Advice Tips

Thinking About Cloud Computing? What questions should you be asking and why. – Part 4

Cloud Computing Chalkboard-One challengeOne Challenge – Multiple Right Answers

There is no one right way to provide a Practice Management Application (PM App) in the Cloud. It’s great to live in a world where smart people come up with multiple solutions to a challenge.

There is this false notion that for a PM App to be a ‘True’ Cloud solution it must run in a Web Browser only. I agree that Google’s Gmail is a great Cloud application and it runs in a Web Browser, but it’s not any less Cloud if I choose to access it using my Microsoft Outlook application on my local PC.

image0021The same holds true for Pandora.   You can certainly use it via a Web Browser and play music. But, if you pay the $5 a month for a Pandora One account they give you an added option to play the music using a small local application on your PC.  This gives you added quality and functionality. No Browser- works better – still the Cloud.

When I look out at the current crop of PM Apps, they roughly break into three approaches:

RemoteAppProgramsRemote Application Based – In this approach your Data sits on a Server up in the Cloud.  Also in the Cloud is an application server that runs the actual PM App software, and communicates with the Data Server.  Back in your Practice, your Device (PC, Mac, Tablet, etc) connects to the Application Server to access the PM app.   Your Device isn’t doing the computing, the Application Server is.  No local application other than the connector to the Cloud.  This is great, the super fast Cloud servers to the work and your local device can be an older and slow, but still perform as fast as the newest computer.  You can also run on a wide variety of devices (PCs, Macs, Tablets and Smartphones) since the technology isn’t device specific. Cool!

HybridHybrid Approach – In this approach the Database sits on a Server up in the Cloud, but the application runs on your local PC or device.  Your PC then reaches up into the Cloud to access the Database to get information.  No need for a local server and your data sits safely up on the robust Cloud Servers. A big advantage to this approach is the programmers can do a lot with a local app – such as its easier to support a wider variety of peripherals (printers, scanners, X-Ray machines, etc.). The approach also reduces what resources they have to supply from the Cloud and thus should have an effect of reducing the hosting costs to you.  The trade off is the local application is still sensitive to the speed of the local PC (slower PC usually means slower app performance) and you’ll still end up feeling the pressure (and cost) to have fast PCs.

WebBrowserURLWeb Browser based Approach – Adhering to the Web Browser approach is also cool.   All you generally need is any device with a web browser and you can access your Data and PM App.   Everything is kept on the Web Server in the Cloud, and your local device doesn’t need to be fast, it only needs a supported browser.   This simplicity should allow you to use older or cheaper devices and work on a wide variety of platforms.   The trade-off might come from the limitations of what you are able to program in a web page (a frontier that is ever advancing).

These are three vastly different approaches and all are Cloud in their own way.   Each has their own merits and challenges.  Regardless, they can address the need to outsource your PM App and eliminate the need to have an in-house Server (and IT help) to support it.

In this multipart series I am trying to help educate you to the issues surrounding the issues of Cloud based solutions offered by Dental Practice Management software companies. By arming you with the questions to ask and the context behind them you should be empowered to better evaluate the products and how they would benefit your Practice. You can find a link to all the Parts of the Series back on the Index in Part 1.

Up Next in Part 5 of the Series I will discuss How the Cloud can directly benefit your Practice.

MME TechnicianIf you need a little help with your Practice, this is what MME Consulting does. Just give us a call at 866-419-1102 or check us out online at

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By Steve McEvoy

Car Guy, Nerd, Canadian hiding in California