Managing your Practice in the Cloud (continued - page 2 of 8)
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
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
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).
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.
As Internet access improves, so does the
quality of your use of the cloud software.
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.
As with server-based solutions, multiple
users access the data in real-time. Everyone has the latest changes; no
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.
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.