So, you’re building a new practice? It’s an exciting time and to be honest, it’s a daunting time too. You need to make a lot of tough decisions that impact the running of your practice for the next 5 years.
In 2021 and beyond, however, technology must form a key part of your deliberations.
Everyone is raging on about cyber security at the moment, so we’re not going to cover how to secure your practice in any detail. In short, you need a firewall, Anti-Virus, and a good well rounded protection strategy.
Getting the fundamentals right
So, let’s talk about the journey that you are undertaking and why it’s important to look at your technology from a holistic point of view.
Early in the piece you should already know which Practice Management System (PMS) you want to proceed with.
If it’s a cloud based one, then this may remove your requirements for a server if you decide to go full cloud. However, this is not always the case, depending what you intend on doing for your imaging.
Speaking of imaging, this is the next largest piece of the puzzle. If you are going plain 2D with intraoral then yes, you really don’t need a server if your PMS is in the cloud, but you really should if you are using an on-premise PMS.
Additionally, if you are going full 3D CBCT then this is where the server becomes a much more compelling option. Why? It comes down to the sheer amount of data that you not only need to store but protect at the same time.
With each CBCT image potentially using 1GB of space, we often find our practices using terabytes upon terabytes of storage (this is a lot). Ultimately, should something go wrong then it can take quite some time to recover this data either from the cloud or locally.
While a server is the brain of the practice’s IT infrastructure, the computers are the muscles and as such you need to make sure that they are ready for the heavy lifting. This is where things can get complicated.
Firstly, you need to make sure they meet the specifications of not just the equipment you are buying but also the equipment you may buy in the next four years.
For example, not every practice starts off with an intraoral scanner but most end up with one (like a puppy that followed you home from a trade show one day).
Once you know these requirements, it’s time to go to Harvey Norman or JB right? Maybe not.
- A JB HIFI or Harvey Norman Deal most likely will not cut it!
- These machines come with the home editions of the operating systems most of the time and as such, should something go wrong, your imaging and PMS vendors can make you upgrade them before they will support them.
- The shorter one-year warranties often require you to take the computer back to the store if there’s a problem. This can take weeks to get fixed should you have a hardware issue
- Unfortunately, due to lower quality parts and build, we see a lot of these cheaper machines need replacing sooner than their business-grade cousins
- Business grade HP machines, on the other hand, are the gold standard.
- They only come with the professional versions of Windows and come with less unrequired software that would otherwise slow them down
- They come with three-year next business day onsite warranties (HP literally comes to you if there’s a problem, to save you from downtime)
- Whilst we can’t recommend using the computers longer than the warranty period, as this can affect your uptime, we generally see them lasting a practice for 3-5 years.
Your network is your practice’s Central Nervous System and as such, we need to look at the equipment that you put in place to get these signals from the brain to the muscles.
This is where you need to look at your firewall, network switching, and wireless.
A well-structured network will give your practice MANY years of trouble-free computing and we generally like to use vendors that have proven track records. The alternative is equipment that your internet provider will give you which, a lot of the time, is provided at the lower end of the scale for quality, performance, security, and cost.
We really like HP equipment for ‘switching’ which is what connects all your computers together and Unifi for Wireless as the HP comes with a lifetime warranty and the Unifi Wireless is quite robust and at an extremely reasonable price point.
For your firewall, make sure it is hardware based and ask plenty of questions around what it does and doesn’t do like gateway anti virus, cloud updates for example.
If you’re not reliably backing up your data, then before too long you’re going to be in a world of pain … it’s not a matter of if but when.
There’s quite a spectrum of backup protocols among different IT companies; some good, some not.
The ‘3-2-1’ rule is a good place to start:
- 3 copies of your data
- 2 copies onsite (the data that is in operation and a local backup)
- 1 copy offsite (cloud is the gold standard here)
You need to make sure that the software being used for backups is in a supported configuration by the software vendor and that the data is not just being copied to your IT provider’s office / home / shed which provides additional risk.
These backups need to be protected from getting hacked such as where your offsite data is protected in the cloud.
While there are lots of things to consider in building a new practice, make sure that technology forms a key part of your planning.
Plan it well, and you’ll enjoy the benefits that technology can brings for years to come. Omit it from your planning, and the alternative can be expensive and time consuming … and who wants that?