25 March 2009

Just when I thought I was out.. they pull me back in.

In a previous life, I put together quite a few point of sale systems. I have since put that behind me to focus on the dental trade, of which there is plenty to learn. But when a door opens, do you walk through it or go about your business? Well, I chose to try and not let it hit me on may way through.

Having made recent friends with an owner of a local establishment, I was asked for help in getting setup with a new point of sale system. And so I've been busy recently. Technically dental? Well, yes. Let me explain.

With the recent proliferation of HSAs and Flex Accounts, credit/debit cards are becoming a more common form of payment for dental services. Dental offices typically have a handheld credit card processing machine off to the side to handle these transactions. Slow, runs off of a phone line, and a bit painful to use. But is there an easier way. As if the clouds parted and the sun shined down in a moment of inspiration.. YES!

Retail establishments have known the benefits of processing credit card sales via software for some time. Authorization over the internet, 2-3 second transaction times, automatic batch settlement and reporting features. Run the card through a standard issue magnetic stripe reader, and the software does all of the heavy lifting. If you want the ubiquitous credit card receipt paper, thermal printers are aplenty. Bartenders, sales clerks, and wait staff rejoice at the very sight of such a system.

Possible for a dental office? Absolutely. Will it make a difference? You mileage may vary. I personally know of an office that despises their credit card processing machine for the reasons I stated above. Now, perhaps in my moment of enlightenment I might offer an alternative.

14 March 2009

A Recommendation.. and a Reason.

As I noted in my previous post, I recommend NOD32 Antivirus software by Eset to protect every system in your office and/or home. And while I explained why you should protect every system, I reserved why NOD32 for another day. I suppose today is as good as any.

So let's go positive before we go negative. I've been using NOD32 on my own systems since 2004 and began recommending it to clients shortly afterward. The software has proven to do exactly what it's supposed to do, namely prevent malware from infesting a computer. This is evidenced by the numerous awards NOD32 has received, specifically the consecutive string of VB100 awards. A brief background, Virus Bulletin runs independent tests of nearly every antivirus software available using a variety of environments. Only if you pass all of the tests (e.g. identify and prevent all malware) do you achieve a VB100 award.

So yes, it's very good at its stated purpose. And as an added bonus, NOD32 is easy on your system resources. Definitely good to have with the ever-increasing system requirements of the recent Practice Management upgrades. I should note here, if you're installing any antivirus software on the computers that run your business, there are settings that should be configured so as not to interfere with your existing applications (i.e. Dentrix, Eaglesoft, et al.).

So, what's wrong with free alternatives? Well, for one, nearly all free alternatives are for Personal Use Only. No, your Dental Practice doesn't qualify. If you'd like to install it on your home computer, have at it. But the licensing is quite clear here, AVG Free Edition and the like are not permitted in a business environment. And while it might seem like a victimless crime to simply use the free edition anyway, I'm fairly certain you expect to be paid for the products or services that you offer as a part of your business.

There's also the matter of open-source software, such as ClamWin. Free? Yes, even for businesses. But you might want to read one very important line on their website:
"Please note that ClamWin Free Antivirus does not include an on-access real-time scanner. You need to manually scan a file in order to detect a virus or spyware."
Essentially, you can still download, install, and infect your entire network with some very bad malware. But don't worry, ClamWin will try to clean up the mess the next time you decide to run a full scan of your systems. Not exactly proactive. Wait, prevention, isn't that the term Dentists use?

And finally, please don't be lulled into thinking you're fine just because you have a 5 year old copy of Norton running on your server that hasn't seen an update since the Chicago White Sox won the World Series. New viruses, and variations of existing ones, are detected daily. You might as well not be running anything at all.

11 March 2009

No Antivirus Needed..

Do you really need to brush your front teeth? Don't your back teeth do all of the chewing?

Sounds a bit comical, doesn't it. By the same token, this is the reasoning Doctors are given by their technology support providers when asked why they don't need antivirus software on their operatory computers. "You won't be browsing the internet, so you don't need antivirus software." Sounds a bit comical to me too.

Sadly, this little bit of "advice" seems to be more common that I had hoped. Briefly, YES, you NEED antivirus software on all systems. The only exception to this is if the computer will not be connected to any network, router, or wireless access point (e.g. a portable CEREC system). However, if it plugs into the network even just to access digital x-rays, please protect the system, and by extension your entire network, with antivirus software.

Why, you ask? The vast majority of viruses, trojan horses, and boot sector infections are made to spread themselves to any system they can discover. If one computer on the network becomes infected (say.. the Consult Room system that doubles as the Staffs' internet kiosk), the malware will broadcast over the network looking other machines that are vulnerable. Any system without antivirus software that it can contact is gravy.

So what do you do now? Purchase the necessary number of licenses of NOD32 Antivirus, Business Edition by Eset to cover all of your systems (especially that internet kiosk in the Consult Room).

Coming soon.. Why NOD32 instead of say.. AVG Free Edition. I'm shaking my head already.

06 March 2009

Why, why, why?!?

Seems everyone has an agenda. Me too. If you happen to have a Practice in San Diego and are in need of technical assistance, please feel free to give me a call. Not in the San Diego area, you say? Then I suppose you'll get the benefit of my writings, reviews, and recommendations (like the alliteration?) all for the cost of your internet access. Sorry, nothing's free.

I see Doctors that are technology buffs, a few defunct writings of technology companies that cater to Dentists, but no real resource for matter-of-the-fact questions and answers. As if our profession were some sort of mystery. Don't look behind the curtain! So here I will attempt to answer the questions posed to me day in and day out, provide an independent opinion of hardware and software (no, I am not a reseller of anything other than my time), and add a little flavor to the otherwise bland topic of "computers".

And don't be shocked if you read about a horror story I've encountered in a Dental office that happens to be set up in the same fashion as your office. I have seen the results of more than a few, shall we say, misguided "computer guys". And not just in the Dental industry, so please don't feel you're being picked on.

That said, if you have a question that's really been bugging you but you haven't had anyone to ask, send it along. I'll see what I can do. And I might even post it as a lesson for all other Doctors (without the obvious identifying traits, of course).