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AWS Snowball Now HIPAA-Compliant

Businesses that need to transfer individuals' health care data to the cloud under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) can now do so using Amazon Web Services (AWS)' Snowball product.

Snowball, an appliance-based service that AWS introduced last year for organizations that need to move large volumes of data to and from the cloud, now meets the security and privacy requirements mandated by HIPAA, the company announced last week.

That means that businesses subject to HIPAA regulations -- such as hospitals, insurance companies or others that process private health care information -- can use Snowball to import or export that information to the AWS cloud without falling out of compliance.

"If you already have a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with AWS, you can begin using Snowball to transfer data into your HIPAA accounts immediately," said AWS evangelist Jeff Barr in a blog post.

Snowball is essentially a ruggedized physical container that AWS sends to users who have many terabytes' worth of data to move to the cloud, and don't want to perform migrations over their Internet connection. Users connect the Snowball appliance to their network using the pre-included cables, transfer the data they want to migrate from their network to the appliance, then send the appliance back to AWS. AWS then transfers the user's data from the appliance to the AWS cloud service of their choosing.

The AWS Snowball appliance.

As of March this year, Snowball also performs data exports from the AWS cloud to customers' on-premises environments.

Snowball is one of 10 HIPAA-eligible services that AWS offers, according to Barr. The others are Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), Amazon Redshift, Amazon Glacier, Amazon DynamoDB, Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon EMR and Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS).

"With Snowball now on the list of HIPAA-eligible services, AWS customers in the Healthcare and Life Sciences space can quickly move on-premises data to Snowball and then process it using any of the [above] services," Barr said. "For example, they can use the new HDFS Import feature to migrate an existing on-premises Hadoop cluster to the cloud and analyze it using a scalable EMR cluster. They can also move existing petabyte-scale data (medical images, patient records, and the like) to AWS and store it in S3 or Glacier, both already HIPAA-eligible."

In other health care-related news, AWS participated in this week's launch of a cloud-based medical database that gathers information related to cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association's Precision Medicine Platform, now in private preview, "will enable researchers and clinicians to aggregate and analyze a breadth and depth of data including longitudinal cohorts, proteomic, genomic, and gene expression data using a precision medicine approach to uncover critical cardiovascular disease insights that translate into medical innovations," according to the announcement Monday.

The registry collects data from studies and clinical trials, as well as real-time data from patients using or wearing Internet-connected devices, the announcement said.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for RCPmag.com and senior editor of AWSInsider.net.

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