Advice Tips

Thinking About Cloud Computing? What questions should you be asking and why. – Part 6

Will it work with my existing equipment?

This matters if you are trying to extend the life of your existing hardware and defer a large Capital Expenditure on new gear.

Windows XP

Windows XP Logo - Copyright Microsoft Corp.Will their solution run on a computer still using Microsoft Windows XP?

If you have a fleet of Windows XP machines, you are probably aware that Microsoft discontinued support of XP in April 2014 (if not, you should read more on my blog about it).  HIPAA concerns imply that you shouldn’t have Protected Health Information (PHI) on an unpatched system (which in theory all XP boxes now are).   My question is – If you use a Cloud solution could you still be HIPAA compliant and keep your old system since there would be no PHI data actually on the computer?

Old (and slow) computers

PintoMy definition of ‘Old’ would be any PC or Mac 4+ years old.  ‘Slow’ would be anything using a processor less than an Intel Quad Core.

If they say they will run fine on older/slower devices – Will the ‘slow’ impact the performance of the product?   More to the point – Will their product run slower? This is something the Cloud should be indemnifying you from ideally.  The Hybrid approaches will likely suffer here.

Mac Support

MacLogoDoes the solution run on a Mac Operating System (OS)?   You need to know this if you own or are considering purchasing Mac hardware.  Most solutions have an asterisk “We support Mac*”.   Ask about the details on how it will work specifically:

  • Ask them to show you the specific differences when running on Mac.  Better to know now than a surprise later.
  • Is it a Mac app or does it use Windows running in Boot camp or virtualized in something like Parallels or VMware Fusion?  You need to know if it does because there are cost implications to this.  You would need to purchase Fusion, a Windows OS license, and potentially a Microsoft Office license.   All totaled these can be nearly $400 plus the time (and thus expense) of setting up a complete Windows environment.   Something to avoid if you can.
  • Get a demo to see for yourself on your Mac.

Thin Client Support

ThinClientMany multi-office Practices have existing networks that utilize Thin Clients instead of regular computers.  Thin Clients are really designed ideally for the Cloud concept.  They have very limited local capabilities since the hard work is to be done by Application Servers located elsewhere (in the Cloud perhaps).   These aren’t real PCs, and normally you can’t install software on them.  All they can do it link to an Application Server.  Ideally you don’t want to be forced into replacing these devices if you don’t have too.   Hybrid and Browser Based solutions may not be able to work with these devices, so be sure to check.

Peripheral Support

Your network is full of more devices than just PCs or Macs.   You need to investigate if your existing investments in these devices will work with the Cloud solution. Some peripherals to consider are…

X-ray Machines

PanoIf you have a digital Pan/Ceph X-ray system in your Practice you should ask if their Imaging solution is directly compatible with it.  Most will use a TWAIN interface (an industry standard for acquiring images from a scanner).   Tell them which specific model(s) of machine you have and describe how your images are captured into your existing Imaging solution.  Ask them if their process will be identical, or will you have to adapt (or compromise in some way).  Note:  Cone Beam CT‘s are not TWAIN devices.

Document Scanners

ScannerSimilar to X-ray machines, you need to confirm that your existing document scanners will be compatible with whatever patient document storage solution they have.   TWAIN may come to the rescue, but not all document scanners are TWAIN compliant (Fujitsu Scansnaps for example).  If you have a scanner that can only make a PDF or JPEG, can this be loaded into the patients file?   Ask them to specifically describe or demonstrate how.

Fingerprint Scanners

Fingerprint ScannerYou may have a Fingerprint Scanner as part of your existing traditional PM App, used typically for HIPAA compliant patient check in or employee timeclock.   Will their Cloud solution work with the devices you own?

Signature Pads

SigntaurePadSimilar to Fingerprint scanners, you may have digital signature pads in use with your existing PM App as part of being a ‘paperless’ Practice.   Does their solution even support digital signatures, and if so, will it work with your existing hardware?

Credit Card Swipers

CCSwiperYou may have credit card swipers (small USB devices) being used to read a credit card into the PM App as part of a payment processing system.  Does their Cloud solution offer a similar payment system, and will it utilize your existing hardware?


PrinterSeems obvious that they should support them, but you might want to ask anyway.   Remote Application based solutions have a challenge to magically link your local printer up to the Application Server in the Cloud.  They usually work with most any modern printer, but you should check.   Hybrid and Web Browser solutions should have no problem here.

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.

Up Next in Part 7 of the Series I will discuss 3rd Party Integration Support

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