IT Standards

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Data Structures and File Systems – Two Important IT Standards for Healthcare Sector

A standard is an agreed or harmonized way of doing something. There are many standards set up by the International Organization for Standardization to facilitate trade and make products usable globally. One such example is the standard sizes of shipping containers that are followed across countries so that containers can be stacked on top of each other and can be transported easily. 

The purpose behind IT standards is also the same, i.e., to bring harmony to the IT industry and develop applications/services that can be compatible with one another. So, we can define IT standards as the process, principal, rule, or technique that is meant to provide consistency and harmony in the development, deployment, and governance of IT services. There are plenty of IT standards out there, but this module will focus on two IT standards related to handling data in the healthcare sector.

IT Standards for Data Handling in the Healthcare Sector

Out of many IT standards, organizations can look for specific IT standards that are related to their IT infrastructure/services and maintain compliance. For the healthcare sector the emphasis is on setting up IT infrastructure for effective data handling.  Two standards are deemed important.  Data structures and file systems.  Let’s explore both these IT standards in detail.

Data Structures

A data structure is a specific format for storing, handling, processing, and retrieving data. Data structures are a core part of software design. They are developed by constituting data elements into a logical unit, which presents an abstract data type. In simple words, take “patient name” as an example of an abstract data type that is developed by combining character strings for “First Name” and “Last Name”.

In the IT sector, almost all the applications we use today rely on two data structure standards, i.e., JSON and XML formats. The data organized using both these formats are readable by many languages, such as JavaScript, Ruby, Python, APIs, etc. Let’s explore both of them one by one.


JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation. It is a lightweight text-based format that follows the JavaScript object syntax, which is a human-readable text to store & transmit data objects involving arrays and attribute-value pairs. Although it is derived from JavaScript, it is a language-independent data format that is supported by most modern programming languages. It is easy to write/read and requires less coding. Below is an example of JSON format:


“classrecords” : [













As self-evident from the above example, JSON requires less time to master its syntax. That’s also one of the reasons it is becoming a more popular standard today, even overtaking the decades-old powerful XML standard. 


XML stands for extensible markup language. It is meant to carry data, not to display it. XML tags find the data and help in storing and managing data, instead of focusing on how to display the data. Being a markup language, it narrates rules to encode documents in a machine-readable and human-readable format. Since the fundamental XML format is standardized, organizations can create a single set of XML tags for all the organization data and share it easily to databases, websites, or other systems.

Below is an example of XML format:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>













Although XML is self-describing, it is not a reader-friendly format and takes time to read and write.

If we compare JSON with XML, it is anticipated that JSON is slowly replacing XML because of easy data modeling, the growing popularity of JavaScript, easily understandable structure, light-weight, and similar other attributes.

File Systems

File system is a method of managing data in physical storage mediums, such as hard drives, CDs, etc. It defines how files are stored, managed, and accessed from a storage medium. For example, when you open a file on your smartphone, your phone’s operating system uses its file system to load that file from the storage. 

To better understand the file system, consider a room full of books without any arrangement. So, if you want to take one specific book from there, it will take significant time to find that book. The same will happen in a storage device without a file system. In short, the file system is like a librarian that ensures data management in storage devices and also offers other additional capabilities, such as file access control, data encryption, data integrity, etc. The two standard file systems are CIFS and NFS. Let’s explore them one by one for better understanding.


CIFS stands for Common Internet File System. It is used by Windows operating systems. It assists in communicating with servers and providing shared access to files and printers between computers on the same network. A CIFS client application can write, edit, read, or remove remote server files. 

The working principle of CIFS is based on the client-server model, i.e., the client sends a request to the server, which the server fulfills and then responds back to the client. CIFS can also interact with other protocols, such as HTTP and FTP. Moreover, CIFS showcases flexible connectivity, security, transport independence, file and record locking, and similar other attributes. 


NFS stands for Network File System. It is used by Linux or Unix operating systems. It allows users to access files from remote computers that are linked to the network. It helps organizations easily share files over a network, as all users within the network will have access to those files. 

The working principle of NFS is also based on the client-server protocol, which starts from a “mount” command. The client’s computer requests access to exported data by issuing a mount command. The security protocols verify the client’s request thus the client can view the requested data within the set parameters. Today NFS supports many other interesting options, such as file locking, caching options, better security, etc.

Wrapping Up

IT standards help the IT industry to ensure uniformity in application development, deployment, and management. Adhering to such standards is a must for organizations to ensure smooth IT operations, avoid security loopholes, and remain compliant. The above data structures and file systems standards are crucial for healthcare IT infrastructures to ensure effective and efficient data handling. So, adhere to those two standards as per your system needs and keep your IT infrastructure top-notch.

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