Software Maintenance Fee: A Contradiction in Terms

Nov. 20, 2014
In the English language you will find many examples of a contradiction in terms, or oxymoron: jumbo shrimp, Great Depression, pretty ugly, walking dead, and my favorite, software maintenance fee.

by Andy Jensen

In the English language you will find many examples of a contradiction in terms, or oxymoron: jumbo shrimp, Great Depression, pretty ugly, walking dead, and my favorite, software maintenance fee.

Software maintenance fees are a throwback to the old software business model of charging first for an upfront licensing fee and then another, ongoing fee for technical support and upgrades. So why is software maintenance fee an oxymoron?

The premise of having someone maintain your practice management software is that they would do all the work necessary to keep your software up-to-date and worry free. But that’s not what’s happening with most practices today. Instead, saddled with outdated software and chained to a server, most practices are doing most of the maintenance themselves. Here’s how.

Installing Updates Is Hard Work

The proverbial 800-pound gorillas of the dental software market are “old school,” meaning their software must be updated the old-fashioned way with your blood, sweat, and tears. Once or twice a year you’ll receive a “major” upgrade that requires work on your part to install the software and work out the kinks. Is this the kind of maintenance you would want to pay for?

The current technology standard, which is the cloud, provides a higher level of customer service. Dental software on the cloud does not require the end user to maintain the software. Rather, the software company takes complete responsibility for keeping the code up-to-date. New features, enhancements, bug fixes, and modifications are made as soon as they become available. Every time the doctor or his/her team uses the software, they are using the latest available code set without having to lift a finger.

Why Is Data Corruption Your Problem?

For reasons unclear to most of us — and most of us really don’t care — occasionally the database becomes corrupted. A corrupted database should be cause for alarm, but it seems to happen so often with older software that the software vendors have built a utility that will fix the problem. How nice of them to write the software, but you’re the one who has to run the utility to fix the problem. Again, if you are paying for maintenance, why are you the one who’s doing the work?

In the cloud world, database maintenance is assigned to people who actually know how databases can become corrupted and actively work to avoid corruption in the first place. Therefore, your practice of dentistry is not interrupted by a software maintenance agreement that doesn’t do any maintenance.

Data Backup Is Like an Onion

Should you hear that data backup is part of your maintenance plan, be mindful that there are many layers to what kind of service may be offered. By modern standards, the scope of data backup maintenance provided by your dental software vendor is significantly limited. Most outmoded systems do not provide data backup as part of their maintenance plan, or, if they do, the frequency is less than stellar. Typically, backup services through more mature dental software vendors are limited to daily backups – meaning, should there be a need to restore your data, it will be restored to the previous day. Any data entered after the last backup is gone forever.

With today’s technology, the cloud provides a keystroke-by-keystroke backup of your database, which means that when you make a change to a patient’s record, the change is immediately backed up. Should there be a need to restore your data, it will be restored to the last data change. Moreover, the backup of your data is duplicated across multiple servers in multiple geographic areas, which is more than a layer or two of better service.

The End of the Software Maintenance Fee

With cloud-based dental software, you pay a monthly, all-inclusive subscription that provides all the services your practice may need. Specific to Curve Dental, your subscription includes anywhere, anytime access to your patient data, basic training, technical support, knowledgebase access, data backup, continuous software improvements, and more. In short, your subscription provides a comprehensive, smorgasbord-like approach to supporting your practice.

Software maintenance fees, which are supposed to provide maintenance for a fee (but don’t), will soon be the focus of a new exhibition at the Smithsonian.

To learn more about cloud-based dental software fees, visit

Andy Jensen is the chief marketing officer for Curve Dental, Inc., a developer of cloud-based dental software based in Orem, Utah. He has 20 years of experience in the dental software market. You can reach Mr. Jensen at [email protected].

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