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How Much Disk Space Do You Really Need?


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 or catastrophe?

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 information.

 

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.

(Continued from page 1 )


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 Digital Data?

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 files.

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.

 

Seek Professional Guidance

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!  

 

*National Field Operations Manager, Henry Schein TechCentral.

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