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HIPAA Compliant Data Storage: How to Balance Compliance and Costs

6 min read

Posted On September 29, 2020

Balancing costs and compliance with HIPAA compliant data storage

If you’re a healthcare organization, HIPAA compliant data storage is essential to the success of your business. 

If you’re found to be negligent in storing your patient data, you could face heavy financial penalties – according to the HIPAA Journal, the average fine for noncompliance in 2019 was $1,227,400. 

Even the year’s smallest fine of $10,000 would hit a small practice relatively hard.

penalties-for-hipaa-2019

(Image source: hipaajournal.com)

Data breaches also lose patients’ trust and they will look for other providers if they feel you don’t take protecting their personal health information (PHI) seriously enough.

The necessity for watertight data backup and recovery practices, however, raises questions as to what you need to spend to keep your patients’ data secure. 

It’s all too easy to slip into the mindset of “the more we spend, the more secure our systems will be”. 

The result is that many practices end up pumping funds into shoring up on-premise systems that are at best a cost drain and at worst a liability to storing PHI safely. 

Cloud-based HIPAA compliant data storage solutions can not only save you money but eliminate many of the risks associated with on-site storage as well.

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Can Cloud Data Storage Providers Be HIPAA Compliant?

HIPAA compliant data storage in the cloud is absolutely achievable, so long as both you and your cloud provider take the right precautions. 

Cloud storage providers are classified as business associates (BAs) under HIPAA, which means that in order to be HIPAA compliant, they too will have to meet HIPAA requirements when handling and storing your patients’ sensitive data. 

They will also have to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with your practice. 

What Is a BAA?

A BAA is a written contract between an organization covered under HIPAA (known as a “covered entity”) and a business associate that stores or processes data on behalf of the covered entity. 

It covers each party’s responsibilities for safeguarding patients’ PHI. 

Provided you take the right precautions and choose the right provider, you can meet your compliance responsibilities more than adequately when switching to cloud data storage.

You should, however, select a provider that specializes in HIPAA compliant data storage, as many popular data storage providers like Dropbox are not HIPAA compliant by default, or WeTransfer which is not HIPAA compliant at all and so will not sign a BAA.

What Is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for HIPAA Compliant Data Storage?

TCO for HIPAA compliant data storage will depend on the provider you choose, your business needs and the amount of data you’d like to store. 

It is fair to say, however, that the TCO of HIPAA compliant cloud storage is usually lower than on-premise equivalents.

For on-premise systems, most IT professionals would suggest renewing your server hardware at least every five years.

In the fourth year of server operation, support costs increase by an average of 40%. 

By year five this increases to 200% and by year seven an eye-watering 400%. 

This means you’re looking at significant investment every three to five years or so, because you won’t want to wait until your hardware is on its last legs before replacing it.

HIPAA cloud storage providers store your data on their own servers. 

You don’t need to buy, maintain and upgrade expensive hardware to store your data, or budget for backup solutions like network-attached storage, storage servers, or tape/disk backups. 

With these costs in mind, cloud backup and recovery solutions start to look significantly cheaper to run over a five-year period, particularly when you take into account: 

  • You don’t need to pay to run and maintain your own data centers. Maintaining the premises, installing adequate security systems, staff costs, electricity bills and rent all add up. 
  • It’s cheaper and faster to scale the amount of storage you need with a cloud solution. On-premise solutions require additional spend on extra hardware to provide enough storage space and backup in order to scale – and if you invest in more storage space in advance, you’re essentially paying for it to sit there empty.

With a cloud solution, you simply rent more space when you need it, avoiding both performance bottlenecks and the pitfalls of paying for storage you don’t use.

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Does A Lower TCO Imply Tradeoffs in Data Security?

According to Gartner, “the majority of cloud providers invest significantly in security, realizing that their business would be at risk without doing so.” 

It’s in their interest to stay ahead. 

Without centering data security around everything they do, their business loses its major selling point.  

Can your practice attract best-in-the-business cybersecurity personnel? 

Do you have the budget to maintain a 24/7 team of security guards to make sure no-one breaks into your data center? 

Has your IT manager got the time and expertise to keep on top of an ever-evolving range of cyber threats?

If the answer to any of these questions is “No”, it’s likely that your on-premise solution is less secure than leading HIPAA compliant cloud storage would be. 

Decreasing Risk with Remote Data Storage?

Moving your data backup and recovery processes to the cloud offers several security benefits. Cloud backup and recovery solutions decrease risk of HIPAA breach by: 

  • Staying on top of the latest threats. Unless you have the time, money and expertise to keep reconfiguring your on-premise systems, they will remain vulnerable against the latest cyber threats.

There are ways to shore up on-premise systems against attacks – by retrofitting air-gapped backups for example – but these are often costly, time-consuming and prone to error. 

  • Remote backup. Having your data backed up at a separate offsite location makes cyberattacks less effective. 

Hackers will typically go for both production and backup environments whilst attacking a system. 

Backing up your data externally means that you can still access it even when hackers attack your on-site infrastructure. 

  • Protection from physical threats. Backing up your data remotely removes the risk of you losing it due to physical damage – for example, fire, or natural disasters like floods and storms. 

It also reduces risk of loss from theft or employee mismanagement. 

Find HIPAA Compliant Cloud Data Storage Solutions for Your Business

Central Data Storage offers HIPAA compliant cloud backup, disaster recovery and data storage solutions that are more cost-effective than legacy on-premise solutions. 

Our solutions will save you time and money running and maintaining your own hardware, data centers and security personnel. 

With encrypted file sharing, cloud backup and recovery and data storage support, we’ll meet your healthcare business’s stringent data storage needs whilst going above and beyond to ensure HIPAA compliance. 

See how you could save money whilst remaining HIPAA compliant with a free expert-led data assessment. Get in touch with our experts to learn more about our HIPAA compliant data storage. Call 1-888-907-1227 or email info@centraldatastorage.com.

 

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