Advice Tips

Thinking About Cloud Computing? What questions should you be asking and why. – Part 8

Cloud Computing - Is a Data Conversion necessaryIs a Data Conversion Necessary?

Data conversions are an ugly process.  If you choose a Cloud Practice Management Application (PM App) from a new company, they have to reverse engineer your old Company’s  data format, then smush it all around (technical term) into their own proprietary database format.   Often there aren’t equivalent fields for some data, so it’s left behind.   My experiences for data conversions have been “Someone always cries”. 

Someone CrysData conversion is a challenging proposition for any company.   Companies don’t share their database formats, and often go out of the way to obscure access to them in order to make it even more difficult for their data to be converted.   Company A may completely figure out how to convert Company B’s database format today, but when the new version of Company B’s software comes out it may all change again.   It’s a continual battle.    A battle you need to consider if you want to get caught up in.

There is almost ALWAYS data that does not convert.   A typical item is the financial history of a patient.   Most convert the current balances only, and don’t carry over the history of all the financial transactions that lead to that balance.   Ask your Financial coordinator how happy they will be about that – not being able to delve back and answer inquiries about past transactions.   In traditional in-office PM Apps the solution to this is to keep the old PM App running  for a year or two until all the questions likely to arise from active patients fade away, then turn off the old App for good.  This may require keeping a Server running in-house to support it (or at least sticking it all on one workstation as a single reference point).  Something to consider if you’re planning to go Server-less.

If you will need to go through a data conversion, ask the vendor “What specifically won’t convert from my old system”.  If they say “Everything converts” with a smile on their face, they are probably BS’ing you or ignorant to the issues.  If they say “Here’s the few things that don’t” you can probably trust that they know what they are doing.

Data ConvesionSome companies may not have a conversion from every other company.   If they say they don’t but they will build one just for you, watch out.   I’m not sure I’d want to be ‘Patient Zero’ as they work their way through using trial and error.  This often takes much longer than they originally anticipate to develop, leaving you waiting.

A few of the Cloud solutions can move you to the Cloud without a dreaded data conversion.   If you are a traditional Dolphin Imaging & Management or CS OrthoTrac Office customer moving to their Cloud app, they merely scoop up your existing Data from your traditional in-office install and move it to the Cloud.   No conversion at all.   There may be others that can do this as well, so it’s worth asking.

If yours is a brand new Practice with no old data – good news – none of this applies since you are starting fresh!

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 9 of the Series I will discuss How Fast does your Internet Connection Need to Be?

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