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Network Software for the Medical Practice: A Primer

Before choosing an EMR system, you need to know some network software basics.neural-network.jpg

‘Software’ is just another term for a computer program. Today’s software offerings usually break down into one of two broad categories: network/server or application/productivity. Network and server software includes the operating systems that run your servers and network, but also extends to monitoring and management software.

Sometimes, the process of selecting the right software can get pretty complicated, what with licensing, different versions, and all of the other considerations that are involved, so it’s important to understand how everything fits together before you decide which type of program is right for you.

Network/Server Software

Your server has an operating system that provides the logical base of your network. If it’s a Microsoft Windows Server, the two basic flavors are Standard and Enterprise. Basically, Standard doesn’t support more than 4 processors or more than 4GB or RAM. If the server has a fairly limited role, such as a file server, Standard is usually sufficient unless your practice or institution is very large. If the server is a database server, you’ll most likely want more than 4GB of RAM, so opt for the Enterprise version. If you’re not that offay with the setting up of servers and networks you may prefer to use a dedicated hosting service such as Website Hosting, it may be the easiest solution to your problem.

Server products such as Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Exchange run on top of your server operating system and are licensed independently. These programs also come in Standard and Enterprise versions. In order to avoid any mismatches and potential compatibility problems, stick with the same version.Here’s the tricky part: Both your server operating system and your server product require the purchase of a CAL, or Client Access License. These licenses can be either device or user CALs, and you’ll have to assess which type will work best for your organization.

If you go with a device CAL, each device that connects to your server has to have a separate license. On the other hand, if you go with user CALs, each user that uses the server has to have one. Microsoft’s licensing website is a great source of information on this topic; in fact, I strongly recommend that you chat with a Microsoft licensing rep before making a decision, just to ensure that you fully understand the licensing requirements for the setup you want to install.

Application/Productivity Software

Once you’ve navigated your way through the complicated realm of server licensing, you’re ready to move on to application/productivity software.

Fortunately, choosing these programs is a far less complicated process.In our practice, we chose the Microsoft Office suite as our base productivity software for the entire organization. It’s seemingly ubiquitous, which means we seldom have problems exchanging documents with individuals and firms outside of our practice. We’ve also found that internally standardizing our documents has advantages, as well, as time is no longer lost attempting to convert files from other people in the organization.

It’s also easier to establish and maintain staff skill sets when you’re working with a single software suite.Finally, antivirus software is not to be overlooked. Although you may be familiar with the basic consumer antivirus packages, effective antivirus solutions on a corporate network are quite a different prospect.

It’s important to understand that antivirus software is comprised of the program, the detection and removal engine, and a signature file to recognize viruses—and that all three need to be updated and monitored on an ongoing basis in order to ensure that they are providing maximum protection. Also, it’s strongly recommended that you run antivirus software on your mail server to intercept viruses that may be lurking there, as well.

There are literally thousands of other software applications out there that can boost your practice’s productivity, efficiency, and security. Now that you’re armed with this basic information, selecting the right products should be a snap.

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