We get asked this all the time from dentists who want to set up a new practice. This is an important question because how you establish your IT infrastructure can significantly impact the efficiency, security and reliability of your technology as well as the productivity of your team.

Here are the six most commonly asked questions we receive from dentists in the DC Metro Area, and our answers. We hope this will clarify any concerns about how to set up your dental practice.

1. Why do I need a server for my dental practice?

Even if you’re setting up a small office, you need a server. You always have the option of using software programs in the Cloud, but you may need to use software that isn’t available in a cloud format. In this case, you’ll need to house your applications in a server.

You may wonder why you can’t just house these applications on your computer. The answer is that a server operating system is more stable than your computer’s operating system. Plus, if you store your applications and files on a server, your team can access them from any computer that’s connected to the server. This is much more efficient and reliable than storing applications on your workstations.

That said, it’s even more efficient to house applications in the Cloud. With cloud-based applications and files, you can securely store much more than you can on a computer or server, plus you can access your IT solutions from anywhere you or your team have an internet connection. This comes in handy when your office is closed due to severe weather conditions or for other reasons. You and your authorized personnel can still work on documents and applications at home.

For this reason, most dentists choose to have both a server and a cloud-based system that their IT provider sets up for them. You don’t want your information in a public cloud service. Your IT specialist can set up a private cloud for you that will be much more secure.

2. How many computers should I purchase to start up my dental practice?

Having cash on hand is essential for any dental practice. So, you want to consider the costs of all the equipment and software you’ll be buying. This goes for the number of computers you should buy as well. The rule of thumb is that you should start with the minimum number you require and add more computers as you need them.

A great solution here will be to ask your IT Provider if they offer Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS). The benefit of HaaS is that you can conserve your capital. You won’t need to spend any money upfront for your computers and other hardware. Instead, you pay an affordable monthly fee based on how many computers you lease. This gives you the flexibility to add on as you grow or remove computers that you find you don’t need. The money you save can go to other things you need to set up your dental practice.

But, let’s get back to the original question: How many computers should you start with? The number of computers you need depends on how many rooms you’ll have.

Front Desk: You’ll need one for your front desk/receptionist. When purchasing this computer, consider setting up dual monitors – one the receptionist can use for scheduling and the other for your practice management or other application to look at a patient’s billing info.

Dental Operatories: You need one computer for each of your operatories. Again, you may want to consider having two monitors in each one. Place one where the patient can view their X-rays or other clinical information, and one on the ceiling for patient entertainment purposes.

Your Private Office: As the dentist, you’ll want a small office with a computer, so you can access your server (or cloud-based system) to review case presentations, input patient notes or work on accounting software.

You might also want this for a private consultation room where you can discuss treatment plans with patients and show them their X-rays to explain why a particular procedure is recommended. Either way, you should have a computer for your use.

So, let’s say this is all you need. It looks like you need six computers:

1- Front Desk

3 -Operatories

1-Dentist’s Office

1- Consultation Room

Regarding the types and sizes of computers, you should leave this decision to your IT service professional. He will know what’s best for your practice and will be able to get better prices on computers than you can on your own.

3. What other hardware and accessories do I need to set up my dental office?

Wi-Fi: You’ll want wireless access. You should have one network for you and your team and another for your patients. Your IT provider can advise you on this setup. You’ll need a router and access points to ensure coverage. Plus, you’ll need Ethernet cabling and switches.

Designing a Wi-Fi network for your dental office isn’t as easy as the one you probably set up at home. You want to ensure that you have the proper coverage without any dead spots. Plus, you must provide your patients can access Wi-Fi without intruding on your office network.

Your IT provider will assess your workflow, office configuration, the wireless technologies you’ll be using and how to integrate them with your existing IT infrastructure. Many factors go into planning the layout of a business Wi-Fi network.

4. What do I need to protect our patient data and work files?

Backup System: This is another reason why you need more than your server and computers. With a cloud-based backup system, you’ll be assured that your data is securely stored and accessible even if your office is closed, or damaged due to a disaster like flooding or fire.

Once again, it’s best to defer this to the expertise of your IT professional. They will set up a system to back up your data regularly and ensure it’s always recoverable.

You should also ask about virtualization. This provides a cloned image of your entire IT system, so you and your authorized team can recover all of your IT solutions including your applications from wherever you have an internet connection.

5. Do we need a firewall to keep our patients’ confidential information secure?

Ask your IT provider about security through managed firewalls, antivirus and web/email protection. You don’t want to purchase a firewall and set it up. You must comply with HIPAA – cybercriminals now use very sophisticated tactics to steal ePHI. It’s precious to them as they can sell it on the Dark Web for a lot of money.

Don’t take this risk. Ask your IT professional to provide a complete Network Security Solution for you with Remote Management and Monitoring (RMM) that will detect any unauthorized intrusions. RMM also detects and irregularities in your network that could result in downtime. Your IT provider can block intrusions and repair problems automatically before you even know they are there.

Also, ask them about Mobile Device Management. They can monitor your mobile devices as well. If they are lost or stolen, they can wipe the data from them to protect your data.

Don’t forget about phishing emails. Your IT provider can train your team to recognize these, so they don’t accidentally reveal your patients’ confidential information.

6. What should I be looking for when choosing an IT expert?

Look for an IT company that has experience working with other dentists in Northern Virginia and the DC Area. NOVA Computer Solutions specializes in setting up and managing technology for some of the top dentists in our area.

We’re happy to provide references, so you can ask other dentists how they like our services.

If you’re looking for an IT team in the DC Metro Area that is experienced in serving busy dental practices, contact NOVA Computer Solutions in Woodbridge, VA.

In the meantime, stay up-to-date on significant developments in business IT. Visit the NOVA Blog! Here are a few articles to get you started:

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