Chapter 4. Deployment Strategies

Table of Contents

4.1. Offline Deployment
4.2. Online deployment
4.3. Hybrid deployment
4.4. Server hosting

DHIS2 is a network enabled application and can be accessed over the Internet, a local intranet and as a locally installed system. The deployment alternatives for DHIS2 are in this chapter defined as i) offline deployment ii) online deployment and iii) hybrid deployment. The meaning and differences will be discussed in the following sections.

4.1. Offline Deployment

An offline deployment implies that multiple standalone offline instances are installed for end users, typically at the district level. The system is maintained primarily by the end users/district health officers who enters data and generate reports from the system running on their local server. The system will also typically be maintained by a national super-user team who pay regular visits to the district deployments. Data is moved upwards in the hierarchy by the end users producing data exchange files which are sent electronically by email or physically by mail or personal travel. (Note that the brief Internet connectivity required for sending emails does not qualify for being defined as online). This style of deployment has the obvious benefit that it works when appropriate Internet connectivity is not available. On the other side there are significant challenges with this style which are described in the following section.

  • Hardware: Running stand-alone systems requires advanced hardware in terms of servers and reliable power supply to be installed, usually at district level, all over the country. This requires appropriate funding for procurement and plan for long-term maintenance.

  • Software platform: Local installs implies a significant need for maintenance. From experience, the biggest challenge is viruses and other malware which tend to infect local installations in the long-run. The main reason is that end users utilize memory sticks for transporting data exchange files and documents between private computers, other workstations and the system running the application. Keeping anti-virus software and operating system patches up to date in an offline environment are challenging and bad practises in terms of security are often adopted by end users. The preferred way to overcome this issue is to run a dedicated server for the application where no memory sticks are allowed and use an Linux based operating system which is not as prone to virus infections as MS Windows.

  • Software application: Being able to distribute new functionality and bug-fixes to the health information software to users are essential for maintenance and improvement of the system. Relying on the end users to perform software upgrades requires extensive training and a high level of competence on their side as upgrading software applications might be a technically challenging task. Relying on a national super-user team to maintain the software implies a lot of travelling.

  • Database maintenance: A prerequisite for an efficient system is that all users enter data with a standardized meta-data set (data elements, forms etc). As with the previous point about software upgrades, distribution of changes to the meta-data set to numerous offline installations requires end user competence if the updates are sent electronically or a well-organized super-user team. Failure to keep the meta-data set synchronized will lead to loss of ability to move data from the districts and/or an inconsistent national database since the data entered for instance at the district level will not be compatible with the data at the national level.