Cloud computing in orthodontics

Jake Gulick discusses how cloud computing can benefit an orthodontic practice

What is cloud computing?

If you visit any technology-related website section these days, you are bound to see articles about “the cloud.” The cloud is a very fast-growing technology, and many people do not realize they have been using the cloud in their daily lives and office for years. Email clients, such as Gmail and Yahoo, are cloud-based.

The easiest way to explain the cloud is that the data is available 24/7/365, and the information is not stored on your device. Instead, the data is stored in a data center, sometimes thousands of miles away. Cloud computing is not a new concept even in the orthodontic world. Companies such as TeleVox and Sesame have been providing cloud services to offices for many years. They make the phone calls and send emails from a data center, not from your office. They also allow patients to access information about their appointments and financial balance from any computer. The patient is logging into the cloud when using one of these systems.

Why is the cloud growing so fast?

A big reason is the number of companies investing in the cloud. For example, Dell Computers, whose core business had been selling computer hardware, has invested over $1 billion in data centers. IBM has also been aggressively investing in the cloud by spending over $3 billion acquiring cloud-based companies.

Over the last 5 years, we have seen a huge shift in the services being offered by companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple. Microsoft 365 is the office suite built on the cloud. Amazon has many cloud applications, including Amazon Cloud to store music and files. Apple has expanded iCloud to allow sharing across all of your iOS devices and Apple computers.
Cloud computing is making our lives simpler by allowing us to access our data anytime, anywhere, from any device. With the explosion of smartphones and tablets, the demand for cloud services has erupted.141102 Gulick 01

How does cloud computing fit into your practice?

As mentioned previously, you are probably already using it for email or patient communication, but over the last several years, we have seen cloud practice management software enter the orthodontic world. Not all clouds are created equal, so make sure you research each option and understand the different platforms.

How can it help your practice?

By moving your practice to the cloud, you will have much more freedom with your practice. If it is a web-based application built from the ground up, you will be able to run your practice from any computer, PC or Mac, in its native mode and without installing any software. You will no longer need a server in the office as all data is stored in real time in the cloud. Your IT cost would be reduced since there is no longer an expensive server to buy or maintain, and your connection costs should be reduced significantly. You will not have “satellite” offices any more since every office will run exactly like your main office. Images will be lighting fast in all offices as well. The use of remote desktop, Terminal Services, LogMeIn, or other old technology will be eliminated. You also will no longer need to worry about backups of your data or imaging as those would all be taken care of for you!

Imagine having a laptop fail in your clinic and being able to go to Best Buy or connect to, order a new laptop, plug it in, and be using your software without calling your IT company or even your software company. That is the power of the cloud!

What are the concerns regarding cloud computing?

The biggest worry about the cloud is about the security of your data. Think of this way — do you keep your money in your house under your couch or in a bank where it is secure? Think of your patient data the same way. Is it safer in your office where someone could break in and steal your server, or a data center with armed security? If you were using a cloud system and someone broke into your office, there is no server or data to steal since it is all stored offsite.

“Cloud computing is often far more secure than traditional computing, because companies like Google and Amazon can attract and retain cyber-security personnel of a higher quality than many governmental agencies,” said Vivek Kundra, former federal CIO of the United States.

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What if the Internet connection goes down?

The Internet is only getting better and more stable by the day. I do not remember the last time my Internet was down. The broadband Internet connections from mobile carriers like Verizon and AT&T are getting huge boosts in speed. If you are concerned with losing your local Internet connection, you can pay $50 per month for a backup HotSpot for your practice or have a backup DSL connection. Chances are you will never use it, but for peace of mind, some may find it comforting.
What should you ask a cloud provider?

As much as cloud computing can help your practice, if you are not careful, you can also be misled by “cloud washing,” which is “the purposeful and sometimes deceptive attempt by a vendor to rebrand an old product or service by associating the buzzword ‘cloud’ with it.” This is not just happening in orthodontics but across all industries. When looking into a cloud practice management software, be sure to ask if it was built as a web-based application. Many times, companies will just move your server offsite, host your data for you, and call it “cloud.”

David Linthicum, a cloud computing expert with InfoWorld, says, “Truth be told, most of those presentations are given by salespeople who don’t know a cloud from a hole in the ground; they actually believe what they’re selling is a cloud.”

Bottom line

A cloud-based practice management software can be a great addition to your practice and allow you the freedom you have only dreamed about before, but before you jump in with both feet, make sure you ask the right questions and move to an application that was designed from scratch to operate in the cloud. Only then will you achieve the full benefits of a cloud application.


1.    Kan M. Dell to invest $1 billion to boost data storage products. CIO. Accessed August 7, 2014.
2.    Reuters. IBM to spend $1.2 billion to expand cloud services. Accessed August 7, 2014.
3.    McMahon B. Explore the cloud. Club Managers Association of America. Accessed August 7, 2014.
4.    Linthicum D. It’s hosting, dammit: Fed up with fake cloud providers. InfoWorld. Accessed August 7, 2014.

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