You’re Missing Something Important… (…in your backup)

Steve McEvoy, Technology Consultant


The first thing I check when I start to work with a new Practice is their backup. Most Practices have something in place, but more often than not I find the single most important piece of data is being missed – the Practice Management Database. Imagine if your Server crashed and you had to use your backup to recover all your precious data, and at the end of the recovery your IT person explains “There you go, it’s all restored – oh – except for your Practice management data that is lost forever!” Your Practice would be severely impacted and the financial loss would be enormous. Taking 4 minutes to read the rest of this article and then pass it along to your IT person.

The Challenge
Most backup routines merely come along and make duplicate copies of files sitting on your hard drive. Imagine creating a Microsoft Word document. First create a new blank Word document and save it to your desktop. Open it, type a few new paragraphs, but you leave it open and don’t save it to the hard drive. If you run the backup right now, the backup will catch the new empty document that is saved and completely misses the newer data still in memory (but not saved to disk yet).

Many Practice Management programs (such as Dolphin, Orthotrac and Ortho2 for example – listed alphabetically) use a sophisticated database called Microsoft SQL Server. Backing up SQL Server needs a special technique. Just like in the Word document example, SQL Server is always open and keeps the latest changes to your information in memory or log files. If you just come along and ‘copy’ the database files you won’t have anything useful to recover with (bad news!). This is usually what I find is happening, people are running backups but aren’t realizing they need to take extra steps to backup the SQL database.

The Solution
The Practice Management companies know about the challenge and all of them have documented solutions for you to follow. The problem is who actually reads the manuals? This is a case where you (or your IT person) needs to. Ask your IT person directly “Are you properly backing up the Microsoft SQL Server database that my program uses?” If they don’t know for sure the answer is ‘yes’, the simple solution is to ask them to call the support team of your Practice Management Software company and ask for a little advice. They will have a solution:

  • Dolphin has a ‘Safe Backup’ solution that can run automatically as part of your end of day or end of month
  • Orthotrac has a database backup routine that can be set to run automatically and keeps copies of the database for each day of the week.
  • Ortho2 has a database backup application that can be setup to run as often as you like.

You’ll notice in my descriptions there are a lot of ‘cans’. You have to be sure these are setup and working. Make sure the backup files that these routines make are then swept up in your routine file copy backups. In a crisis, these backup files can be recovered from your regular backup and then the SQL database can be restored.

Final Thoughts
If you use a Cloud based Practice Management you don’t have to worry, they are doing it for you. If you use an Internet Backup the same problem can exist. Many Internet backup companies like and don’t normally backup SQL databases, so you should check this out since your SQL database is your most important piece of data worth backing up. Personally I would recommend you take an extra step – make your own SQL database backup in addition to the one you configure with the Practice Management Software. Microsoft SQL Server includes the ability to schedule SQL backup jobs on its own, and I would recommend that you setup two backups (one at noon, one in the evening). Two backups are better than one!


One thought on “You’re Missing Something Important… (…in your backup)”

  1. Just a heads up, Carbonites standard plans dont backup SQL databases as you said, however there Buisness Server plan does have an option for SQL databases

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