Cloud computing has been the “next big thing” for close to fifteen years. Back then it wasn’t the Cloud or SAS but was called ASP (Application Service Provider). Various companies have been nibbling at the edge of cloud computing for dentists since 1999. They have been nibbling but have failed to achieve much a foothold in the dental practice management system world. Currently Curve Dental and Planet DDS are the most well-known companies offering cloud computing for dentists.
Whatever you call it and whoever is selling it why bother? What makes having the application running in the cloud better than having it on the server in my closet? Here are eight advantages to cloud computing.
- Lower startup costs, you do not buy the software, you merely subscribe to it.
- Lower hardware costs as you only need low-end computers, or even non computer “dumb” terminals (also called thin client) a network router and a hi-speed internet connection.
- You will have none of the current software/hardware conflicts seen in offices running different software versions over various different network configurations.
- You can use MAC, PC, Linux or any other operating system of your choice as long as it has Internet access. Currently Dentrix Ascend is optimized to work with Google Chrome and Safari for iPads.
- Upgrades and software maintenance will be easier. All users will be using the exact same version and only the software at the remote server will need to be upgraded. And it can be upgraded at any time without the need for the massive release of a new version.
- Dental practices with multiple office locations will all have access to the same database. In addition the data can be accessed from any web device including the doctor’s home computer or even a mobile handheld computer. You can even authorize patients, colleagues, third parties, team members or practice management consultants access to information when you deem it appropriate.
- There will be no need to backup data and take it off site for safety. It will be stored on a remote server so all data will be sent off site instantly and stored in a secure and redundant fashion. The remote server will have all the latest in data protection including anti hacker security and antivirus systems, which the local user often neglects.
- There will be less “noise” in the office. That is one less thing the doctor and staff need to worry about keeping up with, fixing and supporting.
There are limits to cloud computing. To use it you of course need a reliable high speed Internet connection. Certain large data files particularly radiographs, CT scans and even high def photos are a problem for remote processing. Although it is changing people still feel uncomfortable having all their data stored somewhere else. There is a real fear of the “what if factor”.
Why it has taken so long to actually catch on is an interesting study, never the less cloud computing does have real and significant advantages over traditional server client systems. The entry of Henry Schein into the market is substantial. We are all looking at a future that will be at least partly cloudy.