Data Management

Step Up Standards to Fend Off File-Management Disasters

21 Apr, 2020 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: In the age of CAD Management 3.0, are you struggling with a patchwork of legacy and modern file-management systems? Start improving your situation by considering your company environment.

In the previous edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I began the conversation about standards in the age of CAD Management 3.0 by exploring the psychology of standards. (If you didn’t get a chance to read that yet, you may want to do so now so you’ll have proper context for this edition.)

I’ve found that it is human nature to avoid being standardized, so I firmly believe that every standards program needs a good psychological approach. Here, I’ll start exploring exactly what to standardize, so you can approach standards in the manner most likely to encourage compliance from your users and yield success. Here goes.


Start Out Basic — Really Basic

What do I mean by really basic CAD standards? Filing standards! If you don’t have standards for the most basic CAD management problem of all — keeping your design files controlled and safe — then not much else really matters, right? Consider the following aspects of filing standards:

  • File locations. Where do your files reside, and how can others gain access to them?
  • File permissions. Who can revise files, delete files, and add documents to projects?
  • File logging. How do you maintain records of what changed, who changed it, and when?
  • File backups. How can you recover after incidents of human error or system failure?

Of course, the answers to these questions can vary tremendously, but perhaps the most important thing to consider is the type of company environment you operate in, as it will always dictate how problems are dealt with. Consider the following types of environments:

  • The Basic Company (CAD Management 1.0). Files are stored on network volumes with security, and backups controlled by permissions and automatic backup tools where logging of file revisions is largely done manually.
  • The Multilocation Company (CAD Management 2.0). Files are stored in some kind of document control tool or master synchronized set of folders that keeps track of versions and access, with backups performed by IT.
  • The Cloud Company (CAD Management 3.0 and beyond). Files are stored in a remote cloud architecture, with security assigned on a per-user basis in the cloud tool itself, and backups are created in the cloud tool as well.
  • The “All of the Above” Company (the anarchy that most of us deal with). Files are stored in a variety of legacy and modern systems, with a patchwork of security methods that is partially administered by IT, but supported primarily by a stressed CAD manager.

My experience in the age of CAD Management 3.0 is that most of us work in All of the Above companies; how would you describe your environment?

Management tip: Only by knowing what you need to manage, and what type of company you’re in, can you possibly develop basic filing standards that will work. If you skip this step, you’ll continue to experience basic problems such as lost files, lost revisions, and branch office mayhem.

Where Does Disaster Lurk?

So where could it all go wrong? How could files be lost? How could revisions be confused? How could unauthorized users gain access to design files? The list of potential disasters is long — and daunting for CAD managers. And while we can never foresee every possible scenario that could emerge, experience has taught me where to look first. Consider the following, based on the company types listed above:

The Basic Company. Disaster in this company usually comes from users making unauthorized copies of files — which is easy, because they have network access — without telling anyone else. As projects near completion, these rogue files have to be reintegrated into the master network project structure, and it then becomes obvious that parallel revisions have been made and work has been lost. The core cause of error in this company environment really is lack of communication between team members.

The Multilocation Company. Here, disaster is typically brought on as users deem the centrally controlled system too slow, too bureaucratic, and too stifling to easily work within, so they try to “work around” the system. These efforts can result in file copying that is actually worse than the basic case above, because when there are more locations, it’s more difficult to keep tabs on users.

The Cloud Company. In this type of company, disaster typically lurks in one of two areas: How the cloud application was set up (from a user-permissions point of view), and updates to the tool that happen at the cloud vendor without your knowledge. Most of these platforms are relatively new, so there isn’t a huge database of resources online to assist in debugging, and there’s almost no way to know when an application update has happened that could cause problems. Of the three scenarios above, this one scares me the most.

The All of the Above Company. Disaster is waiting around every corner in this company, because there is such a diverse environment to oversee.

Where to Start?

In all these company types, it’s worth pointing out to users that filing standards and procedures are the only thing that prevents data loss. So if someone doesn’t want to follow the standards, then they are risking data loss — and that’s not a good position to be in.

Strategy: Make sure everyone knows what the standards are, and strongly challenge anyone who violates them. There’s really no room for negotiation with these basic standards, so don’t budge on enforcement!

For remote-office teams or those using synchronizing systems, the challenge for you is to make sure those systems are working properly, quickly, and productively, so users don’t attempt to go outside the system.

Strategy: Ask your trusted power users how well the systems work, and tell them to speak plainly. It is far better to hear the truth you don’t like today than to preside over a filing disaster later. Bring in IT or any other parties required to make changes, and if the systems truly don’t function smoothly, start exploring alternatives. Listen, listen, listen.

For cloud applications, you need to spend time on the tools yourself and you must poll your trusted power users. Keep your eyes open and really look for “gotchas” or things that could be exploited, paying particular attention to mobile apps that reside on tablets/phones and could download files, resulting in lost version control.

Strategy: When it comes to cloud systems — particularly those that are new — it really pays to be paranoid and assume the worst. Test, test, test, and test again until you know your files are secure. Also be sure to verify how data can be archived from the system, just in case the cloud vendor suffers data loss or service interruption.

Summing Up

Now that you’re up to date on your filing standards and have explored the disaster scenarios that could cause problems, you’re ready to proceed to higher-level standards. And that’s the topic we’ll discuss in the next edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter. Until next time.


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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