The benefits of a Cloud Practice Management Application (PM App) can materialize in many different ways within your Practice. The various vendors will all promise some combination of these factors
Lower Costs – the first thing we think about and the primary motivator to consider the move to Cloud. Cost savings can come from:
- Less Capital Expenditure – This can come from one or more of:
- No Server (at all) – I don’t completely agree with this, so much so I will dedicate and entire article to it later in the series. I do agree that you will no longer need a Server to host your PM App, and this should greatly reduce the cost of a Server and the necessary licensing.
- Simpler Workstations – A Cloud solution can make the speed of your local workstation less important. Can you just get a simple $500 PC from Costco rather than a $1,100 business PC or $2,000 Mac? Hybrid solutions will struggle to deliver fully on this. I will detail this later in the series as well.
- Longer service life for workstations – If a PC that you invest in doesn’t have to be very fast to run a Cloud solution, it stands to figure that you can productively use it for much longer before it is too slow to use. A workstation used in a traditional setting might go 3 to 5 years before it’s too slow to use with your applications (that are continually upgrading and wanting more performance). A workstation being used for a Cloud solution might last 5 to 7 years. This means you get more from your initial Capital investment in hardware. Hybrid solutions probably can’t deliver on this since they rely on the power of the local workstation to do the work.
- Less Ongoing Maintenance – Since the network should get simpler, there should be a corresponding reduction on the amount of effort to maintain it. Later in the series I will try and estimate how much this might save you.
- Can you eliminate your IT person? Likely not entirely. You have staff using computers – this alone will lead to support needs. Components of your simpler network can still potentially fail. I do think you will need significantly less IT support. For those of you locked in to support contracts with your IT people, you may want to revisit the costs with them. If your network becomes simpler and will have less support needs, shouldn’t their support contract cost also be reduced? I doubt they will just offer to reduce their contract cost unless you ask them to (they have no motive to do so).
Increased Productivity – Ideally you should have less staff time being spent on supporting computers, and that can now be directed towards Patient Care or Business Building.
Improved Multi-Office support – If you have multiple locations in your Practice, the Cloud is a huge advantage. Many office struggle to implement the technology on their own to link offices together. The Cloud is tailored such that every Practice is a remote Practice, allowing you to access it from anywhere you have a device.
- If you pay for expensive T1 lines to link your locations together now, you will likely be able to cancel them since all you need for the Cloud is a good Internet connection (that you probably already have in each office). This saving alone could justify the move to the Cloud.
Freedom of Choice – Most Cloud solutions can run on a PC or Mac. Most were originally developed for the PC, so you need to ask about ‘How’ they run on the Mac. Does it run as a native Mac App, or does it require a Windows environment to be installed on the Mac using Bootcamp, Parallels or Fusion? You need to know since there are cost implications to this. I will have more detail about this later in the series.
Mobile Device Support – Most Practices would like to have the ability to access the PM App from mobile devices such as Tablets and Smartphones. The idea of having a Tablet like an iPad or Microsoft Surface and being able to use them as floating workstations is appealing, and might be a great solution for some situations. Check that the Vendor supports their App on both Android and Apple iOS platforms, and ask for a demo. Make sure it does what you envision you need for your Practice before you purchase.
Backups are included – All the Vendors include keeping your PM App Data safe as part of the deal. Who better could know what to backup and to do it well? Ask them what they do for backup. They will be able to tell you in detail, and it should give you a solid sense that they are doing it much better than most Practices would ever do on their own.
- Does this backup ALL the data in your Practice? No. They are only doing the portion that resides in the Cloud already. They aren’t in a position to reach into your existing network can get other types of data you may have such as Word documents, PowerPoints, Images, or other things like Cone Beam data. You are still on your own to have a solution for those items.
- Could this save you money? Yes – and in several ways.
- If you use an Internet backup, you may now have ‘less’ data to backup, and this usually equates to lower monthly costs (unless you have some unlimited plan)
- You may not need to purchase any traditional backup solution, saving on hardware and backup software costs.
Disaster Recovery Plan – built in. A side effect of your PM App being in the Cloud should be that in the event that your Practice suffers from a Fire/Theft/Flood event, your PM App will be online and ready to run from anywhere you get to Internet access. The neighboring dentist, your home PC, your Internet connected iPad at a Starbucks.
- Most Practices have little or no Disaster Plan – so this is a feature that saves you having to invest and develop such a plan. This is a great first step.
- Don’t forget to consider the other bits of data outside the scope of the PM App. As with the Backup, you may have other types of data that could be lost or stolen, so be sure you have considered what to do about them in a disaster.
Not all of the solutions offered provide every one of these benefits, so you should be asking the vendors about this.
In this multi-part 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.
If 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 www.mmeconsulting.com.
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