Can your practice data survive a disaster? Are you sure?

On the night of September 5, 2011, I watched my historic Vermont dental office building burn to the ground.

Shuman Dr Brian De April 2014 Firephoto

By Brian Shuman, DMDShuman Dr Brian De April 2014 Firephoto

On the night of September 5, 2011, I watched my historic Vermont dental office building burn to the ground. A fire that started in the ceiling fan of the basement bathroom spread throughout the building, and seven hours later my office was gone. Although this loss was devastating, I comforted myself with the knowledge that my backup system would ensure I did not lose my practice data. But by the time I was able to reopen a new office four and a half months later, this assumption had been severely tested.

Plan A: The Tape

My backup system had consisted of a tape backup and a redundant daily backup on the cloud; however, the tape drive that could have read the data was destroyed in the fire. We soon found the drive was no longer in production.

Plan B: The Cloud

Once I realized this, I shifted to my plan B and attempted to recover my data from the cloud backup. Because of the quantity of the data, it could not be downloaded. We were informed that we would have to wait for CDs to be burned and shipped. When they finally arrived, we discovered our cloud program only backed up the data itself -- not the dental software or the imaging and accounting programs that could actually process the data. Of course, the original software discs had been lost in the fire. In the end, this fact was moot anyway because, after more delays and expense, we discovered that the cloud data was corrupt.

Our eventual salvation came via eBay, where I located a used tape drive that could restore all of our backed up data, as well as the programs to run it. Getting to this point had taken almost two weeks after the fire.

Discovering a Better Solution

This painful experience forced me to take a much more careful look at my backup system -- something I thought I had well covered before the fire. I eventually discovered a backup system specifically designed for dental practices that included an onsite failover server, cloud backup, and 24-hour system monitoring. This system, DDS Rescue (now available from Patterson Dental), duplicates programs and data and stores them in multiple encrypted facilities. This allows users to gain access via the web in minutes. With this system, every backup is verified so there are no worries about the kind of data corruption I experienced with my previous cloud backup.

After this experience, I am now certain that there are many other dentists who are in the same position I was in -- believing their data is backed up, while in reality they are only one disaster away from finding out their system has holes in it. I urge dentists to ensure their data is truly protected with an offsite backup that includes the practice's software programs, along with the monitoring and support so that all goes according to plan. I also strongly recommend a backup system that is specifically designed for dental practices.

Most dentists are simply not IT experts. I am comfortable admitting that I was certain we were backed up correctly. When the first backup system failed, I was shocked. But the feeling of security I have now with DDS Rescue is something that I wish all other dentists could have. And, they can, because data security is available that is affordable, airtight, and custom-built for dentists. We just have to take advantage of it.

Brian Shuman, DMD, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in 1982 and from the University of Pennsylvania School of Periodontology in 1985. After graduation, Dr. Shuman went into private practice in Vermont. Dr. Shuman can be reached at BShuman13@aol.com.

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