Has your practice ever experienced an internet outage? It’s more common than you would think, and we’ve seen pretty much every variant of causes; local and carrier equipment failure, damage to the local exchange, billing issues, lines being cut by a rogue engineer, interference from local building work and believe it or not, we even had one client that accidently cancelled their own line!
In the past 8 years the veterinary sector has become steadily more reliant on cloud technologies, from practice management systems to phone and email systems, all of which need a reliable internet connection to work.
Here at Veterinary IT Services, 20% of our clients are fully reliant on the cloud, and the other 80% are what we call a ‘hybrid’, not one of them have no cloud tech in their practice. This means that internet resiliency is of the upmost importance to ensure that their practices can keep working in the case of an outage.
The likelihood if you are reading this article that your veterinary practice has experienced some sort of internet outage, possibly more than once, (or maybe you’ve had nightmares about it actually happening) and you’ve realised just how critical access to internet is to enable your practice to continue to offer care to your patients.
What would happen if your veterinary practice lost it’s internet connection?
Most practices we come across have a standard business broadband circuit, which come with a set of service level agreements which mean that you could be waiting for days to get your internet back, even with a dedicated lease line you could be waiting up to two hours for a resolution. Depending on the systems you use that is time spent without access to your:
- PMS (including all patient records)
- Phone lines
- Payment systems
- Booking systems
These are all business critical systems, without which you would be unable to deliver patient care, schedule appointments, communicate with clients or even take payments.
What you can you do to prevent an internet outage at your practice.
The solution to ensure your practice has the best internet resiliency will vary greatly depending on the size and location of your practice and the budget you have to spend.
As a hard and fast rule, you should put in the most superior connection you can afford as your primary line and then look at what would be the most affordable but reliable secondary connection. If your primary source experiences an outage then having another service to fall over could quite possibly be an actual life saver
- The three options we generally see as primary circuits in veterinary practices are:
- A leased line (high end internet circuit) installed into your practice. This is a dedicated fibre line just for you, with strict Service Level Agreements so you are guaranteed to be back up and running within 2 hours of an outage. This will improve your resiliency, but you will still have a period of outage time where your practice might not be able to function. (NOTE: this may not be a cost effective option for smaller practices).
- A FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) connection which connects you to the cabinet via a copper wire. This reduces the costs passed on to you, with rental fees agreed at fixed rates in advance, you can budget accordingly. You will need to check with a specialist to see if this option is available to you.
- An ADSL connection (essentially a standard broadband connection). This is probably the type that we see the most often when we go into practices. With this it is important that you check what SLAs are applicable to you, as if you experience an outage it may be a few days until its back up and running, meaning you may need a more robust secondary option.
- The options that we generally see for secondary connections again vary on the size, location and the budget of the veterinary practice. But another issue to consider here is how often your practice is likely to need to use the service.
- Often, if you have a lease line installed then you could use an FTTC connection (see above) or an ADSL (see above) as your backup. These are not necessarily the cheapest options, especially if your primary connection is generally reliable, but if you did decide to go with these options then the important thing is that whichever two services you use need to be from different providers.
- Alternatively, smaller practices, practices with smaller budgets or those that don’t anticipate excessive usage of their secondary connection could use 4G, which can be a significant cost saving, possibly only £5 – £10 per month (after initial set up costs).
If you feel a 4G connection as a secondary connection would work best for your practice you may want to consider what measures you can put in place if your practice experiences an outage to limit the strain on it. For example, depending on the size of your practice you may need to have a plan in place to reduce the number of terminals you use during an outage, putting less strain on the 4G connection, so that you can still deliver a service to you clients.
No one wants to imagine a scenario where their practice is incapacitated due to something so simple as an internet outage. But it does happen, so you need to be prepared and ready with a back up and a plan to mitigate the impact. Internet resiliency is easy to apply and can be relatively inexpensive, so use the information above to guide you in finding the best fit for your practice. If you are unsure whether or not an option will work for you an IT professional will be able to advise you on your options and the best solution.