How cloud-based systems can be great insurance against catastrophe

June 1, 2011
Catastrophe is defined as a widespread disaster, a mishap, misfortune, or failure, or an event with unfortunate results. When it comes to day-to-day operations in the dental practice, minimizing even small setbacks and misfortunes is not always possible.

Adrian Huang, DMD

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Catastrophe is defined as a widespread disaster, a mishap, misfortune, or failure, or an event with unfortunate results. When it comes to day-to-day operations in the dental practice, minimizing even small setbacks and misfortunes is not always possible. However, to make life better, we always try to improve our situation by looking for ways to avert disasters, even though they are inherently unavoidable.

What if you could change even one aspect of dental practice management that would eliminate a catastrophe and downgrade it to a minor annoyance? Would you be interested in having this kind of solution in your practice?

Business catastrophe solution

I’m not proposing an answer to all practice problems, just a possible answer to one of the most important ones — business and clinical data loss. If you walked in to your practice one morning and discovered your staff into a panic because your schedule was gone, patient files were missing, and billing and accounts receivable records had vanished, what would you do?

At first you might wonder how it happened. Was it theft? A crashed hard drive? A disgruntled employee sabotage? An earthquake, fire, flood? It could be any of these, and many of us have experienced this type of disruption. After the initial shock, one’s mind moves toward finding a solution, and then how it can be prevented in the future.

A sudden loss of computer files, or paper files for that matter, is not impossible to solve. If all this data was lost without notice, you may have a backup portable hard drive with the practice info saved, minus that day’s record. You may be able to piece together some of the lost files by searching your mind and employee memories, but this is sketchy at best.

Maybe you can take the broken hard drive to a computer specialist who can recover some of the data. In any case, you would have a disruption in your business. You could be down for a day or a week. You could lose thousands in repair fees and lost production. With accounts receivable missing, you may not be able to recover those funds completely. This would definitely qualify as a disaster, misfortune, or failure — a catastrophe.

One way to protect against this situation is cloud-based dental software. Cloud-based software means your data is stored on servers off-site and you can access your programs through a web browser on the Internet. All you need is a computer with an Internet connection and you can log into your practice management system from anywhere. Your information is constantly backed up to the minute. Hardware and memory requirements are less. Time consuming back-up procedures and external drives are less necessary.

So, in the event of a catastrophe, many disasters can be avoided. For example, if the computers were stolen, you could immediately bring up your practice management system with no information lost as soon as you logged onto any web-accessible computer.

The situation would be the same if there were a flood or fire. You would still have the catastrophe of office destruction, but at least your valuable information would be fully preserved. Even in the event of a power outage or surge frying your computer, you would have all your information waiting online

In my experience with computer hardware, it is not a question of IF it will break, but WHEN. Additionally, computers become out of date and need replacement. Upgrading is not a problem with web-based systems. There is no need to shut down for maintenance or upgrades, since those can be remotely completed and the server is never down.

With the recent events involving the Amazon cloud outage and Playstation Network hacks, it is understandable to be nervous about relying on an outside system that holds your data. While cloud outages are more publicized than everyday computer and hard drive failures, they are far less common.

Most technology experts agree that the cloud is a more reliable and safe bet than running traditional data centers, despite the potential for cloud outages to cause problems for companies that rely on them. After all, we rely on cloud information already with our bank accounts, credit card transactions, and supply orders.

The cloud is not just the future, it is happening right now, whether we like it or not. Whether or not you’re ready to implement it in your dental practice now or later is entirely up to you and your practice needs, but it does have the potential to be beneficial, especially in the area of business catastrophe planning.

Dr. Adrian Huang is a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry in Lexington. He operates a paperless private practice in Provo, Utah, that emphasizes restorative dentistry. Reach him by email at [email protected].

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