Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Online Veterinary Practice


Veterinary software today comes in many flavors and sold on many platforms and technologies. Though Windows-based solutions are the most common there are a number of other other software solutions. There a number of downsides to non-hosted software that is not web-based. The world of computers is rapidly evolving and software systems that are closed and tied to a single platform are becoming increasingly obsolete when stacked against online veterinary software solution.The most common vet software program is a windows-based solution that either resides on a single machine or is networked and resides on both a PC and a server. The PC will host the software and the server will host the database.

The first biggest disadvantage becomes immediately apparent: the hardware requirement. Veterinary software vendors typically require the veterinarian to purchase and maintain expensive hardware. The networked server costs at least $2000 and almost as much to maintain on a yearly basis. The PCs that host the system might be cheaper, but by no means are they cheap to maintain, patch and upgrade to the latest software standards. Before purchasing any solution from a software vendor it is important that vet clinics research and understand what and how much hardware is required to operate the software.
A second, even more pressing concern that can't be expressed in dollars, is security. On-premise systems that reside on users machines or a practice's database server are typically woefully insecure. Software vendors will promise "automated backups" and "password protected" logins but typically these vendors are small or medium size businesses with little understand of the more sophisticated security vulnerabilities. Automated backups do not protect against the loss or theft of a machine nor from a hard drive crash. Password-protected logins do not protect from weak password policies or brute force password hackers. A veterinary software systems security will only be as powerful as the people coding the software and typically vet software vendors do not having the man power and expertise to make their systems very sophisticated.
The last and probably most pressing disadvantage of most of today's software offerings is the lack of portability. We live in the age of iPads and Blackberries, where data is expected to be always on the go like the rest of us. These software systems were never designed or programmed to work on many different platforms, let alone the software be accessed from somewhere outside the office. As long as the solution is secure, there is simply no concrete disadvantage to having a solution that works inside and outside the clinic than having one that works strictly in the clinic. Software today is meant to move and vets shouldn't have to settle for less. Online veterinary practice management software has none of these distinct disadvantages. If you choose the right provider, the software system will sit on one of the major "cloud infrastructures" that guarantees 99.99% uptime and enterprise-level security. The advantage of cloud hosted solutions are many:
  1. No hardware requirement: you can use the existing machines in your office or even your home. And not be tied down to a single software platform like Windows.
  2. Enterprise-grade security: A few online software vendors will offer their applications on existing, ultra-secure cloud infrastructures that are used by banks and other industries where security and privacy are paramount. Veterinary software shouldn't suffer from poor security simply because the vet market may be smaller than the bank industry.
  3. Portability: When software is hosted on the web it means that any web-enabled device can access it, anytime and anywhere: at work, home, at a cafe, a bookstore or on vacation.
A powerful veterinary software solution I recommend is called VetBlue http://www.eveterinarysoftware.com and has all the advantages of online software we discussed in this article and suffers from none of the setbacks of on-premise, windows-based solutions since it is hosted and available 24/7 from any web enabled PC, Mac or smartphone.

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