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Josh Ablett

How to Find the Best HIPAA Compliant Hosting

October 10, 2020,

Search Google for "HIPAA compliant hosting" and you'll see dozens of sites that say they have the best HIPAA compliance or the most advanced cyber security.

Putting your company's healthcare data "in the cloud" is a scary thought, and you're right to be nervous.  You're trusting someone else to keep you safe from hackers, disasters, and even their own employees.

If you're careful in your selection process, though, the benefits far outweigh the risks.  HIPAA compliant hosting companies can actually improve your security in ways you'd never be able to afford on your own:

  • Close to 100% uptime during a natural disaster
  • Fantastic physical security, much better than you can build locally
  • High-quality audit results that you can use to save money on your own security audits

Here are 5 steps to follow to pick the best HIPAA compliant hosting provider for your company.

Step 1: HIPAA Business Associate Agreement

The hosting provider must be willing to sign a HIPAA business associate agreement.  Full stop.  If they don't, move on to another company.

When we're building a list of companies, we use the power of Google to speed our research along.  For example, searching for:

hipaa business associate agreement aws

Gets a pretty clear answer:

hipaa business associate agreement aws yes

Step 2: ISO 27001 Certification

This is one that really separates the wheat from the chaff.  It sounds overly technical, but ISO 27001 is the closest thing that we have to a global cyber security standard.  You can dive into the details if you'd like.  You can be confident that a company with ISO 27001 certification has a strong cyber security program and they've paid an independent auditor for a thorough review.

Again, we can use some Google-fu to cut some companies from our list.  If you just search for "hipaa compliant hosting" on Google:

hipaa compliant hosting search

You get tons of results:

hipaa compliant hosting search results

But these aren't the most secure companies.  These are just the companies who are best at Search Engine Optimization!

But we can use Google against them.  If I take one of these companies and search for any reference to ISO 27001 on their website:

hipaa compliant hosting no iso 27001 Name blurred so we don't get hate mail. Try it yourself, though.[/caption]

We get a pretty clear answer on just how seriously they take their cyber security:

hipaa compliant hosting no iso 27001 results

Step 3: SSAE-16 SOC 2 Audit

OK, here's another one that's going to really narrow down your list.

Only work with companies who can give you a recent SSAE-18 SOC 2 report.  SOC 2 reports (unlike SOC 1 or SOC 3), are specifically geared towards "... today's cloud computing, Software as a Service (SaaS),and technology related service organizations" (according to

Contact each company and request an actual copy of the SSAE-18 SOC 2 report.  This is where vendors may try to confuse you with terminology.  They may offer to give you a copy of their SOC 1 or SOC 3 report, and tell you they're just as good, but they're not.

You don't need to necessarily read the SOC 2 report (it will be dozens of pages of cyber security content).  If they send it to you, you know that they're serious about security (and not just good at marketing).

The big boys make it super easy to get this report, giving you a link right on their website.  You'll probably have to sign a non-disclosure agreement to get it.

hipaa compliant hosting aws soc 2 report

Wait, can't I just look for "HIPAA certified" on their website?


Here's the thing: there is no such thing as "HIPAA certified."  HIPAA is a loose set of guidelines subject to interpretation.  Also, there is no governing body that goes around granting people "HIPAA certified" status.  If anyone claims that they're HIPAA certified, run away.  Fast.

Me, I'll take ISO-27001 compliance and a SSAE-16 SOC 2 report any day over any claims of "HIPAA compliance" or "HIPAA certification."

Step 4: Disaster Neutral Locations

Next, let's look at your business, and make sure you'll never get hit with a double whammy.

Take a look at the maps on this page, and consider how they relate to your company.  There are two ways to approach this:

a) Try to pick a location with no major natural disasters.

The first map gives us a few locations to try.

hipaa compliant hosting natural disasters

Consider Michigan, northern Ohio, northern Indiana, northeastern Montana, and southwestern Texas.  It's ideal if your list of HIPAA compliant hosting providers has a data center in one of those locations.

b) Pick a location with disaster diversity.

If you can't find a location with low risk, find a location with different risks from those that you face in your primary location.  For example, we're based in New England, where there is risk of hurricane and blizzard.  We'd opt for locations in the midwest or west coast that won't be down at the same time we have severe weather.

People in LA have a high risk of earthquakes.  Consider locations in the midwest or east coast that would still be live in the case of "the big one."

the rock san andreas hipaa compliant hosting

Even the Rock worries about his hosting provider when the San Andreas fault acts up.

Step 5: Pick from your shortlist

By now, you should have a nice, short list of possible providers to contact. Now is the time to swing into traditional vendor selection mode, and consider:

  • Monthly Price
  • Startup Price (if any)
  • Encryption of your data at rest (disk encryption)
  • Encryption of your data in motion (secure VPN connections, IP address whitelisting)
  • Data backups, ideally to remote data centers
  • Dedicated Servers if possible, to prevent lateral attacks from tenants on the same machine

There are lots of other factors that you can consider, if you want. Lots of companies make a big deal about their physical security (Keycard access! 24x7 cameras!). These are all important, but we don't see it as clear differentiators. Pretty much every company that advertises HIPAA compliant hosting has strong physical security.

Also, definitely talk to customer references. Be skeptical, though. It's rare for a company to give you customer references who will say negative things.

Conclusion: Picking the Right HIPAA Compliant Hosting

At the time we wrote this article, more than 50 vendors were advertising on Google for "hipaa compliant hosting."

By following the steps in this article, you can make short work of finding hosting providers that are truly secure.

Still feeling a bit overwhelmed?

Get some free help!  Check out our free 42-Point Checklist for ways to make your practice HIPAA compliant.

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