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Mini-Class Video: 09/14 Backups

In your office, you may already have a backup system set up, such as Time Machine. While Time Machine and other similar software may be great for backing up your entire hard drive, we still strongly recommend setting up direct MacPractice backups in addition to any others you may have in place. This is due to the fact that Time Machine will make a backup of your backup, more like a snapshot. The best way to ensure that your patient data is backed up in a secure and usable way is directly through MacPractice. A MacPractice backup is also the most efficient way to restore a database, in the unlucky event of something happening to your server computer.

MacPractice recommends setting up a minimum of two automatic backups: one internal and one external. To do this, access your Preferences on the server computer (go to MacPractice on your menu bar in the top-left corner of your screen, and select Preferences, or with MacPractice open and selected, hit Command comma on your keyboard). Next, scroll down and choose Server Backup from the list on the left-hand side. This table in the center will show you all automatic backups you have set up.  The columns will tell you whether or not the backup is enabled, whether it is backing up data only, attachments only, or both, what folder or location it is saving to, the maximum number of backups that will be stored in that location, which days the backup will run, and the time that MacPractice will begin backing up.

To add an additional automatic backup to the list, click the green plus button. To delete one, highlight it and hit the red minus.

By default, you will see a path saving a backup to the MacPracticeBackups folder on your server’s hard drive. I recommend setting a Max number of backups. Most often, I have seen offices set this number between 5 and 25; it is entirely up to you. In this case, when MacPractice is creating it’s 11th backup to this folder, it will delete the first (the oldest one), so that there are always only 10 backups in this folder. Failing to set a maximum number here will result in MacPractice saving backup after backup to your hard drive without ever deleting, which, given enough time and depending on the space available, could cause a full hard drive and a server that moves at the speed of molasses.

Set the dates and times appropriate to your office’s schedule. For instance, let’s say my office is open from 8-5 Monday through Friday. I may tell MacPractice to run a backup on each of those nights, starting at 11 pm, because this is a time that I know for sure that everyone will be logged out of MacPractice and out of the office for the day.

To continue our example set-up, I am now going to add an automatic external backup, setting MacPractice to backup to an external hard drive or disk. I will plug my chosen device into my computer and then hit the green plus button. I will then double click on the new line I just added to choose my backup path. I should be able to find my device under the heading “Devices” to the left. I will highlight this device and click “Open” to select it. Again, I will set a limit to the number of backups stored on this drive, and then I will set the dates and times.

For multiple backups, staggering the times is encouraged. Because my initial backup begins at 11, I want to set the second one to start after the first has finished. If backups are overlapping, it will take them longer to complete. I have now finished setting up my two backups.

If you ever need to create an extra backup manually, that can be done in this same section of preferences as well. Simply click the “Backup” button at the bottom of your screen, choose where you want the backup to go, and click Save Backup. Remember, all other MacPractice terminals should remain logged out while a backup is in progress. You will be unable to work in MacPractice until the backup is complete. Please wait until MacPractice is finished backing up, and do not attempt to Force Quit out of the system. Doing so will cause your backup to fail.

When you have backups running overnight, it’s a good idea to make sure that your server computer is not shutting itself down or going to sleep. If it is, your backup will not be created. Open your System Preferences under the Apple menu to check these settings. They will be under the Energy Saver option. When setting your computer to never sleep or shut down on its own, it’s important to remember that a well-rested computer is a faster worker, just like a human. Personally, I manually shut my computer down every Friday after work by going to the Apple and selecting Shut Down, and I boot it up again when I come in on Monday morning. Find the system that works for you and your schedule, but don’t leave your computer on forever. For further recommendations on computer maintenance and system preferences, consult your IT professional.

You may also want to consider the following when creating a Backup Scheme:

Location: Always store external drives containing backups in a secure location, such as a fireproof safe. Select a location that can be accessed if a backup is needed.

Rotation: For multiple external backups, you may consider rotating the backup media each day your practice is open to reduce the impact of a potential device malfunction. Some offices have two external drives; others have 5 and use a different one for each weekday. Again, this is entirely up to you. But be sure, if you switch between multiple devices, that all external drives have the same name; do not name them MacPractice Backups 1 and MacPractice Backups 2; do not name them Monday Backups and Tuesday Backups. If you do, MacPractice will not recognize the path when you plug in the new drive. Do yourself a favor: keep it simple; keep all names the same.

Retention: Retain the backups on an external device or burn a backup disc. Retain at least one backup from the following time periods:

  • The last 2 business weeks or 10 business days
  • The end of every month
  • The end of every quarter
  • The end of the fiscal year

Move these backups into another folder so that the “Max Backup” setting does not delete them.

Destruction: If you are needing to dispose of an external backup disk, destroy it first.

Encryption: Encrypting a backup can add to its security. However, the backup can never be restored without the encryption password and not even MacPractice Support can bypass encryption security. Always securely store this password in case it is forgotten. It is very useless and frustrating to have your computer crash, and your MacPractice data save in a backup, but you can’t get to it because of the password you forgot. Don’t let this happen to you.

To verify that your backups are valid and complete, run the Backups report in the Management folder of the Reports ability of MacPractice. Input your date range and hit Apply. This report will give the date and time of the backup, whether it was manual or automatic, its size, where it is located, and most importantly, if it succeeded or failed. If you run this report and you find that your backups are failing, contact MacPractice Support right away so that they can look into the issue with you and get it resolved.

As we near the end of the year, and you attend all of the mini classes on recommended reports, etc, it is a good idea to copy your final backup of the year, label it, and save it for your records, in the case of a future audit in your office, or if you ever need to restore your old data in the future in order to re-run a report.



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