Business Continuity, Part 2

Nov. 9, 2009

by Lorne Lavine, DMD

In Part 1 of this two-part series, we looked at ways to monitor the network 24/7 and be alerted to problems. Well, what if there's a true disaster (fire, flood, or theft) and your entire network is destroyed?

I have recently developed a complete paradigm shift in how I approach data backup and protection. Let’s look at a typical scenario. An office has a dedicated server and perhaps eight to10 computers. The office backs up nightly to an external hard drive or tape, and that device is removed from the office every evening and taken off site. So, if anything ever happens to the office server, you’re protected, right?

As I’ve found out over the past few years, the answer is usually no. The problem isn’t that your data is offsite and protected … you’ve got that covered. The problem is how long it takes to recover from a disaster! If someone accidentally deletes a file or your practice-management data becomes corrupted, that’s easy. All you have to do is restore the missing or corrupted file from your backup. You’re still able to run the practice with no downtime.

But, what if something happens to your server or main computer to make it nonoperational? Motherboards can get destroyed by power surges. Servers can be stolen or ruined by fire or flood. If you don’t have a server that is running, what do you do with the backup? That’s the real problem — how long would it take for a support technician to get an office back up and running if the server was destroyed?

Unfortunately, I found out the hard way with a few of our clients that the answer is: too long! The fastest we could get an office up and running was 24 hours, and that was because the practice owner was able to go out and purchase a brand new server locally. The other offices averaged 48 to 72 hours, and a few were longer than that. The amount of downtime the practice will suffer if something goes wrong is the real problem that has been overlooked by many dental offices when it comes to their backup systems. If your server is down, you are down. You cannot schedule patients, take digital X-rays, create treatment plans, access patient data … you are literally dead in the water!

But what if a system was available that could guard against this? What if there was a way to be back up and running within 30 to 60 minutes, even if your server was destroyed? What if you could combine this system with automatic backup to an offsite location that required no input from you or your staff? Wouldn’t a system like this be valuable for any dental practice?

We’ve been installing these types of systems for a few months now and have been very pleased with the results. The system has two components:

1) A device that sits in the office with a copy of the data,
2) Online backup to secure servers that are spread around the country.

The unique aspect of the in-office device is its ability to provide “virtualization.” If your server goes down, you can tell the device to act as a virtual server. As far as your computers are concerned, the real server is still up and running. Even if the entire office burned down, you could access your data within a short period of time from a home computer or laptop and function normally. This is the concept behind business continuity — no matter what happens, the office will be able to function normally with little to no downtime.

In a down economy, every practice worries about its spending, and it’s no different when it comes to technology purchases such as backup and business continuity. The question to ask, though, is what would it cost to the practice not to have business continuity, and what is it worth to you to be able to sleep well at night knowing your office will recover from a disaster?

Feel free to contact my company, Dental Technology Consultants, to get more info about the business continuity systems we now recommend.

Lorne Lavine, DMD, practiced periodontics and implant dentistry for more than 10 years. He is an A+ certified computer technician, as well as Network+ certified. He is the president of Dental Technology Consultants, a company that assists dentists in all phases of technology integration in the dental practice. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (866) 204-2298. Visit his Web site at