How to keep Murphy away from your PACS

Murphy’s law is often stated as: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Even if your PACS is well-designed and implemented, you still have to consider such risks as human error, fire, flooding and sabotage. Magnus Wiktor, senior hardware architect at Sectra gives a first introduction to the world of business continuity; a glimpse into how to fight back against Murphy.

The radiology department is business critical at many hospitals. A highly available PACS is therefore imperative to keeping everything running smoothly. And if the system should go down, you need quick recovery of data and functionality.

Before looking into the hardware side of the equation you should try to evaluate the risks in your specific environment. What’s the track record in your area for earthquakes, flooding, fire and extreme weather? Is your clinic located close to water? Are you in a rural area with no proximity to fire departments? These might seem like silly questions, but the fact is that you need to estimate your specific risk factors in order to make a balanced investment decision. It’s definitely possible to build data centers for total redundancy, but it comes at a significantly higher cost.

“The scope of what Sectra delivers varies from a single server solution to very high availability solutions. One example of the latter is distribution over dual data centers several kilometers apart with full automatic failover if anything should happen to any single component or even to a whole data center,” says Magnus Wiktor.

It’s also vital to have a disaster recovery plan in place, so that you and your staff know what to do when the worst case is a fact. You must know when your PACS can be up and running again and also what to do in the meantime—for example, accessing a backup system or reviewing images directly on the modalities. A plan should include strategies for the kind of availability you need. For example, for one hospital it might be enough to handle emergency cases whereas another hospital needs full access to history as well.

Business continuity is not only about handling major disasters. It’s also about dealing with day-to-day interruptions, such as a full disk or necessary software upgrades. You need a robust PACS as well as good service from your vendor to support you.

“Sectra has the in-depth knowledge required to let you get the most out of your investment,” Magnus Wiktor explains. “Our customer-focused service and support engineers are highly skilled in all aspects of IT and are the ultimate specialists when it comes down to taking care of your Sectra system. We also offer remote services to prevent unnecessary interruptions. Let’s say that a disk is almost full. Then we can warn you about it and prevent any trouble. The easiest problems to solve are the ones that never occur.”

Real-life examples of risks

  • Disk is full—no more data is stored
  • No redundancy—all data stored in one place
  • Malicious act—someone gets unauthorized access and deletes information
  • Roof renovation job—water leaking into the server room
  • System upgrade goes wrong—information damaged or lost
  • Too hot server room—the servers close down automatically
  • Water-filled server room—information damaged or lost

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