This content is part of the Essential Guide: Enterprise imaging systems are gaining popularity in healthcare

How can medical imaging archive systems get the most from storage tech?

In this Ask the Expert column, learn the most important storage technologies, including data deduplication and flash, to boost medical imaging archive systems.

What storage features should a healthcare organization look for when archiving medical images?

Storage is the key component behind medical imaging archive systems. Even so, not all storage is created equally.

Storage varies by category, architecture, features and vendor. Most modern imaging systems tend to be at least somewhat flexible when it comes to storage selection, although it was once common for such systems to require proprietary storage.

Assuming that medical imaging archive systems tie into a storage array (as opposed to a robotic tape library or a direct attached storage system), there are a few important storage features for which healthcare IT professionals should look.

First, make sure that the storage array supports native data deduplication. The deduplication process allows the storage array to store more data, thereby decreasing the cost per gigabyte.

It is common for hospital radiology departments to generate more than 10 terabytes of medical imaging data per year.

Storage used for medical imaging also needs to be expandable. It is common for hospital radiology departments to generate more than 10 TB of medical imaging data per year. Eventually, all of this newly generated data is going to deplete the existing storage capacity. Depending on the organization's operational requirements, it will be necessary to either add additional storage, such as arrays being added to a storage area network, or offload data to an offline or nearline storage system.

Another requirement for medical image archiving is storage redundancy. Typically, imaging storage systems are configured to use a redundant array of independent disks as an architecture that provides disk-level fault tolerance. Although disk-level redundancy is important, healthcare organizations should also look for array-level replication capabilities to protect against array failures.

One more feature to consider is a flash cache. Depending on the volume of use, medical imaging archive systems can produce a lot of storage-related input/output operations per second (IOPS). IOPS is a common performance measurement for storage devices. A flash-based cache can smooth out the storage I/O and improve the responsiveness of the system.

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