It seems like every day another piece of technology gets
added to your digital practice. Electronic documents, digital cameras and
imaging devices, digital radiography, and cone beam scanners all clamor for
space on your computer network. How do you know how much server storage space
you’ll need today, tomorrow, and three years down the line? Furthermore, are
you confident that your data will be protected in the event of a server failure
An average practice using intraoral cameras and basic
intraoral-only digital radiography generates around 20 gigabytes (GB) of data a
year. Your practice will generate electronic data at a tremendous pace. Even
though intraoral pictures and radiographs only generate about 20 GB of files a
year, your practice will use other systems that constantly add to your digital
How Much Disk Space
Do I Need for Documents?
I work with many dentists who are moving to paperless office
best practices. In these offices, there is usually an unlucky person who is
responsible for scanning any piece of relevant business paper into the
electronic record. You can help that person save time and effort by using an
efficient, high-speed document scanning solution.
Depending on the scanner and settings used, scanned records
can be as small as 150KB (about the size of a large email file) or as large as
10MB per page (about the size of a high-resolution photo). Ask yourself if you really need a full-color,
high-resolution scan of that EOB form attached to the patient’s chart. When a
document is scanned, make sure you are using the appropriate scanning settings
for the information.
In general, scan black-and-white documents at 100 dots per
inch (dpi) and items with color pictures at 150 dpi. Only scan in color if
truly necessary. Black-and white files are the smallest by far, followed by
grayscale files, then color documents. These settings vary from scanner to
scanner, but adjusting the settings during the scanning process can be a huge
space saver in the long run.
How Much Disk Space
Do I Need for Imaging?
When you add that new digital panoramic or cone beam imaging
machine, your data storage needs to be moved to a whole new level. Digital pan
images can be up to 15 MB each, and cone beam scans can easily be 10 times that
size. If you capture these images for every patient in your practice over the
next 18 months, make sure that your data server can handle the load. Remember
that each piece of electronic information you capture adds to your data storage
needs. It adds up quickly—a connected practice can easily generate over 100 GB
of data per year.
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How Much Free Space
Do I Have?
To see how much free space is on your PC Computer, follow
these simple steps. First, log on to your data server. Double-click the My Computer icon on the desktop or
click Start > Computer. You will
see all of your drives listed with the amount of free space listed below them.
If you don’t see a free space number, you can also access it by right-clicking
the hard drive icon and selecting Properties.
To see how much free space is on your Mac Computer, follow
these simple steps. First, click on Finder
> New Finder Window. Then click on Macintosh
HD and you will see the total amount of space on your hard drive, as well
as available space remaining.
There should never be less than 25% of the drive space
available as free space on any drive. This provides you a space buffer and
facilitates better performance. Don’t worry if one of your drives is smaller
than the rest. It is typical for servers to be configured with the operating
system files and the data on separate partitions.
How Often Should I
Upgrade My Disk Space?
In this author’s experience, it is advisable to monitor your
server’s free space on a regular basis. If you document the growth of your
dataset monthly, it will help you better plan for future needs. Remember to
contact your hardware partner if your free space approaches less than 25%.
Depending on the server configuration, you may need anything from relatively
inexpensive disk upgrades to a replacement of the entire machine.
Your hardware partner may offer a server monitoring package
or monitoring for critical events such as disk failure, overheating, or low
hard drive space. Proactive monitoring helps practices avoid disruptive
surprises and protects their network from avoidable problems.
How Do I Back Up
Adoption of a multi-layered approach to backups is a “best
practice” to protect your data and to help get you back to productivity in the
event of a problem. The first backup option is manually backing up data and
storing it offsite for protection. When you evaluate your backup options, make
sure that your IT provider understands your needs and is familiar with the
requirements necessary to secure protected health information. Most USB drives
do not come with the encryption necessary to protect data. Do not skimp on this
item—imagine the headaches if your backup drive fell into the hands of identity
thieves and you failed to spend the extra dollars for encrypted drives.
Also, don’t assume that you have a recoverable backup just
because you swap out your backup device each day. Automatic backups can prove
disastrous if relied on with blind trust. It only takes a few extra seconds
each day to check that your backup was done properly. Make sure you or the
staff member you’ll charge with this responsibility have documentation on how
to perform checks on your backup system.
You should also consider using an online backup solution as
part of a multilayered approach to data backup. These online systems usually
run overnight and offer a great offsite backup solution. Some offer free
storage (e.g., 5GB) to customers who maintain a recurring service plan. This is
typically enough storage for the average practice management database, with
room to spare for your office’s business documents and payroll information. If
you are storing digital images in an imaging database, however, you will most likely
need additional storage space based on the type of device generating these
One great feature of online backups is that they usually
provide multiple dated copies of your information. This could be valuable if
you needed to restore a copy of your data from a certain date. With the right
online backup system, if you ever needed to see exactly what your data looked
like several months ago, you could download that archived copy upon demand.
The journey through dental technology can be enjoyable. It
is important, however, to seek guidance from reputable IT professionals as the
dynamics, imaging solutions, and philosophy of each practice differs from the
next. Many such vendors can be found using simple internet searches, or by asking other professionals for recommendations. These providers can work to customize
a solution that is right for you and your staff!
Operations Manager, Henry Schein TechCentral.