MediCharge has one of the largest databases of private medical information in South Africa. It goes without saying that security is of utmost importance to them. They also do a lot to ensure high availability and redundancy on their system. As Bear puts it, “the last thing we need is a surgeon who’s about to perform an operation being unable to open the notes he made on his iPad last night.”
To this end they keep four different copies of all of their clients’ data, with the result that “for every 1TB of data I need to buy 4TB of additional hard-drives,”
explains Bear who likens it to “walking around with four cellphones in your pocket to ensure you’re always contactable.”
This isn’t just expensive, it can also be a hassle – albeit a vital one.
In late 2021, MediCharge made the decision to move all of their BLOB (Binary Large Object) data to the Azure cloud. Unlike a neat and orderly Excel spreadsheet, BLOB data is always cumbersome (in the MediCharge context it’s mainly photos of pathology results) to manage and store. “We had a situation where half of our database was stuff that would only ever be looked at once in its lifetime,”
explains Bear. “We had to keep it. But we didn’t have to keep it on physical servers.”
When it came to moving their BLOB data to the cloud, BUI was the obvious choice. First, BUI set up an AZURE environment where this BLOB data could be hosted. They then established secure IPSec (Internet Protocol Security) tunnels between Azure and MediCharge’s hosting sites to ensure the safe and private exchange of data. By mid-2023, the majority of MediCharge’s crucial BLOB data, (i.e. that which was deemed feasible for migration and anticipated to be infrequently accessed) had been successfully transitioned to Azure.
“Before the move half of our time and effort was spent managing data we never used,”
enthuses Bear. “Now it’s on Microsoft, we don’t have to worry about it.”
Embracing the cloud has also made backups easier, he adds: “We back up our own systems every 15 minutes, but backing up BLOB data this often is a waste of time and effort.”
In addition to these overarching benefits, the move has also resulted in other wins, says Bear:
MediCharge’s physical database is no longer growing exponentially. Much of the growth is happening in the cloud and is far cheaper to manage.
Moving to Azure has improved MediCharge’s security. They already had very high levels of security, but Microsoft is a world leader.
Microsoft has helped MediCharge to make their system even more available.