What to do (and not to do) when choosing computer equipment

Feb. 12, 2010

By Tom Terronez, Medix Dental

Choosing computer equipment for your dental practice can be a daunting task. Many people get so overwhelmed that they neglect to consider all options and simply go with the first model they see or vendor they visit. This can have long-term ramifications for your practice, including lost time on support calls and costly equipment replacements. To help make this process easier, we’ve put together a list of dos and don’ts to help during the purchasing process:

The Don’ts

1. Don’t buy your computers from electronic superstores.
Why: Superstores usually offer only one-year warranties, and they require lots of cash to upgrade to three-year warranties. Also, most of the computers come equipped with home-level operating systems that do not network well and are not designed for the business environment.

2. Don’t buy the cheapest equipment you find.
Why: You get what you pay for. Things cost less for a reason and usually the components are subpar or the support is non-existent.

3. Don’t buy from the first vendor you visit with (even if you really like him or her).
It is in your best interest to get a competitive bid. At the very least you will have some leverage with the vendor you choose.

4. Don’t buy from a vendor who does not list the specifications of the equipment.
If you do not have detailed specifications, how can you be sure what you are purchasing? How can you compare with other vendors? You don’t have to know what each thing means, but if you are provided with detailed specifications then you are less likely to overpay for a product.

5. Don’t hesitate to consult with a dental technology consultant.
You are a dentist and your time is best spent with patients or practice management. Unless you are really into computers, it does not make a lot of sense for you to dive in and learn everything about them. When you think of your hourly value based on production, you will realize that an expert is a lot cheaper.

The Dos

1. Do buy good anti-virus and anti-malware software.
Anti-virus and anti-malware software significantly reduce the chance of infection. Infection equals time loss and computer support dollars spent.

2. Do buy middle-of-the-line office and operatory computers.
If you buy low-end, you end up with a machine that is slow and has a low life cycle. If you buy high-end, you end up paying a lot more for only a little bit of performance improvement. Find the sweet spot.

3. Do check the contrast ratio of your displays before you buy.
Low dollar displays tend to have weak contrast ratios. Low contrast ratios equal lack of separation between gray shades, which makes it much easier to miss something in a digital X-ray.

4. Do buy a real server with RAID1 or higher and redundant power supplies.
If one hard drive fails, you are still functional. If one power supply fails, you are still functional. Staying functional equals no revenue (time) loss. Real server hardware is built to a higher standard than desktop computers. The components are higher grade and designed to be reliable.

5. Do follow the hardware recommendations provided by your software vendor.
The software company makes hardware recommendations for a reason. It usually means they have tested the software with the hardware, and know that it will run well. If your IT person says that it should work, then find a new IT person. You should never take a chance on your hardware.

Tom Terronez is president of Medix Dental, a dental technology consulting company that provides dental practices with the technical expertise, resourcefulness, and solutions that will increase productivity and make practices the best they can be. For more information, visit www.medixdental.com.