations should not stop enhancing their systems through technologies like cloud services and Internet of Things devices. Nevertheless, as these environments expand, they must prepare to support modern connectivity requirements by incorporating Out of Band solutions and similar network tools.
Tracy Collins has over 25 years of experience in leadership positions in the IT and Infrastructure industry. Prior to joining Opengear, Tracy led the Americas business for EkkoSense, the leading provider of AI/ML software that allows data center operators to operate more efficiently. Prior to joining EkkoSense, Tracy was the CEO of Alabama based Simple Helix, a regional colocation data center operator and MSP. Tracy spent over 21 years with Vertiv, in various leadership positions including leading the global channel organization. Tracy holds both a Bachelors of Science, Business Administration, and a Masters of Science in Management from the University of Alabama – Huntsville. Visit Opengear