"Business Rules" for Dental Computers

1. Don't confuse business computers with home computers. When your home computer goes down its frustrating. When your business computer goes down, its expensive and it can be catastrophic! At the very least, you lose staff time. You may lose your entire accounts receivable, your appointment book and your patient records.

2. You need a "secure server" for all your data. This means a file server that is safe from hackers, viruses, power failures, and unintentional "misadventures." All your data from all your office programs should be stored on this one secure server.

3. The requirements for a "secure server" depend upon the office and network size, but this server should never be exposed to the Internet. If you must use the Internet, we recommend a separate computer that is not ever connected to your network. (If any computers on your network ever connect to the Internet, we strongly recommend protecting the network and server with a "firewall.")

4. Don't "download" from the Internet and don't install extraneous programs on your office computers. In our experience, the Internet and the installation of unnecessary software cause 80% of the problems experienced by dental offices. Experiment with your home computer; keep your business computers for your business!

5. You need an "on-site technology expert" to be in charge of your computers and to act as a resource person for the rest of your office. This person should definitely not be the dentist! In most offices, it is usually best if it is not the office manager. This person needs some extra computer training and some authority to deal effectively with problems. Only this person should install new programs or program updates on your system. Picking the right person for this job will minimize both your computer costs and downtime.

6. Leave your computers on "24-7," i.e., all the time. This minimizes the damage done by heating and cooling and allows any "housekeeping" or automatic backups to occur at night. (You should turn monitors off at night and on weekends.)

7. "Re-start" all your workstations each morning (start, shutdown, restart, i.e., a "warm boot"). This retrieves any memory space not returned to the operating system by unruly applications during the previous day. Dedicated servers do not need to be re-started each day but non-dedicated servers (i.e., the computer that is both a server and a workstation the most common configuration in dental offices) should be restarted.

8. Lastly, but most importantly, you must backup all your data at least once daily and validate the integrity of the data at least every three months. Sooner or later, your system will fail. At least half the dental offices we visit do not have current, valid backups. Multiple, automatic on-site and off-site backups are easy to do but you have to be sure you are doing them!
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