Tech Savvy

The Cloud: Facts and FAQ’s

cloud hostingWe’re reading everywhere that the cloud and cloud hosting are the “wave of the future.” We are huge fans of technology, and we already do a lot of things in the cloud, like accessing our email, paying bills, or working on a shared online document.


Here’s what you need to know. You can host Open Dental any way you’d like (just be sure it’s HIPAA compliant).

It all boils down to WHERE your server is located – with you, in your practice on a local server, or with someone else, on their server “in the cloud.” You decide what works best for you!

With Open Dental, ALL of your data is ALWAYS yours, free and clear.


The Basics

What is Cloud Hosting?
  • Simply put, cloud hosting means you’re storing your data on someone else’s server, “in the cloud.”
  • If hosting Open Dental in the cloud, be sure your hosting provider is HIPAA compliant and has adequate security measures in place to protect access to your patient’s Protected Health Information (PHI). Each workstation in the practice will have Open Dental installed on it, but instead of accessing a local server, it accesses the MySQL database and image folders (A to Z folders) on a server in the cloud.
  • Cloud hosting is often confused with being cloud-based or web-based, but they are not the same. Cloud hosting means your data is on someone else’s server. Being cloud-based or web-based means the software itself is in the cloud and you access it with a browser.
What does it mean that a software is cloud-based or web-based?
  • The terms “cloud-based” or “web-based” mean the software and it’s related data are in the cloud. When a software is web-based, you access it with a browser, and log in to use the software/tool.
  • Open Dental is not web-based, but using Mobile Web, you can manage your appointment schedule, view patient information and more from a browser or mobile device – anytime, anywhere!

Cloud hosting Open Dental, and some considerations & FAQ’s on web-based Dental Practice Management Systems (DPMS):

  • Who owns your data in the cloud?
    If you cloud-host Open Dental, your data is now located on someone else’s server. Make sure your agreement with the hosting provider gives you access to your data, and allows you to copy or collect that data whenever you need it.
    ALERT: If you are using or considering a web-based DPMS, be aware that you may not have access to your data. If your DPMS goes out of business, or you decide to move to a different DPMS, they may not give you any or all of your data, and you may be charged a hefty fee for the data they do provide.
  • When do software updates happen?
    With Open Dental, you always choose when and if you update your software (updates are included in the cost of support so update anytime it’s convenient for you!).
    With web-based programs, updates are often out of your control.
  • Are backups automatic?
    With Open Dental, you’re in control of your backups. We recommend frequent, automated backups. Read more in our post, Does your backup strategy have the X-factor? Web-based programs typically have automated backups.
    ALERT: If you’re using a web-based software, get educated about their backup plan and  how you would access your data in the event of a service interruption.
  • Our internet connection is slow, and/or our internet sometimes goes down – what then?
    If you host Open Dental on your local server (in your practice), internet speeds won’t affect your performance. If hosting Open Dental in the cloud, we recommend a high-speed, reliable internet connection, as service speeds will affect performance. If your internet goes down, we could restore you from a recent backup, to get you up & running quickly on a local server.
    If you are using a web-based program, internet speeds will have a direct effect on program performance, and you won’t have access at all if your internet service is interrupted.
  • An executive from a web-based DPMS provider recently wrote: “When you remove a server from your practice, you also remove the responsibility for complying with the HIPAA Security Rule”*  Is this true?
    This is not true. The responsibility for HIPAA security rests with the business associate (who hosts your server) AND with the provider (the doctor). If you host Open Dental in the Cloud, or use a web-based DPMS and the host site is compromised, you should be notified, and it is the responsibility of your practice to notify the affected patients. You are always responsible for the security of your patients’ Protected Health Information (PHI). ALERT: If you are using a web-based DPMS, your HIPAA security responsibility may be compounded, because you are reliant on the provider to be HIPAA compliant and have all the security measures in place to comply with the rule. Also, the data may be vulnerable if weak usernames and passwords are used to connect to the data. 
    HIPAA NOTE: PHI security isn’t limited to just what’s on your server, it’s also how your practice operates, and how data is transmitted.
    See the official government info: subsection 164.308 (pdf page 747) provides very specific information about security of PHI.
  • I want to access my data from home or another location. How does that work?
    There are a few options with Open Dental.

    • Use MobileWeb to access patient data including pharmacy info, and manage appointments right from your mobile device, anytime, anywhere.
    • Need access to all modules in Open Dental? Access your work computer remotely using software like LogMeIn or GoToMyPC.
    • Does your practice have multiple locations? There are several ways to set this up – see all the options here.

    If you’re using a web-based DPMS, you can access it using a browser from any location with a sufficient internet connection. Access speeds and performance will be dependent on the quality of your connection.


Questions about cloud hosting Open Dental? Read on!

Question: How can I host Open Dental in the cloud?

Answer: Please see our manual page on Cloud Hosting Server Setup for more information. Your IT organization should be able to help you set it up.


Question:
Will Open Dental look or act differently if I am cloud-hosting it?

Answer: The look and feel of the software will not change at all, because basically, you’re just accessing your server in a different location. With the recommended high-speed internet connection, your experience should not be any different than if you were hosting in your office. If you have slow internet speeds, that will have a direct effect on program performance.


Question: 
What about backups? Are they automated? How do I know the data is getting backed up properly?

Answer: Be sure to talk with your IT and cloud hosting service about backups. No matter where you host your server, you need a comprehensive backup plan. Ask about backup frequency and redundancy. Ask what plan is in place to deal with a prolonged internet outage. You’ll also want to make sure your backed-up data is being tested to make sure the backup is functioning properly.

 

 

 

Sources:

** Sticky flytrap for HIPAA security requirements section, from “Are you using 20-year-old technology to serve your patients?”

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