Let us start by stating that cloud computing is amazing. All the tools the Gretel team uses are cloud-based. We don’t need a server; we’re progressive when it comes to technology, so when we mapped out our IT infrastructure, it was a cloud-first approach. With that said, there are a few things you should understand about the cloud when it comes to practice management system technology.
A cloud PIMs does not exempt you from owning a server
First of all, switching to a cloud-based system is not an immediate invitation to doing away with your on-premise server. Yes, in some select instances, predominantly for very small practices, the need for a server can go away. However, that grey cinder block of computing power you’ve had stored in a dark closet at the practice does way more than serve up Cornerstone, AVImark, or Infinity. Have multiple printers? The server helps network those so that you can print to them from any computer at the practice. Want some semblance of control over what happens on each workstation at the practice? A server does make that easier to administer. Now, can you create a whole host of workarounds in place of a server? Absolutely! However, that architecture makes you beholden to your IT support resource in a way that you may not be accustomed to. When things break, as they inevitably do, you will be looking at incremental support costs.
Best practice will call for a second, monthly internet bill
Second, if there is one thing we’ve observed in our years of working with practice management systems at veterinary practices, it’s that when the network goes down, and medical records can’t be written and invoices can’t be posted, etc. all hell breaks loose. Hell hath no fury like a veterinarian unable to use their computer! If you’ve ever investigated a cloud-based system, you may have noticed that it is “recommended” that the practice invests in a redundant ISP connection. What, pray tell, is that? It is a second internet connection for the hospital. In the event your primary connection goes down, it is possible to configure your computers to use the secondary connection. Sounds fine, right? Well, for one thing, the second connection is an incremental monthly cost. Two, not all geographies have one awesome internet service provider, let alone two.
Your IT closet should get a new piece of hardware
Three, to get your computers to rollover seamlessly to the backup connection, you need a piece of networking hardware that isn’t exactly the kind you purchase from Best Buy. Four, if you are based somewhere that storms are frequent occurrences and can recall the times where there has been no internet, but you’ve still been able to operate, well that won’t happen anymore. You NEED the internet to function with the cloud guys. Again, are there exotic workarounds to ensure maximum uptime? Absolutely! They just aren’t free. That makes the total cost of ownership of the cloud solution more than what you may anticipate.
In the coming years, cloud options will only get better. Internet connectivity will become even more stable. Just know that until then, there are hiccups. Things break with cloud systems just as they do with your current setup. While bright and shiny and new, the cloud is not a panacea to a better veterinary practice management system experience. None of the current offerings, in our opinion, are clear-cut better options than the triumvirate (Idexx’s Cornerstone plus Covetrus’s AVImark and Infinity) of on-premise solutions. Yet.
How a veterinary practice technology consultant could help…
The decision to migrate from one veterinary practice management system to another is an enormous undertaking. A good consultant could help make this process more thoughtful and more manageable in a variety of ways, including:
- An assessment of how your staff uses your current system to reveal the underutilized features that would make the software a higher-performing tool at the practice
- A prioritization of training areas to turn your team into power users
- A needs assessment of your current IT hardware footprint to compare against the “requirements” laid out by a new PIMs provider