Autodesk 360: CAD on the Cloud

29 Nov, 2012 By: Lynn Allen

Circles and Lines Tutorial: New web-based services and computing power can take your productivity to a higher place.

It is all about the cloud these days — everywhere you turn. But do you really know clouds at all? What does the concept mean to you? Let's see if I can't clear up some of the cloudiness that surrounds this topic!

Cloud History

It's believed that in 1961, John McCarthy — a professor at Stanford University, the father of artificial intelligence, and the developer of the LISP programming language — was the first to predict that we would access software as we do our utilities: over a network. (Did you know that the early telephony network was referred to as a cloud?) We plug into the utility network when we need the service, and unplug when we don't. Typically, we pay according to what we use.

Imagine never installing any software; we would just launch our Internet browser, log on, and access the software from there. And wouldn't it be great if we could simply pay as we go? Perhaps that doesn't make sense for the products we use daily, but we all have software that we use only occasionally, and with the cloud, the option would be there.

We've all used cloud programs at some point. If you pay your bills online, that's a cloud application. Have you posted your photographs on a web site that lets you store, print, and share those photos with others? That's also a cloud application. You're tapping into these tools without downloading a single line of code to your computer. So, whether you know it or not, you're quite cloud-savvy!

Autodesk 360 Cloud Services

Autodesk is one company that has wholeheartedly embraced the concept of running professional software on the cloud. Autodesk 360 is the name of a suite of applications (many of which are free) available to everyone. Services include everything from storage for your design files to energy analysis and simulation programs. You'll even find a subset of cloud offerings specific to building information modeling, called BIM 360. Autodesk 360 makes it easy to share your design files with anyone, even if they don't have the corresponding Autodesk design software.

The cloud also offers access to server farms that deliver virtually limitless computing power. You're no longer stuck with the hardware your boss has decided is adequate! When would this kind of computing power come in handy? Whenever you're performing some of the more memory-intensive tasks, such as rendering or design analysis. Nothing can bring your computer to its knees — if computers have knees — like rendering. This task can take hours, days, or even weeks to accomplish — and good luck using your computer for other tasks during that time! It may be too slow to even check e-mail! Using the cloud, however, you can provide the information needed to generate a rendering, then let all those servers crunch away at lightning speed while you continue to do other work on your own computer. When the render is complete, you will receive an e-mail with a link to the finished rendering. All this occurs in a fraction of the usual time; what took 24 hours in the past might take less than 24 minutes via the cloud.

The basic Autodesk 360 offering includes 3 GB of storage, or 25 GB per seat if you're on subscription. Most Autodesk 2013 products provide access to Autodesk 360 from within the software (figure 1). It's easy to upload files of any kind — you're not limited to Autodesk product files — from within your Autodesk software or via (figure 2).


Figure 1. From most Autodesk 2013 products, access Autodesk 360 from the Online tab of the ribbon.
Figure 1. From most Autodesk 2013 products, access Autodesk 360 from the Online tab of the ribbon.



Figure 2. You can also upload files via the Autodesk 360 web site.
Figure 2. You can also upload files via the Autodesk 360 web site.

You can organize your files into project folders and easily view and share your files. Set up your Autodesk software to automatically save your files both locally and on Autodesk 360 so you can access them from any location that has Internet access.

Accessing Autodesk 360 from inside AutoCAD, for example, is easy. Simply select the Online tab on the ribbon and you'll find Autodesk 360 right there. You'll also find access to Autodesk 360 from inside any AutoCAD file dialog box.

AutoCAD's Options dialog box contains a new Online tab so you can control your cloud storage setup. Here you can specify whether or not you want your AutoCAD files synced automatically with your Autodesk 360 account (figure 3).


Figure 3. Set up your Autodesk software to automatically save files to the cloud.
Figure 3. Set up your Autodesk software to automatically save files to the cloud.


A Word about File Security

Let's look at clouds from the other side now. What's the biggest cloud-related fear? Security! Are your files safe?

Absolutely! Autodesk uses the same technology as is used for online banking — and I like to think my bank is secure! With such an investment in the future of cloud technology, Autodesk can't afford to expose your files to any risk. The same is true for all the big cloud providers. Rest assured, your files are safe.

OS on the Cloud

Think of the cloud as just another operating system. You can run software on Microsoft Windows, on the Apple iOS, and now across the Internet. Add the power of cloud computing, and you're opening the door to a wealth of possibilities. Don't let clouds get in your way; tap their power to make your work life easier. Check out Autodesk 360 for yourself.

Until next month — happy AutoCAD-ing! (Or is it Auto-cloud-ing?)

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Lynn Allen

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