Multiple Locations

See Advanced Topics.

Open Dental can be successfully used when multiple locations are involved. Before deciding your strategy, you must determine your needs.

The different options are discussed below:


Virtual Private Network (VPN): In all of the discussions and diagrams below, it is assumed that locations are connected by a VPN. In our diagrams, various network routers and switches are generally omitted for simplicity. Also not included in the diagrams are the shared A to Z Folder. A network administrator is usually involved in setting it up. Open Dental support technicians do not set up network specifics.

Separate Databases

This is the simplest approach for multiple locations.

Figure 1: Each location has its own local server and unique database.

To see data at another location, there are a few options:

Option 1: Use Remote Access to connect to either a server or a workstation at that location. This usually works best if only a few locations are involved.

Figure 2: Remote Access

Option 2: Use the Central Enterprise Management Tool ( CEMT ) to interact with all database from a central location.

Figure 3: CEMT

Single Database - Shared Data

A single centralized database has the advantage of sharing data among locations. However, there can be issues with speed, intermingling of data, and internet down situations.

Consider your options and the advantages/disadvantages of each before making a strategy decision. Also see Connecting Workstations to a Database for more description about each option below.

Option 1: Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)



Figure 4: A single server hosts the database and functions as the RDP server

Figure 5: More servers are added to support a large number of thin clients

Option 2: Direct Connection. A 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. In the diagram below, thick clients connect to the main server via VPN. Thin clients connect via RDP to the RDP server. Only the thick clients run digital radiography hardware and software.

Figure 6: Direct Connection

Option 3: Middle Tier. For better security and speed, all thick clients would connect via the Middle Tier.

Figure 7: Middle Tier

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.

  1. Rent a virtual server on Rackspace (
  2. Set up a VPN connection between the virtual server and all locations.
  3. (optional) Install Open Dental on the virtual server in the ordinary manner.
  4. Turn on Remote Desktop Services.
  5. Connect to the server as described in the examples above.

Figure 8: Private Cloud

Single Virtual Database With Replication

Replication is a technology built into MySQL that continuously keeps a slave database synchronized with its master. Replication has the following advantages when compared to a single physical database:

It also has the following disadvantages:

One-Way Replication: This is the simplest configuration. The slave can be used to run complex reports that would bog down the main server, or for pausing to make clean backups. This is a safe configuration that will not result in corruption. Anyone considering replication is encouraged to run this configuration for a number of months to get very familiar with the administration.

Figure 8: One-Way Replication

Daisy Chain Replication: This is a more complex configuration where the replication forms 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.

Figure 9: Daisy Chain Replication

Removable Storage Devices

If you have two locations, but only access data from one location at a time, you could use a removable storage device to take your data with you. See Encryption of Data at Rest and in Transit for recommendations for protecting data in transit. Examples:

This is not a good strategy to take data home at night for three reasons.

  1. It interferes with a proper Backup/Restore strategy (make a copy of the data and run it at home).
  2. Your staff can't work until you bring the hard drive back to the office.
  3. It's too complicated for most users.

MySQL Clustering

Open Dental will not work in a cluster because many of the tables have rows that are too long.In a MySQL clustering setup, one database can be spread across multiple physical servers. This is a way to increase the speed and reliability of a database at one location. It is not a way to have one database at multiple locations.

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.

Multi-tenant Hosting

If you wish to host multiple customers on the same database server, see Multi-tenant Hosting for isolation information.