I enjoy speaking with customers, potential customers, vendors and suppliers to obtain feedback as well as perspective. Recently, I was made aware of the actual costs that a practice incurs for appropriately maintaining a server. The ‘old’ method of establishing Electronic Health Records in an office was to install and operate a server with an internal network. Although this is still an option today, there are many expenses such as initial and continued operating costs that cloud computing provides a better choice. The winners of practices that choose client-server E.H.R. Systems are server companies, software companies that supply software for client-server applications and technology/server consultants that maintain servers.
I continue to be made aware by physicians of the cost of operating a server. The range in cost really concerns me and surprises me. For example, I know of a one-physician practice that was spending over $700/month just on an IT consultant to maintain his servers/network. When the Internet was ‘dial-up’ there was not another option for a physician practice. Businesses of all sizes began moving from client-server applications to cloud-based applications for many reasons. Some of these reasons include: most up to date software, lower operating costs and easier establishment of additional computers/users.
Evaluate the total cost of the option when deciding to choose client-server vs. cloud computing. Here are some items to obtain cost ranges when comparing a cloud-based option to a client server option:
-Cost of the servers, network gear and estimates of how often this equipment needs to be replaced.
-Cost of installing the network
-Cost of maintaining optimal up time of the network as well as maintenance
-Cost of software for the server (initial and yearly cost).
Consider conducting some ‘basic’ research by calling a local IT consultant to obtain a price quote. Also remember that you or an office manager will need to be the project manager/coordinator of the people and vendors once the practice decides to choose either cloud-based application or a server-based application. With a cloud-based application, the practice will need to maintain an internet connection as well as a wireless network. If there is not a person in the office whom is comfortable setting up a wireless network, usually a lower cost group such as the Geek Squad can set this up for the office. With a client-server application, the office will need to purchase servers, network gear, software for servers (in addition to their E.H.R. software) as well as incur an expert to install the system and maintain the system. The practice will also need to install battery back-up and a maintenance plan with all the components. These are examples of some of the hardware maintenance costs of a server.
There are many articles on the economic benefits of cloud-computing. For instance, see the April 30, 2012 article in Forbes Magazine titled “Cloud Could Cut $12 Billion from US Government Annual Deficit”. The study quoted in this article states that the US Government could reduce the annual IT Spend from about $80 B to $68 B. The winner would be the cloud-computing companies while other groups would either lose their contract or have reduction in services. Do not under estimate the amount of lobbying, PR and Marketing that the groups impacted by this migration to cloud computing will exhibit. Remember, the practice is ‘on the hook’ for the short term and long-term cost of a decision of client-server vs. cloud computing (not an external consultant whom might have minimal to no experience optimizing revenue for a practice). Internet speeds continue to increase dramatically which further enhances the positive aspects of cloud-computing.