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Precautions against the practice computer crashing

You can't prevent IT crashes but you can prepare for them, writes Dr John Couch

You can't prevent IT crashes but you can prepare for them, writes Dr John Couch

Q Our practice computer has crashed twice recently. It really messed us up both times. I seem to recall an excellent piece in Pulse not long ago giving chapter and verse on precautions one can take against this sort of thing. Can you remind me?

A We should all review our processes for rebooting and restoring our servers regularly. It is important not to become too reliant on one or two staff members, as inevitably there will be crashes when these people are not there.

Ideally any team member should be trained to do a simple reboot with hands-on practice.

There should also be a printed action list, prominently displayed near the server. Include your software provider's action lines. These mostly open early; Emis starts at 7.30am, for example.

These action lines can restore the system remotely and also like to be informed if you have regular crashes so that the reasons can be explored. Make sure you keep them posted on a regular basis.

About two-and-a-half years ago, ownership of all new hardware passed to the PCT, provided they had paid for it. Most current systems are therefore owned partly by the practice (old hardware) and partly by the PCT (the new kit). Do you know who owns what in your practice? If not, find out – it is important for accounting and also for insurance purposes. Strictly speaking, the PCT should insure its own property, so check whether your PCT actually does so.

To get maximum benefit from your system, ensure your IT training is top quality. Use any PCT resources that are available for free. Also use in-house experts and software user groups.

A quality review will usually reveal some staff members who are making ineffective or incorrect use of IT. You must monitor all the team, including partners, regularly. Also ensure that all computer users are shutting programs and closing down computers correctly as this is a common cause of network crashes and backup problems.

To sum up

• Review on a regular basis your processes for rebooting and restoring servers.

• Train as many team members as possible to reboot the computers.

• Have a printed action list on what to do if a computer crashes.

• Make sure everyone knows how to contact your computer provider's helplines.

• Find out who owns the computer hardware – the practice or the PCT?

• Ensure the whole practice's IT training is top quality.

Dr John Couch is a GP in Ashford, Middlesex

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