Schedule Regular Data Backups to Avoid Downtime
In this month’s newsletter, we would like to have a frank discussion about the importance of backing up your patient data. It’s not uncommon for our support team to be assisting offices with an issue and run into a brick wall, discovering that the office either has a faulty or outdated backup. As a result, practices have lost valuable time or even worse, data, due to a lack of diligence with regard to proper backup procedures. It is imperative that practices save all of their crucial data daily. Although the DOX Quick Back that is loaded on at least one computer in your office provides a quick and easy way to back up the DOX database, a more comprehensive daily backup that includes all of the associated DOX data (charting forms, letters, and scanned images), as well as all of your digital imaging data, also needs to be completed.
Minimally, we recommend that offices do an on-site backup daily, which is then taken off-site each evening. Typically, this type of backup involves one external hard drive for each day of the week that the office is seeing patients. Each day, yesterday’s external hard drive is unplugged and today’s is plugged in. A staff member would then take yesterday’s external hard drive home (along with a printed or digital copy of the Daily Transaction Journal and Appointment Log). This backup technique should be used even if the practice is already doing some form of cloud backup. If a problem occurs and a backup is needed, having an on-site backup, like we just described, allows for quicker restoration of your data.
Note: Most virus attacks will not only corrupt the data on the server, but could potentially compromise the most recent backup (if that external hard drive was plugged into the server at the time of the attack). Once the backup is corrupted, you may now be missing a complete backup of yesterday’s data. By having copies of the Daily Transaction Journal and Appointment Log for yesterday, though you may not be able to completely reconstruct every piece of the day’s data (ie clinical narratives, tooth charting, and digital x-rays), you will be able to reenter all financial transactions and scheduling activities. As a precaution, KSB recommends that practices retain a copy of these reports for a minimum of two weeks.
Late in 2018, we had two separate offices fall victim to a ransomware attack. Neither of them had a good on-site backup of their data. In one case we were able to restore an off-site online backup, but that company could only produce a successful backup from two weeks prior. This office had been told by their cloud backup company that they didn’t need an on-site backup. However, had there been an on-site backup, they would have lost only a day’s worth of data and not two weeks. The second office had no recent backup at all and lost almost two months of their data. In this case, the external hard drives were not being diligently swapped on a daily basis.
On a more positive note, last summer we had an office hit by a major lightning strike. Our support team was able to use their on-site backup to get them up and running in less than two hours.
Some of our practices have asked about online (or cloud) backup services. KSB believes that online backups are a great tool for archival purposes, but are often slow and cumbersome when needing to restore data in the event of an emergency. Be careful when picking an online backup provider, as we have had very mixed results with such companies when doing restores (as detailed previously). One company that some of our customers have reported struggles with is Carbonite. We have heard that their backups have not always been dependable, nor was their customer service easily accessible in some cases.
If you do elect to subscribe to an online service, KSB suggests looking at one of the following two companies that provide cloud backup services: Dr. Backup and CrashPlan. Although our team has had limited opportunities to work with both companies, the interactions we have had were positive. It is ultimately your practice’s responsibility to research these suggestions. Also, if your office uses “third-party” programs such as digital imaging, Quickbooks, time clock software, etc., make sure the corresponding databases or critical data files are being included in your backup.
The final step for having a good backup is to verify it is complete and usable. It is the office’s responsibility to either check this themselves or have a qualified party look at your backed up data to verify it is thorough and restorable. If your backup was set up by KSB, we would be happy to assist you in verifying its accuracy. At your request, our support team can even schedule a simulated restoration of your backup from the external hard drive. We encourage offices to consider doing this on a semi-annual basis.
Although KSB is ready and able to assist or consult with yourself or your backup provider regarding the backup process, we also want to take this moment to remind you that it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure that your backups are scheduled properly and being completed successfully. For more detailed information on this critical topic, please contact David or Matt at 866-410-4500.