Data centers are on the minds of a lot of healthcare organizations these days for a host of reasons. For one, there’s been a massive boom in the last decade of data—electronic medical records (EMRs), test results, emails, private communications, and research—and the need to store all that material safely and securely.

There are also mandates from the ACA and HIPAA’s meaningful use requirement, which incentivize providers to implement EHR technology to improve patient care while keeping that information private and secure. Compliance with these evolving regulations is tied to reimbursement rates and can impact an organization’s bottom line. There’s also the reality that more patients are entering the system, further increasing the volume of EMRs and other information.

As a result, data center projects are expected to remain prevalent for some time. Forty-three percent of architecture, engineering, and construction firms that responded to Healthcare Design’s 2014 Corporate Rankings Survey reported working on data center projects in 2013, up from 37 percent in 2012.

Healthcare organizations can choose from several data center options that can be designed to meet an organization’s current processing and critical load needs while flexible enough to accommodate future growth and changes.

  • Collocation services offer leased space by the cabinet, row, pod, or cage. The facility provides cooling, power, bandwidth, and physical security, and the owner uses its own servers, allowing them to maintain control over use and changes. This option is good for smaller, regional organizations and can be expanded and scaled by adding or subtracting servers.
  • Wholesale is similar but for larger footprints and critical loads, with lease space in 500 kW increments. This service has the ability to customize the infrastructure to your reliability needs, although it can require long leases and set-up or building time can take up to four months.
  • Cloud services are growing in popularity with healthcare organizations for their on-demand storage services. In this pay-for-what-you-use model, the provider supplies everything, from the equipment and servers to the generators and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system.
  • Ownership entails operating your own facility in a building that can be located on or off campus. This set-up provides more control of use, changes, and IT hardware and software, but requires significant capital costs for construction as well as ongoing maintenance and operational costs. Organizations that want tight control of their data and servers might look at owning as the only option.

To start figuring out the right fit for your organization, Kevin Farquhar, vice president and principal with HGA Architects and Engineers (Alexandria, Va.), says it’s important to work with your IT specialists to understand a facility’s or system’s current and projected critical load, or how much power computers, servers, and networking equipment are drawing. Organizations also need to identify their budget and how quickly they need to deploy a solution.

Recently, I discussed the pros and cons of these options with industry professionals and will share their input in a trend piece in Healthcare Design’s upcoming September issue. There's a lot to discuss, from storage needs and site considerations to cooling technology and resiliency measures.

But one of the most important things they stressed was that when it comes to data centers one size does not fit all.

“Every group is going to have a different data set and goals for future expansion and implementation of electronic records depending on how large they are, how much they can invest in capital, and how much they feel they need to hold onto versus working with a managed group,” Farquhar says.

What do you think is the most important consideration when deciding on the right data center? What works best for your organization? Share your thoughts below or email me at