Lessons Learned from Hurricane Harvey

Posted on Apr 20, 2018

I attended a wonderful online meeting today through The Bridge Club

 

They had Ryan Buck, CEO of Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialist.  On August 27th, 2017 they were severely impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Houston Texas.  They had seen minor flooding in the past but this particular flood was the worst they have ever experienced.   Instead of an inch or two of water they had water all the way up to two floors that was very turbulent acting like a washing machine.

 

239 employees were displaced during this event, 90% of the hospital was gone and they were reduced from 60,000 square feet of space to 6,000 square feet of temporary space to get their business back and functional.  It was a total loss!

 

Their Servers were also under water, including their Practice Management Software and Email systems.  It took 2 Weeks to recover these systems. They were not able to roll back to the exact time of the flooding but seemed to be able to recover as best as they could.  He mentioned that this prompted reviews of technology and changes they will be making including migration to new practice management system and other solutions.  Ryan also mentioned since they didn’t have a Practice Management system running they most likely missed billing opportunities which also related to more loss of revenue during this outage.

 

The following are my thoughts and notes on how best to assure your clinic or hospital stays protected a disaster like this. (Fire, Flood or Theft).  Ryan mentioned since email was down communication was difficult but key.  They used GroupMe app to get communication flowing as their email system was underwater.  We highly recommend cloud based email and communication systems as this prevents having on site systems and recovery is not needed as big companies like Microsoft Office 365 has the redundancy built into their platform to allow communication even if your business is offline.

 

Cloud technology is the key to assuring quick recovery of Practice Management Systems.  If you run Practice Management Software on your own server, that server has to be protected with hourly backups with hourly offsite replication.  We promote and advise this as the best form of Business Continuity.   It’s not however how often you are backing up, but more important of how quickly you can get back up and running.  So a quick cloud recovery is highly recommended and what we promote to all of our clients that run their own practice management system in-house.

 

Don’t assume your current cloud backups will provide quick recovery.  The Cloud backups that the Practice Management Software companies typically sell don’t come with a quick recovery option. It is just data only and will take quite a bit of time to get it downloaded from the cloud back and running on a system you can access.  Yes it does protect the data, but as Ryan stated it may take two weeks to get systems back and operational if it is just data only.   Our cloud backups allow instant virtualization of your practice management system and in Ryan’s case would have had access to his Practice Management systems in 4-8 hours vs 14 Days.

 

Moving away from  servers running inside your practice should be your long term strategy.  If you are in a position where your servers are old and in need of upgrading, we highly encourage you to consider moving your servers to the cloud.  Keep your current practice management software as you know it and it can be converted 100% successfully to the cloud.   That way if disaster strikes you have immediate access through any internet connected computer or device.  In Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialist’s flooding example they would have just needed simple internet access and all their patient records would have been accessible, up to the minutes of when disaster strikes.

 

Buying servers is confusing and expensive.  In most cases the servers that are running a practice are not setup correctly nor do they have the redundancy needed to protect them from downtime.   And then the management of that server, from the 100’s of IT Assessments we have done, are not completed correctly as well.  Watching over and monitoring the server, assuring the firmware and drivers are up to date, and most important assuring local plus cloud backups are occurring are often not done.  When it is done it is very expensive to have someone watch and do for you.  And in many cases clinics and hospitals are paying for monitoring services and we find major issues like failed hard drives, no backups running etc.  Migration to the cloud removes all these risks!

 

If you feel it’s time to review your systems and setup please contact Joseph Axne, owner of IT-Guru.  We specialize in cloud hosting and are migrating more and more customers from expensive on site servers to cloud servers with great success.  It is fully supported by the software companies as we are following their system requirements and no different than running inside your office.  It is much safer than hosting it at your office and only requires simple internet connection.  We have ways to even provide redundant internet access to assure you can always get to your systems.  Contact us for a Cloud Readiness Assessment where we can review your current environment and review and address any issues that would prevent you from going to the cloud.

 

The lessons learned from Ryan and Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists are important for this industry to review and understand. And remember disaster strikes in many different ways.  Flooding, Tornadoes, Fire, Theft, Human Error, etc.  We have seen flooding occur due to fire suppression systems so it can happen. Stay protected, assure your business can recover, but recover fast is the key!

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