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Northeast Health

If the central data center crashed for Northeast Health, a not-for-profit healthcare conglomerate in upstate New York, the applications for its 35 hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities would run as usual. A tad slower, perhaps, but they'd still be available to maintain the level of patient care.

That wasn't the case two years ago, when Chris Baldwin, VP of corporate MIS, and his team decided to create a disaster recovery plan that was better than trucking tapes to a warehouse. "We had reached critical mass," he recalls. "We're not just a hospital, we're an integrated healthcare delivery system... We had started to use advanced clinical applications... The more we got into those, the more compelling it became to ensure we had a solid business continuity and disaster recovery plan."

One step in the process had already been taken. A few years before, data services had been consolidated at a primary center in Troy, N.Y., and a secondary site set up at a hospital seven miles away in Albany. A bunch of servers and disk arrays from Data General were installed. A private microwave link, chosen in the years before fiber was affordable, was set up to connect the two sites.

Despite the progress, there was a glitch. Each night, technicians backed up about 4 Tbytes of data from the servers onto directly attached tape drives and shipped the tapes offsite. As Northeast added applications with physician and nurse bedside data entry and PACS (picture archiving and communications system) medical imaging, it became clear that tape-lugging wouldn't cut it if one of the data centers crashed.

There had to be a way to recreate the site whole in the event of an outage.

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