Prevention is better than cure for your IT back-ups

As a practice manager or owner of a medical or dental centre, you’ll know how important it is to have your IT operations running smoothly. So if you carry out regular back-ups of your systems, then you probably think you’re covered if something goes wrong.

Unfortunately this is not the case. Without knowing that your back-ups are functional and without a proper plan for data restoration, a failure of your IT systems could cause massive inconvenience in your practice and almost certainly lead to business loss.

Time for a reality check

To avoid this scenario ask yourself these key questions:

  1. Have you tested your back-ups? (If you have tested them, when was the last time this was done?)
  2. Did you restore any files from the back-up?
  3. Have you done a full restoration of your server or desktop?
  4. If not, do you know how long this would take, and therefore how long your practice would be out of action for?

If you answered no or if you are unsure what is involved in restoring your data, then there is a way to minimise the risks of a major IT event.

Most medical and dental practices we’ve dealt with either do no back-ups, or if back-ups are done, they are too infrequent and not tested. This can lead to major issues. In one example we’ve seen (before they became our client!), a medical centre had a catastrophic IT failure and their 300gb of data took 10 hours to restore – i.e. across 2 working days. In another case, it was 4 or 5 weeks for the clinic to be fully up and running again after a back-up failure. Could your practice cope with being offline for this long? There could also be the cost of having to pay exorbitant fees for data recovery – we’ve seen this to be as much as $5k – $20k, and there’s the potential cost of repairing or purchasing new equipment such as a damaged hard drive.

In all the cases we’ve seen there is also the immediate cost and pain for the business. In a typical scenario you could have 15 patients in the waiting room frustrated with delays, no historical patient information and no processes to book in new patients. Then there are the staff costs of paying wages even when your staff are unable to work.

IT back-up checklist for your medical practice

To prevent major problems, here’s a quick checklist for your back-ups:

  • Back-up on a regular basis
  • Don’t overwrite your data
  • Back-up off site
  • Always test your back-up system
  • Back up everything that you should be backing up
  • Make your back-up process easy to manage and monitor

However, to ensure the back-up process runs without a hitch, you also need to understand the extent that your IT service provider is responsible for back-ups and data restoration.

Learning about back-ups the hard way

If you do engage an IT provider to look at your back-up processes then it’s crucial that you know exactly what you are paying for. For example, we had a new customer who had previously engaged an IT provider, but as it turned out, didn’t provide the value when it was most needed. This particular practice manager came to work one morning, turned on the computers and found they couldn’t access their files.

The IT supplier couldn’t help so the customer had to remove the hard drives from their server and take them to a data recovery centre. They lost a day’s worth of work, had to send staff home, and were unable to do any business. It cost them $5k and took two weeks to recover their data.

Not all IT providers have the capabilities to provide a back-up service or have not outlined the importance of this function. This is particularly the case for smaller IT companies. So if you want to prevent data loss and major disruption, there are essentially two components of your IT to consider – the server system itself, and an agreed and contracted process for back-ups.

Your practice is only as good as your last back-up

If your practice hasn’t experienced a major IT issue then it’s easy to be complacent. You could go for years without a problem, but then something unexpected goes wrong and the cost of not being able to do business, in terms of expenses and potential reputation damage, could be significant.

Whether it’s storm damage, accidental deletion of files or malware, there are many ways in which your data can be compromised. You probably heard about the family run medical practice in the Gold Coast which was hacked. As healthcare data becomes more connected, the potential damage that this type of attack can cause rises astronomically.

As well as implementing your medical IT server systems, Correct Solutions can monitor and provide a regular report on your backups. If a failure does occur, we can jump in immediately to see what’s going on.

We can help your practice establish a solution to address those critical back-up questions listed at the beginning of this article and we’ll confirm with you how long you can risk being out of action – e.g. 2 days or 2 hours? Correct Solutions will then work with you to ensure your data is restored in a manageable time frame for your practice.

Time to get those check-ups done on your IT back-ups and talk to Correct Solutions.