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Managing your Practice in the Cloud (continued - page 2 of 8)

Benefits of Cloud Computing

Some claimed benefits of cloud computing are only one side of a coin.  For example for cloud-based practice management, "reliability" as a benefit assumes a good, fast internet connection. "Reliability" of the cloud becomes a concern for offices susceptible to internet access outages.  With that caveat, here are the benefits:

Reduces in-house software management

Instead of installing applications onto your own computer, they run on a shared data center. When you use any application that runs in the cloud, you just log in with your web browser and start using it. You don't have to install the software to each computer. Updates just happen.

This means you will save time getting up and running.  Whether there is a true savings in dollars, however, is a question your firm should evaluate.  Software management is just one of many considerations when evaluating the cost of cloud-based practice management.

Reduces in-house hardware management

Cloud applications require only an internet connection. So, they can be run from a variety of inexpensive desktop computers, laptops and, in some cases, hand-held devices. The Traditional Network diagram on above shows the hardware in your office to run desktop applications accessing shared data.  The Cloud diagram shows servers residing outside your office that provide the means for the Website Visitor to access the applications and data stored in the cloud (the Internet).

Sold on Demand

You pay as you go, purchasing as much as you need for as long as you need it.  Subscriptions to cloud-based applications are typically priced monthly; and some vendors allow you to pick extra functions for an additional monthly charge. This may mean a savings, especially short term, but as stated before, there are many factors to evaluate to determine whether a firm is saving money over time by subscribing to cloud-based practice management.

Takes advantage of technological advances on the Internet

As Internet access improves, so does the quality of your use of the cloud software.

Any Device, Anywhere

Generally speaking, you can connect to your software and data from any web-browsing device (PC's, Macs, handhelds), from any location where a connection is available.

Multiple Users Real-Time Access

As with server-based solutions, multiple users access the data in real-time.  Everyone has the latest changes; no synchronization required.

Reliability

The cloud model provides for redundancy; i.e. if a server has a problem, your data is still available because it has been stored on multiple servers in the cloud. This is not to say there can never be an outage in the cloud.  The technology (and interest of the cloud service provider) makes outages less likely when compared to an in-house network.

Security

Cloud security is as good as or better than that of traditional networks. It is important to discuss security with your vendor before putting your data in the cloud. This area is another where there are two sides to the cloud benefit coin.  Though the web offers sophisticated security technology, users are not equipped to verify that their data is secure.  It's a matter of trust and optimism. One in seven of over 350 companies polled by access assurance firm Courion admitted that, although there were potential access violations in their cloud applications, they did not know how to find them.[1]

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