By Gareth Griffith, Chief Technology Officer and Backup Product Manager, BridgeHead Software

“Backup – yes, we’ve got it covered.”

You’re unlikely to be surprised at how many times I hear this when I am talking with healthcare organizations. And, it should bring a sense of relief. That is until I ask my standard follow up questions: “When did you last TEST your backups?” and “When did you last CHECK your backups?” This is generally the point where the confidence falters, a sense of vulnerability emerging – the silence is deafening.

I often find, once I dig beneath the surface, that there are a lot of unanswered questions concerning protection of a hospital’s EMR and other critical systems:

“Are you sure no-one added another VM?”

“Are you certain your MEDITECH configuration hasn’t changed?”

“Did expanding that disk get picked up correctly by the backups?”

“We replaced server X – were the backups changed to pick it up?”

Well, the first two you don’t have to worry about if you’re using BridgeHead to protect your MEDITECH systems. That’s because our backups start from the information that MEDITECH gets from the servers regarding which disks are being used. This is verified during every backup, so we can tell you if the configuration needs changing; and the VMware master job will find new VMs and create backups for them.

In my experience, the two biggest problems with backups are:

  • Making the time to monitor and correct any small issues
  • Making the time to practice restores and disaster recovery (DR) tests.

Monitoring Backups

Sadly, nothing immediately fails if you don’t fix a backup warning or error. Production doesn’t stop, no one is unable to do their work. It’s the old issue of Important v Urgent. Backups are important – everyone agrees, but other tasks might be urgent, e.g. actually preventing a member of staff from working. Situations like this often push fixing the backup out to the final task of the day for which you just ran out of time. And, guess what? Tomorrow there’s a new urgent task that takes priority. All too often this can become a habit; and perhaps THAT original warning wasn’t so critical. But, now you might think the backups are ‘crying wolf’ and, thereby, miss the NEXT backup warning (or error) that might be really important.

If you don’t have a dedicated backup team (and these days most site admins have to multi-task), how can you ensure that backups are checked and errors corrected? That’s why BridgeHead created Platinum Maintenance. With Platinum Maintenance, BridgeHead’s dedicated support team monitor the backups, upgrade the software, and keep everything running properly, calling you if something specific needs changing on the site. Customers who take advantage of Platinum Maintenance can rest easy knowing someone CHECKS the backups every day and takes the trouble to clean out any warnings that may arise.

Restore Practice

If you don’t conduct restore tests, are you sure that you have all the information you need to avoid delays in a real crisis. You don’t want to be thinking about how to do it in times of urgency. Yes, of course, it is all in the manual, but do you have the time to read it when the world is collapsing round you? Are you sure that you have all the information needed for a full disaster restore, on hand, at the DR site – whether that is from tape, VTL, dedupe or cloud? If you have a warm DR site, have you practiced the failover? Again, this is an area where BridgeHead’s expertise can help you – we regularly assist customers to do DR tests and help them document their DR procedures.

Timely Updates and New Features

The final and very important part of backup management is, of course, regularly updating the software with the latest versions and patches. Wannacry ransomware reminded everyone that you need to keep up with your operating systems updates and patches, but it is equally true for the backup software and the design of your backup infrastructure. The current release is continually tested against the latest operating system versions and patches. Any vulnerabilities in third-party software used by the backups are fixed by updates. For example, not too long ago there were several vulnerabilities discovered within SSL/TLS (the layer we all use to provide secure communication).

Keeping your backup software up to date reduces risk as well as allowing you to take advantage of the latest features, like the new audit trail on all changes to the Control Node. Another new unique from BridgeHead is the option to provide data to MEDITECH SIRT, adding an additional monitoring and alerting layer to ensure your MEDITECH backups and archiving for SCA are performing optimally.

While you can update the software yourself, we understand that it isn’t something you do every day and other ‘urgent tasks’ get in the way. Why not have our Professional Services team do it for you? (With Platinum Maintenance, this is all part of the service.) It isn’t hard to upgrade, but we know it’s one more thing in a busy day. As BridgeHead’s team do it all the time, they can generally do it quicker, as well as explaining new features in the latest version and how you can take advantage of them – in fact, why not combine a Health Check with an upgrade?

BridgeHead doesn’t just make great software – we also help you make the most of it.