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The Cloud and Dental Software - Is It Safe? Part 2

Physical Security

Lastly there is the physical security of the devices that the data is stored on. In data centres access to the machines which store and process your patient information is extremely tightly controlled and equipped with CCTV and security patrols. A far cry from your average welcoming dental practice. Granted, it is not your usual burglar who will be interested in what is on your computer but there is a growing black market for selling data which may be of value.

Many users make no effort to wipe their drives before disposing of them meaning your patients data could end up anywhere. Some people are more proactive and reformat the servers hard drive before throwing them out, but information could easily be recovered by someone who was intent on extracting the information on it. Whereas at the end of life for a data centre hard drive it is shredded before it leaves the building.

Protection from loss

Just as bad as your patient's data being stolen is that same data being lost. Without backups years of data can be lost in an instance. Although it can often be semi automated, setting up and maintaining a watertight backup schedule is often very laborious. This is an area which really plays to the strengths of the cloud. At Dentally backups are performed multiple times a day and stored in multiple locations. Meaning even if a natural disaster made one of the backups inaccessible we would still be able to use a copy from another location.

Getting back up and running

The Cloud also provides a speed advantage for getting up and running again after a disaster. Take for example the recent flooding in northern England, after an event such are that it would likely take days and hours of labour to restore a backup onto new hardware. where as with Dentally the fact it is stored in the cloud means it would just be a case of logging on from another machine, allowing you to keep your patient's in the loop and setup temporally in any location.
Dentally has already been used by our current practices to overcome issues such as these. In one case a power-cut rendered the practice unusable, usually that would include access to the practice management software but with Dentally they were able to logon from a laptop and start rescheduling that days appointments.

Bugs, Viruses and Anti-Viruses

These days having up-to-date antivirus installed on your computer is not enough to keep up in the cat and mouse game of malicious software. The virus signatures are evolving at such a rate and are becoming so good at hiding the antivirus companies simply can't keep up. It is a critical defence to have but it no longer the holy grail of protection it once was. Traditionally many virus can render a computer inoperable loosing all the data stored on a machine.

Being in the cloud wont protect your computers from such software but it does minimizing the consequences of such a disaster. Indeed in the past we have had practices move to Dentally after getting caught in one of these unfortunate situations. They can now relax in the knowledge that if a local computer does get a virus they can just have it wiped and have it up and running in no time as there is no extra software to install, and there data is safely stored elsewhere.


I believe the points above illustrate that far from the cloud being an unsafe place to store patient data, with the right setup it is in fact far safer than trying to manage it all locally yourself. Although it may have traditionally been argued the cloud provides a single target cyber criminals have changed tactics. Rather than focusing their resources on a single target they scan the internet on mass for vulnerable devices, which is far more likely to be a system which is maintained on an ad hoc level.

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