Are Your Marketing Files Backed Up? Part I

Computer backup_XSmall_web_1.jpgYou can never be too carefull….

With the recent fires in California destroying many homes and businesses, I think this would be a good time to review recommended computer backup procedures for your orthodontic practice. Mother Nature can be very cruel and you never know when she may strike next.

I am sure the majority of offices are backing up their practice management software, on a daily basis, as recommended by their software provider?!?! My question today is how many of you are backing up your documents and files that are not included in the orthodontic practice management package such as marketing materials, Outlook, email addresses, business contacts, bookmarked websites, Important Documents file, special letters, excel spreadsheets, office photographs, etc?
You don’t realize how important these files are during an average work day, until they are gone. Having to recreate information accumulated over time, if not years, is not only time consuming, it is traumatic. I know, I learned the hard way…  

For over 20 years, I have been a backup freak with practice management software. It was drilled into my head by our computer tech, from day one, when our first system was installed in 1982. However, as more tasks were computerized over the years, I tended to be a little lax with other files, which I  backed up about every 7-10 days.

That all ended when I lost the data on my palm pilot, when it succumbed to a sudden death. I didn’t panic because the information was backed up on my laptop… or so I thought! Unfortunately, the hard drive on my laptop decided to crash on the same day and I went into panic mode!   

My laptop was networked into the main server which backed up my Important Documents file daily, but it did not back up Outlook, my palm pilot or my web bookmarks and favorites. Fortunately, I never threw out my rolodex when I converted to a palm. I was able to duplicate about 80% of the lost data. However, recreating the remaining 20% was a real hassle and I had to totally recreate my web favorites, bookmarks and I lost all saved emails.
However, truth be told…this is nothing compared to what it would be like if you totally lost an office…lost every file, x-ray, patient documentation, plus all supplies and equipment within its walls. This, everyone, is one of the big advantages of  converting to a paperless office. 
The chances of losing an entire office are miniscule. However, hardware failure is not. I would like to list some tips on how to avoid unnecessary loss of data should computer equipment fail.

        All computer files, including orthodontic management software, marketing files, front office correspondence, email, TC documentation, accounting software and word documents should be backed up daily and taken off site every night. If these files are not networked to the main server for storage, each individual computer will require backup on a daily basis.

         Backup disks and tapes have been known to go bad and you never know when it has occurred, until it is too late. Make sure you have a set of 5 backups to rotate each day of the week for your practice management software and a least minimum of two backups to rotate for all other computers or a USB Flash drive.

         Replace all reusable backup tapes and disks frequently, at least, quarterly. Even though tapes are expensive to replace, it is cheap insurance to make sure your backups are working properly. I have heard many a horror story from practices that had to recreate up to a months worth of data because the backups were old and no longer working properly. Orthotrac recommends a new tape be used for each end month procedure, to assure accuracy.

       Train all staff on all backup procedures and designate one employee to be responsible for the backups, with an additional designated employee to cover during vacation and sick leave.

       Only two sets of backups are to remain on site at the same time and they should be the two oldest backups. This way, in the event of the unthinkable, you would have the 3 most current backups to restore the system, in case one was corrupt.

       Never leave the backups in a car, especially if the outside temperature is below 60 degrees or above 80 degrees.

         Spot check to make sure the backups are being taken off site each night, as instructed, until the routine is second nature.
Your computer system and all its programs and files are one of the most critical aspects of any orthodontic practice. Protect it at all costs…
There are alternatives to eliminating the daily hassle of backing up your files. We will discuss those options in Part 2 of this series.  Till then..