Is my practice data secure in the cloud?

Five questions to ask your software provider

Cloud software protects your data whether you are working in the clinic or catching up on paperwork at home. Photo by Sarah Said
Cloud software protects your data whether you are working in the clinic or catching up on paperwork at home.

Cloud software is an invaluable resource for many veterinary practices. In fact, most cannot envision running their practices without it. Cloud software is convenient, with easy access, automatic updates, and incredible support. However, those who are still trying to warm up to the idea of keeping their data in the cloud often ask about its security.

With the increasing frequency of news stories about breaches of security, identity theft, fraud, and a variety of hacks and unseen viruses lurking in the background, it is no surprise veterinarians are concerned. We all need to stay vigilant about security, whether we use cloud software, server software, or the internet in general.

If you are using cloud software or are shopping for it, here are the top five questions to ask a cloud software provider to help ease your security concerns and ensure your practice data remains safe.

1) Are there more threats in the cloud than ‘on the ground’?

While it is understandable to be concerned the cloud renders your data more vulnerable because data is stored offsite, the truth is just the opposite. Security in cloud software is best compared to the security of a bank vault. Imagine a large secure zone, with individually secured smaller areas contained within. Just because a person has access to one area does not mean they have access to any other. The walls, chains, and padlocks are there—we just cannot see them.

In most cases, data stored in the cloud is actually far safer than data stored on physical computers. There are significant physical threats for those who choose to keep data on their computers or an in-house server. With cloud software, client and patient data is not stored on a local desktop or server, so it is far better protected against physical theft, along with fires, floods, tornadoes, and other natural disasters, which could impact or destroy an office and its contents.

2) What other security benefits does cloud software offer?

Cloud software solutions are operated and monitored by fully dedicated providers whose primary job is to keep data safe. They have all the security measures and resources needed at their disposal. They also understand the ever-evolving threats and can counteract them far more efficiently than a veterinarian whose computer got hacked.

Cloud software also allows providers to be more proactive with technical and physical safeguards, enabling them to have faster responsiveness in the event any issues do arise. With transparency and the ability to monitor components, perform updates, and adhere to security and privacy policies, providers can quickly and carefully manipulate the system to keep users and their data safe from threats. This is simply a resource most veterinarian practices do not have in-house.

3) How do you keep data secure in the cloud?

When exploring a new cloud software platform, make sure to ask this question and get a thorough answer. Reputable cloud software companies will use a variety of security and authentication protocols to ensure any data collected is protected and safe from threat. They utilize current, reputable server technology. Their protocols and operations are also in alignment with industry best practices.

For example, the servers where they store data are maintained and updated regularly. Also, any practice data is encrypted while it is “in motion,” moving from the veterinary practice to the cloud server. They follow the highest security encryption protocols and perform regular system testing. Finally, they also make regular enhancements to their security settings to prohibit unauthorized access to data.

4) What can I do to help keep my data secure?

There are quite a few ways you can help increase your security. First and foremost, make sure to stay current with technology updates. These are crucial to perform regularly with both hardware and software. Cloud software platforms are updated regularly behind the scenes, so the process is generally easier on a veterinary practice compared with server software platforms needing to be manually updated. That said, however, your hardware and network generally also need manual updates.

Another tip is to always use strong passwords and change them frequently—at least quarterly, if not monthly. Passwords also should never be stored in your browser or on your smartphone.

Additionally, when you are traveling, avoid using public Wi-Fi. Publicly shared networks are less secure and can easily allow others to get into your data. Instead, use a VPN for internet access when you are not in the office or on a private network.

Finally, remember knowledge is power. Stay updated on current scams and threats, and be cognizant of the warning signs.

5) Are there tips I can provide to my staff?

As always, teamwork is essential to success. To help ensure security, you can remind your team members to log off the system when leaving their workstations during the day and when leaving the practice in the evening. Also, keep them informed of any current threats you become aware of, and remind them never to click suspicious links within unsolicited emails from senders they do not recognize.

Learning more about how your data is secure in the cloud may help you feel more comfortable switching to cloud software, if this is the best path for your practice. Indeed, it is crucial for all veterinary practices to ensure client and billing data is secure, to protect your business, as well as your clients’ personal information.

When you work with a reputable cloud software platform, you can rest assured significant security measures are in place to keep your data safe within the invisible walls of the cloud.

Jake Fuesting oversees the NaVetor and IntraVet software support teams for Patterson Veterinary, helping veterinary practices maximize their security and get the most from their software platforms. He also has served as a civil affairs specialist, coordinating civil-military operations throughout the Middle East.

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