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09 September 2014
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Q. Can I use online storage services such as Apple iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive to hold a backup of my electronic patient records?

A. This is an interesting question. More and more we are backing up our own personal information to Apple iCloud, Mozy, Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft One Drive. These cloud services are not suitable for the storage of patient identifiable clinical information. Here is why:

  • The data centres where the data is stored are located outside the EEA (EU members plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein)
  • Apple or other major Cloud providers will not establish a confidentiality contract with you as the data controller.

There are established Irish companies, registered with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, that provide online backup services to GPs. These companies store thedata in the EEA and will provide you with a confidentiality contract. Do a search for 'Online Backup' on the GPIT website at for more information on companies.

The cost of your online backup is related to the size of the data you wish to upload. You can decrease your monthly costs by ensuring your backup files are the optimal size. Commonly, letters and reports are scanned to bigger file sizes than necessary and inflate the data file. Get an IT expert to look at your backup files size.

Consider doing a test restore of your online backup once a year. You don't want to discover that you are missing one crucial backup file when your server hard disk dies, so talk to your online backup provider and arrange a test restore. If your backup file is large, it may be easier for them to provide an external hard drive of your backup so that you can run this against your GP practice software application and ensure all the data is present. It's always a good idea for your GP software vendor and online backup provider to talk to each other to ensure the backup is complete. Your electronic patient data is the lifeblood of your practice. You won't be able to function safely and efficiently without access to all the patient information you and your staff have inputted over the years. Keep the backup data safe and ensure it is up-to-date, complete and functioning.