Open Dental is useful for multiple location scenarios as described below. Also see the Remote Access page for information on accessing data from outside your office.
1. Direct Connection: Workstations connect directly to the MySQL database using ServerName, DataBase, MySqlUser, and MySqlPassword, which are all specified at the top of the Choose Database window. This is very fast in a LAN, but is generally sluggish on a VPN due to the large number of database calls. Some internet connections are getting fast enough to allow this sort of direct connection on a VPN, but it's something that simply has to be tested to know if the speed is going to be acceptable. Even if the speed is annoyingly slow, it can still be a temporary solution.
2. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP): Other names for similar technology include Terminal Services, Citrix XenApp, application virtualization, LogMeIn, RemoteApp, GoToMyPC, VNC, VMware, etc. Each workstation acts as a thin client, with multiple copies of Open Dental running on the server. We have many offices using RDP successfully. Open Dental is specifically designed to run well in this environment. There are two example configurations below, one for a smaller office, and one representing a typical larger enterprise.
3. Middle Tier: The workstations are ordinary thick clients running the full Windows version of Open Dental. The Middle Tier is a server program that sits between the database and the client machines. It isolates the database, improving security by preventing client workstations from directly accessing the database. This is very fast in a LAN, but is sluggish on a VPN. There are two example configurations below, one for a smaller office, and one representing a typical larger enterprise.
Strategies for Multiple Locations
Setup a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
The simplest solution for seeing data at another location is to Remote Connect to either a server or a workstation at that location. This usually works best if only a few locations are involved.
When more locations are involved, our Central Enterprise Management Tool can help manage the multiple databases. There are also other tools available which can coalesce data from multiple databases for complex reporting. A good example is MS Access. It would be up to the user to select and learn how to use such reporting tools.
One Central Database
With one central database, the best speeds will be achieved with an RDP solution. This scales up well as long as there is plenty of memory on the server. As a very rough estimate, 5 remote connections can be supported per 1 GB of memory. In this example, a single server hosts the database as well as functioning as the RDP server.
More servers can be added to support a large number of thin clients.
One disadvantage of RDP is that it does not support some local hardware such as digital radiography. So, on workstations where images are being captured, a full direct connection may be needed.
Or, for better security, all thick clients would be connected via the Middle Tier.
Another complication of RDP is how to handle the Bridges to Imaging Programs. If the imaging program can be run on Remote Desktop Service (RDS), then any of the thin clients can easily view existing images. If the imaging program does not support RDS, then most workstations may need to be thick clients in order to view images in the imaging program.
Private Cloud: Any of the configurations above could also be done with the server(s) in a datacenter rather than at a dental office. For example, a simple configuration could be done as follows:
One Virtual Database With Replication
In the simplest configuration, the slave can be useful as a hot backup, running complex reports that would bog down the main server, or for pausing to make clean backups. Anyone considering replication is encouraged to run this configuration for a number of months to get very familiar with the administration. This is a very safe configuration that will not result in corruption.
In a more complex configuration, the replication can form a ring. All the databases together are referred to as a single virtual database. In this configuration, each location can continue to function normally even if the internet connection goes down. The data from the other locations will not be fresh, but an office typically doesn't care as much about that data. Once the internet connection is restored, the replication quickly updates the database with current data. This kind of replication is supported very well by Open Dental as described in great detail on the Replication page.
External Hard Drive
A Windows cluster is different. We have seen Open Dental work in a Windows cluster setup, although we cannot currently provide technical support to assist with such a configuration.
Open Dental Software 1-503-363-5432