Understanding the Difference Between Cloud-Based and Server-Based PIMS
Veterinary Technology Nov 2, 2022

Understanding the Difference Between Cloud-Based and Server-Based PIMS

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Shopping for new practice information management software (PIMS) involves many questions: What are you hoping to achieve with the transition? Do you understand all of the fees and subscriptions? Who’s going to be involved in making the decision? (And that’s to start!) You also need to choose between cloud-based or server-based software.

And that means understanding the benefits and downfalls of each option. (BEFORE you start negotiating with the company)

Both supply data storage. But how they organize, access, and back up your files is vastly different. And the functionality they offer isn’t the same, either. So before you roll the dice and decide one is as good as the other, let’s look at what you can expect from these veterinary software options.

What does the average cloud-based PIMS clinic look like?

Cloud veterinary software is also known as web-based veterinary software. And that’s because it’s accessed via the internet. This makes it ideal for newer clinics looking to handle basic daily operations:

  • Record storage
  • Appointment and health service reminders
  • Patient invoicing

The practice is in an area with high-speed internet access (don’t want to worry about a sudden drop in signal at check-out). Or it’s a mobile practice that springs for a hot spot to accompany the tablet the veterinarian takes into the field.

What about a server-based PIMS clinic?

Server-based veterinary software is more familiar; it’s the standby prevalently used for the past few decades. Rather than starting with the internet, everything relies on a physical server installed on-site. This makes the server PIMS ideal for multi-doctor clinics handling a variety of specialties in one or more locations. And with all of those demands, they have additional functionalities:

  • Radiology
  • Ultrasound
  • Lab work

The management team has a 10- or 30-year plan for growth in place. And that server’s flexibility is ready to upgrade and move with the practice—no matter what their goals look like.

The run-down on cloud PIMS

Now, does a dependence on a solid internet connection preclude a multi-doctor practice from investing in cloud-based practice information management software? Not necessarily. The technology has appeal and is gaining in popularity. But it’s essential to understand the ins and outs of the cloud before you sign on the dotted line. Because while it’s the latest PIMS to hit the market, it DOES have some shortcomings.

Pros of cloud-based PIMS

Web-based technology allows clinics to access their data from any device: desktops, laptops, tablets, and even phones. This frees up your practice to offer mobile opportunities it may not have been able to entertain previously. And with data backed up at regular intervals, there’s no need to worry about losing information as you travel.

Cloud-based PIMS handle all of the ins and outs of data management FOR you. So you never need to worry about arranging for maintenance. And you won’t lose work time while these functions are carried out in the background. Even updates to the system happen while you work. And if you decide to transition from one veterinary software company within the cloud to another, there’s less downtime as your data shifts online.

Cons of cloud-based PIMS

As anyone knows who’s attempted to upload a document to the internet, signals can become unreliable. You’ll struggle with even basic functions if you don’t have good connectivity for your PIMS. (And everyone knows how clients feel when they can’t check in or out)

Downtime is also a consideration. Routine maintenance, upgrades, and software glitches necessitate a program shut-down while maintenance is performed. During that period, you won’t have access to records, or any of the functions of your veterinary software. However, downtimes are usually performed during early mornings or late nights to avoid any likelihood of this conflict. Companies aim for 99.9% uptime, which is pretty standard and reasonable in order to keep the PIMS in tip-top shape. If you’re a 24-hour clinic, this may be a consideration for you to take in and work out with your cloud-based PIMS provider.

You pay as you use services versus a single set cost, and there are additional fees for every extra service you choose to add. This allows an “ala carte” version of practice information management software. But it can quickly accumulate as you incorporate more and more offerings.

The overview of server PIMS

Server-based practice information management software continues to retain a foothold in the field because of its functionality. And—to be honest—its familiarity. But that doesn’t mean “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If the server routine isn’t working for your practice, you may want to consider a change. Because there are good and bad details with the server PIMS, too.

Pros of server-based PIMS

The price tag on server-based PIMS often causes clinics to wince. However, that cost includes the installation, annual subscription, and ALL attendant services. You don’t need to worry about a separate fee if you decide you want to include text messaging or online scheduling. Everything comes as a complete package.

All of those services translate into greater functionality. The server is compatible with a broader range of hardware and software, allowing your clinic to grow and expand into additional services. And the company is on hand to help you integrate those programs and equipment during the installation process, taking the worry off your plate.

Cons of server-based PIMS

The server lives on-site. And that means additional bills for electricity and maintenance. You’ll also need to coordinate a schedule with the company to handle routine backups to secure your data (unless you have someone on staff comfortable with the process). And if anything happens to your physical location, you risk losing that valuable information.

Because of the physical location of your data, you can’t automatically share your information with outside locations. This confines your workflow to the people and clinics with access to the server. So any reports or files completed by staff at home or in a satellite location will need to be uploaded instead of automatically downloading to the server.

What else do you need to know when shopping for a new PIMS?

There’s no “right” or “wrong” answer when choosing a PIMS. Cloud-based software works for some clinics. And certain practices flourish with server-based software. When you start your hunt for new veterinary software, compare, and contrast each to decide what works best for your unique situation.

It’s one of the biggest questions to ask.

And if you’re wondering what else you should consider, check out our new ebook: Considerations When Shopping for Your Clinic’s PIMS. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about this pivotal decision—including the cloud versus server choice!