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Server Plays Key Role in Dental Data Management

Dental Products ReportDental Products Report May 2024
Volume 58
Issue 5

Practices require a lot of data management, and a dedicated server is the best way to keep data safe, secure, and under control.

Server Plays Key Role in Dental Data Management. Image credit: © Matthias – stock.adobe.com

Server Plays Key Role in Dental Data Management. Image credit: © Matthias – stock.adobe.com

I’ve had the pleasure of writing this column for close to 7 years. In that time, I’ve discussed many high-tech advances in dentistry such as 3D printing, imaging, artificial intelligence…the list goes on and on. One thing that often gets lost in the discussion is that to run these applications, you need the proper infrastructure. Over the next few columns, I want to take a step back and review my recommendations for that infrastructure.

Many offices are unaware that the need to overhaul your computers and network will often exceed the cost of these advanced applications, and nobody likes those types of surprises. For this month, I am focusing on the server.

One question I often get from clients is whether they even need a server. In almost all cases, the answer is yes! Certain aspects of a server make it more “bulletproof.” The server usually contains your most critical patient information; you must do everything, within reason, to protect and secure that data. As I discussed in a recent column on cloud computing, even if you are using a web-based practice management software (PMS), you still will need a server. There are often multiple sources of patient information in your practice beyond the PMS, such as images, emails, explanations of benefits, QuickBooks, Invisalign…you get the idea.

There are certain features to look for when designing a server. The first is a server operating system, such as Windows Server 2019 or 2022. One aspect of HIPAA regulations is that you must control and manage access to patient information. This is much easier to do with a server operating system rather than workstation software such as Windows 10 or 11.

I always recommend using an Intel Xeon processor, which is designed to handle the multitasking that most servers do every day. You should consider using 32 GB of RAM (memory). For the hard drives, I typically recommend using a pair of 4 TB drives in a RAID 1 configuration. What does that mean? RAID is a way of mirroring drives to provide redundancy. That means the server will continue to operate even if one of the hard drives fails. There are plenty of variations of RAID, such as RAID 5 or RAID 10; I prefer RAID 1 because it only requires 2 drives and is easier to manage and recover.

Large vendors such as Dell offer different levels of warranty for servers. I typically only buy servers with a 3-year warranty. Most servers should provide 5 to 7 years of use, but if a server makes it to year 3, it’s highly likely it will go to year 6 or 7 without issues. In other words, it’s difficult to justify paying extra for a warranty that is longer than 3 years.

What does a server cost? Well, there are a lot of options and variables. You can get a good Dell server that should provide 5 to 7 years of service for approximately $3500 to $4000, but there are certainly practices that spend more or less than this, depending on their needs.

Any time you are considering adding new technology to your practice, you should reevaluate your server. The server is the lifeblood of the practice; the hardware always has to match and exceed the demands of the software for things to run smoothly. Any good dental information technology provider can recommend an appropriate server for your practice.

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