Out of Control

March 1, 2006
There are often times that it would be nice to access your office information from home.

There are often times that it would be nice to access your office information from home. Many practitioners get “emergency” calls on weekends, or when they are away from the office. As a result, they have to make decisions based on memory. In New England, we often are hit with surprise snowstorms that require canceling appointments if key staff members cannot get to the office. At the end of the year or other key times, reports must be run that require someone to stay after everyone else has left. Many of the practice-management software systems allow a limited database to be downloaded to Palm-type devices which is somewhat helpful but does not provide complete access.

In an office that is networked and connected to the Internet, there is a way to create a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This can put your home computer in the loop with the office. Windows XP Pro has a built-in “remote desktop” that allows access to any other computers running XP. Of course, this requires some knowledge of such things as IP addresses, ports, and other computer jargon and setup. A good computer consultant can help set it up for you. Now that at least 30 percent of homes have broadband Internet connections (I suspect that the number is higher in the dental profession), there are some simple new methods that provide this remote access. Past standards have been PC Anywhere and Laplink, but these require tweaking and a knowledge of computers.

A new realm makes this all happen with the push of a button and, in most cases, a small monthly fee. The most aggressive marketing has been done by Citrix Online with its program at GoToMyPC.com. Its chief competition seems to be the similar LogMeIn.com. During an impending snowstorm, I decided to try the former before I left the office since I had just heard the company’s ad on the radio that mentioned a 30-day free trial. Installation was flawless and required just a few simple mouse clicks. Once installed, I left my office computer on and traveled home, then turned on my home computer and went to the Web site GoToMyPC.com. Seconds after entering my user name and password, the screen of my office computer appeared on my home monitor. I was able to access everything, including the network, right on my home computer monitor as if I were at my office desk. This program also allows me to print on the office printers, or on my printer at home (this required a short installation process). So, as I travel, all I need is Internet access and a Web browser to access my office computer system. I have been using my Treo PDA/phone for e-mail while I travel, but this has limitations. Now I can use any public computer (or mooch a friend’s laptop) and have complete access. After the 30-day free trial, the program costs $20 per month for one computer (there is an additional cost for multiple computers). GoToMyPC.com also allows files to be transferred at reasonable speeds. Although there are several other programs on the market, this one gets consistently high marks from computer magazines as well as The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and others. There are many helpful articles on the company’s Web site under the link “Pressroom.” I recently received a mailing from Verizon, offering a discount for this service.

Later, I tried LogMeIn.com. This program installs in the same manner as GoToMyPC.com. It remains free if all you need is remote access. For full functionality, monthly fees apply. Currently, these fees are less than those of GoToMyPC.com. A few new programs have appeared that allow file sharing on the Internet. Since they require the programs to be installed on the remote computer in order to run the files, they are not full remote access. Nevertheless, they warrant a look. These programs are avvenu.com, easyreach.com, and beinsync.com.

Dental CD review

While I have your attention, I must digress. What do you get when you cross Weird Al Yankovic, Mel Torme, Bill Murray’s cabaret singer character, and a zany pediatric dentist from Pittsburgh? You get Howard Elson, DMD, who recently released a CD entitled “A Dentist’s Life.” Many of you have seen Elson perform his dental comedy cabaret at regional meetings (if you haven’t, give him a call). He has included some of his best songs and comedy “bits” on this CD. Elson is a polished singer/actor/radio personality who also maintains a pedo practice. On the CD, he takes a poke at insurance companies, staff, patients, management gurus, and more. All of the information is on thedentalshow.com. If you mention this column, I’m sure he will autograph a copy for you.

Dr. Paul Feuerstein installed one of dentistry’s first computers in 1978. For more than 20 years, he has taught technology courses. He is a mainstay at technology sessions, including annual appearances at the Yankee Dental Congress, and he is an ADA seminar series speaker. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a Web site (www.computersindentistry.com) and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].

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