Data is the lifeblood of your practice. 

I’m not talking about fancy analytics or reports (although those can certainly be included), but the simple data like names, contact details, documents and invoices. 

If you’ve been in business for more than a year, I’d wager this data is worth at least $100,000 – as an absolute minimum. 

So let me ask a simple question: “Would you consider depositing $100,000 in a bank if you were not clear about how and when you could access your funds? Or if someone else held the power in that decision?”

This may seem like a ridiculous hypothetical, but it’s exactly what is taking place with some Practice Management Systems (PMS) across Australia.

‘Locked’ data

Over my 17 years at FilePro, I’ve been involved in hundreds of conversions of data from dozens of different systems. In recent years there has been a rise in the number of software providers who ‘lock’ client’s data, making it unavailable to them should they wish to migrate to another system of their choice. 

(Note: This is, of course, not the case for FilePro. If you know someone who uses a different PMS, please share this article with them.)

When considering PMSs, it is all too easy to focus on features, pricing, or user experience.

But it’s equally important (if not more) to consider how the data is stored, and what will happen the day you want to withdraw your data and move it to another provider.

Goodness knows your reaction if you went to withdraw your $100,000 only to be advised by the bank that it was not available or will cost you a further $10,000 to withdraw it.

The cloud conundrum

This often comes back to the accessibility of the cloud – as the problem is most frequent with cloud solutions. 

Typically, it is not a software limitation. It is a commercial decision by the provider to make it difficult, if not impossible, for clients to migrate their own data. And sadly, most clients only find this out the day they want to leave.

For PMS, there are typically two types of cloud solutions: 

  • A public server, where your data is stored alongside every other subscriber in one location.
  • A private server hosted in the cloud that remains yours and over which you have total control. No different than if it was residing in your office. 

A further consideration is the database application. This ideally needs to be a mainstream solution, such as Microsoft SQL or Oracle. These platforms will allow an independent programmer, with proper permissions,  the ability to ensure an accurate migration of your data from your existing provider to your chosen new provider.

If your data is hosted in a public cloud solution, you are unlikely to have access to the backend or raw data. So, make sure that the solution has comprehensive export functions, or that you or your IT staff have access to full database copies, making sure that regular copies are extracted and stored in an environment over which you have full control. 

You should never be solely reliant on the current provider to assist you if data extraction is required, as this service is all too often denied if they know you are moving to another solution.

How to find out if you’re at risk

In most cases, your data will be considerably more valuable than $100,000. 

If you wait until you change systems to ask as to the status of your data, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to the possibility of losing some or all of this value. Or face a sizable transfer fee. 

You can ask a number of technical questions (as detailed above) to find out if your data is being held ransom. But the simplest way to get to the bottom of it is to ask your current provider: “How do I migrate my data, should I decide to move to another software solution?” 

Do not be fobbed off with the answer, “it is their problem to get your data out” because it is not. They can not deny you the necessary authority to access your own property.

If you have any questions concerning the status of your data with another PMS, we’d be more than happy to assist you in navigating the situation. Contact us here or fill in the form below for a no-obligation chat or demonstration.  

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Lasse Stenersen, CTO 

FilePro Pty Ltd