Is Cloud Computing Ready for Your Office?

Cloud Based Computing for your office.
If you have been paying attention, Cloud Based computing is being heavily promoted by the likes of Microsoft and others as the next big thing. Without getting into details, cloud based computing is simply providing applications and data to end users over the internet.
So, should we all jump on the bandwagon? Well, for some people, this would make sense. How about your dental office? Let’s examine the proposed benefits and the actual realities.
Proposed End-User benefits of cloud computing
1.       Save money on hardware costs and support. You don’t need a server because the Cloud Application provider hosts that for you.
2.       Access your data from anywhere. Its already on the internet. So all you need is a connection.
3.       Greater reliability since you don’t have to worry about Server Crashes.
The Reality of Cloud based computing for End-Users
1.       Hardware. While you don’t need a traditional server for Practice management, you still need workstations for the end users. But what if you want to do digital imaging? Guess what? You need a server! Cloud computing cannot handle the bandwidth (ie the files are too large to transfer before you pull your hair out while waiting!). Therefore, if you have the goal of going digital (crazy, I know) then you have a server in your future! And, you now have part cloud, part traditional software. You also lose out on the tight integration that is offered by Visual Charting and are forced to use a bridge solution for your imaging needs.
2.       Access your data from anywhere. Ummm. Yeah. Pretty sure that Remote Desktop, LogmeIn, and about 20 or so other services (many of them free) will allow you to access data securely from any internet enabled device including smartphones. Oh yeah, we should mention that your images are not on the cloud, remember? So you would need to access them separately.
3.       Reliability. Consider this. We have over 1000 offices installed. In a year, we can count on one hand how many have ‘server crashes’. However, our office’s internet connection goes down from time to time. I don’t have enough fingers to count the occurences over 1 year. And that is just 1 office. The solution is to have 2 internet connections! So much for saving money!
In addition, the monthly support costs for a cloud based system far exceed what our clients would typically pay for support to us and their computer vendor. The cost of the redundant internet connection and then the reality of having to purchase and maintain a server despite the promise of not having to all add up to a very expensive solution that is far more complicated and less reliable than a traditional software solution.
 
Alternatives
If the idea of being able to administer the office IT infrastructure online from one source is appealing, Cloud is not the only game in town. There are a number of virtualization options available. Of course, these have their own strengths and weaknesses.

The Dark Side of Cloud based computing
Your data and ‘Server’ is housed and owned by the company that provides your software. Ask yourself what happens if they go out of business. What if you have a dispute with them? This arrangement gives them quite a bit of leverage, doesn’t it?
Conclusion
Cloud computing is nowhere near ready to deliver on the promised benefits. Surely that could change down the road. At this point it has to be considered a bleeding edge solution where the drawbacks far outweigh the benefits and the total costs are far greater than alternatives.

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