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23 August 2010
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Q. What is the best way to ensure we have a backup of our patient data?

A. The answer to this question has changed over time, as online backup services become available and as broadband internet access spreads throughout the country. A patient once described me as a 'belt and braces' person, so with that in mind, here is my advice.

I recommend having both local and online backup. Ask your hardware provider to set up a local backup system using swappable hard drives. Ensure the hardware provider talks to your GP software company so that they know what files need to be backed up. Contract your hardware provider to review the backup system twice a year and check that it works. This should include a test restore to demonstrate to you that all the data and patient records are indeed retrievable.

At the same time, contract an online backup company to back up your data over the internet each day. This ensures you have an off site backup. Having both systems gives you resilience. If you have a fire or flood in the practice you have the online backup service. If the online backup service company goes out of business or there is a problem with internet access, you have the local backup.

The data is vitally important and is impossible to replicate. I think having it in your hand is a real advantage. How much does this cost, you may ask? Well, it is not cheap. But how much is your data worth? If you had to do the next surgery or the next month of surgeries with no electronic records, how would you cope? How much is that worth to you?