Q&A: How Infrastructure Upgrades Helped Sky Lakes Medical Center Survive a Ransomware Attack | #malware | #ransomware

We started doing our due diligence on the technology. Again, one of the targets was, we needed to simplify, and we needed to find a way that our engineers could work more efficiently and effectively with the technologies to stay on top of all the good work that we’re doing for our community and for the health system. When we got those quotes back, we found that HCI made sense from a financial perspective. But then we had the challenge, internally, with our engineers saying, “You know what, John? I know storage, I know compute, I know networking, I know how they work, I know how they communicate, and collapsing that in this new platform …”

So that was a period of months of due diligence. CDW had a meeting in Chicago that we attended. They had some speakers who talked about hyperconverged infrastructure and the value that you gain with these kinds of technologies in terms of management and the ability to scale very, very rapidly and effectively.

After that meeting, Nick came alongside and said, “I think we need to investigate this.” So, we ended up implementing a full platform of hyperconverged infrastructure, along with storage shortly after that. We took the hyperconverged infrastructure for compute, storage and networking, and then all of our backup. CDW worked alongside us to pull that together, hand in glove, and give us a unified platform.

EXPLORE: Find out the benefits of hyperconvergence in healthcare.

BIZTECH: Nick, we’d love to hear from your team’s perspective. What were those results like, and how did it affect operations for you?

FOSSEN: Before we went to hyperconverged, we had all those things separate. So, when you had issues, you’re dealing with what vendor and where’s the issue. We struggled with those. We had issues, years ago, with the three-tiered architecture, where we spent months trying to solve a performance issue, just managing all that from a team perspective, and upgrades were extremely painful. When we moved to hyperconverged, now you have one vendor. It’s all tied together, and the management of it is extremely easy compared with a three-tiered system.

When the pandemic hit, we were saved from having to spend all this time managing the system. And then, of course, with ransomware, the backups were a huge component, as John mentioned. If we didn’t have the backup solution we had, we wouldn’t have recovered from ransomware. It would have been painful.

BIZTECH: What did your team learn throughout this entire process?

GAEDE: I’ll answer that from a strategic perspective. What we learned was that we made some really good decisions that prepared us for the future. We had no idea COVID-19 was coming, and we had no idea that ransomware was coming. But that investment in hyperconverged infrastructure, partnering with CDW in that process and that journey, and then deploying it allowed us to get the call on Friday afternoon saying, “We need a call center that can manage 1,000 calls coming in on Monday by 2 o’clock.” Then going to Nick and saying, “Hey, Nick, we need your team to set up at the fairgrounds for a drive-thru vaccination station.” So having that infrastructure in place allowed us to develop and get those technologies going very, very rapidly.

The second thing was, we survived a ransomware attack, and we didn’t have to pay a ransom. That was the investment. Again, the fact that we partnered with CDW to look at security backup solutions that fit right into our environment, and that we could manage in a very efficient manner, allowed us to do that. I look at it and say that our core infrastructure, that change and our storage investment have allowed us to manage the times and the craziness that we’re living in.

LEARN MORE: How can security training combat the threat of ransomware?

BIZTECH: What would your advice be for organizations that are facing similar challenges and trying to find their own way through a modernization process that includes security?

GAEDE: You need people, process and technology — all three of those things, and having the right partners. We don’t need vendor relationships in healthcare. It’s way too hard. We need partnerships. So having that with CDW allowed us to come together and pick state-of-the-art technologies that transformed our organization.

FOSSEN: I’m going to steal John’s advice. I think that’s really the key. Whether it was COVID or ransomware, my first call was to our account manager from CDW, saying, “Man, you’ve got to help us. We need help.” I think that’s really key. And then having that technology in place when those things happen, again, is another big part.

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