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Dr. John Flucke is in private practice in Lee’s Summit, Mo. He also serves as technology editor for Dental Products Report magazine and keeps an active blog filled with thoughts and tidbits on the world of technology at blog.denticle.com.
Having a backup system like Aspida Recovery can be critical in saving your practice in the event of a disaster.
Ive said this before, but I think it bears repeating: The failure rate of hard drives is always 100 percent. That’s right; no matter how much you spend or how much you baby them, hard drives fail… always. Looming over your digital future like death and taxes, your hard drives are slowly marching toward their deaths. Like technological doomsday clocks, you can almost hear the “tick… tick… tick.”
Because of that fact and because I am a diehard geek, early into my digital journey I devised a backup plan that would keep me from ever experiencing a “total data blackout”. I used the tools available to me at the time to create a sophisticated backup plan from scratch. When you cannot afford to lose something, it’s amazing the lengths you will go through to keep it safe.
Is it a chain… or is it a leash?
As I wrote here in my January column, you should look at backups as a chain and the chain, in my opinion, should have as many links as possible. Of course, being an outlier, I have more backups than most of you. However, that is also because I am totally dependent on being digital. In that regard, backups of all my systems are the lifeblood of my practice in case of disaster. Yet, as time progresses and all practices become more and more digital, the need for reliable, cost-effective and easy backups will become less and less of a “nice benefit” and more and more of a strategical need to ensure critical practice systems are fully protected.
Because of these critical backup needs, many offices are now paying closer attention to backups and backup protocols than ever before. One of the great benefits of living in the time that we are is the simple fact that technology has evolved along with our ability to use it. When I built my first office network, I had no choice but to do it myself. Because of that, I still have vivid memories of crawling through the dropped ceiling of the office with network cable clenched between my teeth as I attempted to connect my front desk with my personal office. Now whenever I need something like that done, I simply call my IT team at Goetze Dental and tell them what I need. In no time, they have things configured and running exactly the way they need to.
It’s the same now with backups. Rather than being forced to study the process and create your own protocol, you can now work with IT specialists whose sole focus is healthcare. They can create the backup system you need and make it as easy as possible for you to maintain. That’s a tremendous advantage to the days of “technology past”.
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Not a perfect system
Yet even modern backups have the occasional inherent risk. The biggest one that I can see is HIPAA compliance when backups are taken off site. If one does any kind of Internet search, it’s easy to find several stories of healthcare facilities and offices whose employees lost patient data that was taken home. These losses of computers and/or backups resulted in incredibly large fines and other punishments meted out by the Federal government.
The safest way to avoid these types of data losses? Never let your backups leave your facility. At one time in the not too distant past I would have scoffed at the previous sentence. However, we now have options for just that solution and the latest one is Aspida Recovery.
The future is here… now
The Aspida company was launched in 2013 and was quick to establish itself as a leader in the healthcare industry dealing with issues of HIPAA. Their focus is on HIPAA-compliant security systems including compliant encrypted email. As they worked with more and more offices they saw a glaring need for a backup system that met all compliance requirements while also removing the burden of running, verifying and securing the backups.
Their solution offers beauty in its simplicity. The product is called Aspida Recovery and in addition to “just backing up” also performs several other background tasks. This means that the Aspida Recovery device will provide you peace of mind for your data recovery as well as functioning as a 24/7 IT monitoring specialist.
The device is a small computer that is connected to your office network. Once connected to the network and booted, Aspida will install a small program on your server. This will allow the Aspida Recovery computer to connect and “talk” to the office server. Once this simple task is completed, the magic begins. The appliance will begin backing up your server onto it’s hard drives. As this is taking place and creating a local copy (on the AR appliance in the office) the device is also in contact with a cloud storage server where it is also storing all your data offsite.
This offsite storage resides in a SSAE 16 Audited Data Center featuring amazing state-of-the-art technology as well as incredible physical security. All the data center’s critical components (cooling systems, UPS and generators) are redundant and audited every year by an independent authority. What does this mean to you in the dental office? This data center is a fortress both physically and IT-wise. Major corporations are backing their data up in the same facility. In a nutshell, your data is as safe as humanly possible. I’ve personally toured this data center. They photographed me and did a background check before I could even get out of the lobby. I left knowing my data was secure.
If you ever experience a server crash, fire or other disaster, you can be back up and running your office within minutes. You can use either the onsite AR appliance or, if it is destroyed, the cloud-based backup. Downtime is minimal and since the appliance is continually monitoring your data, the backups are current and verified. You know they are up to date and you know they will run. That’s a degree of confidence that even I can live with.
The system has a secure online dashboard that allows users to monitor the health of both their server and their backups. The dashboard generates alerts and detailed reports along with a transparent real-time status of the complete solution.
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Concerned about ransomware?
If you aren’t, you should be. This dangerous encryption scam is striking healthcare facilities at an alarming rate and many security experts are expecting it to only get worse. While reading the “McAfee Labs Threats Report” for September 2016, I noted this statement: “In 2016, ransomware authors have increasingly targeted the healthcare industry…” There have also been reports of several dental offices dealing with this disaster.
To combat this threat, the AR appliance monitors your system in real time, constantly on the alert for ransomware. If you should become infected, AR will know the exact time of the infection. It can then restore a backup immediately prior to that point in time. This nullifies the threat and keeps your office running.
Under normal circumstances an office won’t know the exact time of infection and will need to have their IT team figure this out. Because AR is always monitoring your system, this is not a concern making the restoration easier and more predictable.
Since Aspida was founded with HIPAA security in mind, they understand the legal requirements and processes better than their clients do. They will supply BAA (Business Associates Agreements) along with documenting HIPAA handbook policies that are inherent in the backup and recovery processes.
Benefits without user intervention
The whole process and philosophy of backups can be fraught with risks. Over the years, I’ve heard multiple horror stories of every conceivable thing that could go wrong. Things like backing up an empty folder (meaning no backup at all) to backup drive failures, stolen backups and even “the employee in charge of backups just quit doing it and never told anyone.”
Those are just a few of the reasons that I’ve always made the job of performing and verifying the backups, my job and mine alone. Yet I realize that there are many of my peers who either don’t have the time of the technical savvy to do that.
That’s why I’m a big fan of backup appliances like Aspida Recovery. Backup and monitoring now require no effort by doctor or staff other than paying the electric company. Aspida Recovery has been in development and testing for a while now and will be available sometime between now and August. When it comes to ensuring your data protection and keeping your office up and running in the event of a data disaster, it should be on a very short list for you to investigate.