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Cloud computing

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The private practice in the sky...

Clouds usually make us feel a bit gloomy. But when applied to running your private practice, they can make things a whole lot more productive.

Let us explain.

Computer applications and software costs money. You’ll need to buy programs such as Microsoft Office, database systems, accounting software, and a whole lot more. They are difficult to install, costly to run on more than one computer, and can quickly become out of date. And, as we use more and more memory, we need more server space.

The cloud

That’s where the cloud comes in. Essentially, it’s a way of running your private practice over the internet, instead of storing information on your computer. Everything from your accounts, to your client database, to your reports, marketing and communications can be run in the cloud, from anywhere. All you need is an internet connection. 

It’s much more secure and reliable than you think. In fact, it can be more secure and reliable than traditional software and equipment. It also offers a host of other benefits (see below).

More and more businesses are using it, for the better. You’re probably using the cloud already for some things.

What can be done in the cloud?

The list is endless...and constantly growing. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Many practice management software systems such as Click are in the cloud, enabling you to run your entire therapy business without the need for expensive software.
  • Perhaps you’re already using Google Docs. This is a cloud based application that lets you create and save documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The beauty of Google Docs is that the cloud acts as a server, allowing several people to view and work on the same file (once given the necessary permissions of course), even if they’re on the other side of the world. No more multiple copies of the same document as it’s emailed back and forth.
  • There’s no need to buy and install accounting software. There are a number of cloud-based accounting applications that will save you time, money, and headaches.
  • Managing a large database can be tricky, taking up much-needed server space. Don’t worry - you can now do all your CRM in the cloud, too, with services such as HubSpot. A CRM system should only be considered if you really do have a large database.
  • You don’t need a large server to back up your files. There are many online back up services such as Mozy or SecuriData as well as Google Drive or Dropbox (below).
  • If you want to share files, particularly if they’re large, you don’t have to send them by email or on a disc in the post. Services such as Google Drive or Dropbox will solve the problem for you. 
  • If you’re fed up of flyaway sticky notes and loose sheets of paper all over your desk and memo board, try Evernote - it’s a brilliant note-taking service that captures all of your ideas and random thoughts.
  • All social media marketing is carried out on the cloud. Companies are increasingly using Facebook pages or Twitter for social media marketing. 
  • Some practitioners use their computer to make telephone calls or even run remote video sessions. This can be done through a service such as Skype, another cloud application. No need for phone lines or hardware. You simply use your computer to call or chat to other Skype users - for free.

But what about security?

Many businesses are wary of the cloud, worrying about security issues. However, cloud-based applications and services are actually more secure, because they’re hosted on servers that are far more powerful than any that you or I could have. There’s no risk of loss, or corruption of files should your computer break, get stolen or get a virus. They’re also protected by powerful firewalls.

With a solid password, you can be confident that your information is totally secure. Remember however that it’s not a good idea to allow your device such as your phone or tablet to auto-save your password, no matter how tempting it may be, just in case it’s stolen. These are of course extreme circumstances, but will give you peace of mind and ensure that you are complying with data protection rules (see below). 

When you choose a cloud based service, make sure that you look on their website or contact them to ask how they comply with the Data Protection Act and GDPR. Keep a record of the information that you find or the answers that they provide. That way, should anyone question your own compliance, you can demonstrate that you have carried out the necessary checks. 

Some of the benefits of cloud computing

  • cloud-based applications and services typically cost much less than traditional software or hardware, and some are free.
  • they’re usually charged on a more manageable monthly basis, eliminating capital expenditure and making ongoing expenditure more predictable - ideal for start-up businesses.
  • you can work from anywhere, and on any device such as your phone, tablet or laptop. For example, you can check your business accounts while you’re on holiday or have a look at your Google Docs on the train
  • the cloud is totally scalable; you can start small, and grow bigger, knowing that you’ll only pay for the services you use
  • you don’t have to worry about upgrades; you can be certain that the software is fully up-to-date and has the latest features

What to do next

The thought of the cloud can be daunting. It doesnt need to be. You dont have to make the leap entirely. The whole point of the cloud is to make things easier, not more difficult.

So, start by having a look at some of the links in this article. Choose something you like the look of, and give it a go.