CAD Manager's Newsletter (#411)

7 Aug, 2018 By: Robert Green

The Continuing Value of Local, Customized CAD

Cloud-based CAD is being heavily promoted by software companies, but there are concrete reasons why CAD managers may be better off sticking with locally installed CAD that's tailored to their users' needs.

At the risk of being called a Luddite, I would like to recall the days when we CAD managers installed applications on our users' workstations and customized the software to make it truly fit their needs. With all the current attention being paid to apps for tablets and automatically updated cloud applications, it seems like the old-fashioned notion of locally installed, customized software is being put out to pasture. But should we really be giving up on a paradigm that has served us so well for so long, just because the software companies tell us to?

In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, we'll explore the reasons why I believe the case for locally installed, customized CAD has never been stronger. Here goes.

Image by tashatuvango /
Image by tashatuvango /

A Hypothetical Situation and Two Real Cases

Ask yourself the following question: Would you rather have a three-year-old, locally installed CAD tool that is perfectly customized to your exact needs, or a brand-new cloud-based app that is in no way optimized for your job? When the comparison is phrased like this, the answer is clear, because the more customized to my needs a CAD tool is, the more productive that tool will be for me. The newer, jazzier, slicker cloud-based tool, in contrast, forces me through a new learning curve, and I have to start my customization efforts over again, using different programming languages or application programming interfaces (APIs).

Recently, I worked with a company that switched from an older, heavily customized civil engineering application to a newer building information modeling (BIM)-enabled tool, and struggled mightily with learning curves and lost productivity. I also helped an industrial furniture fabricator enhance its heavily customized AutoCAD 2013 environment to create 3D layouts, renderings, bill of materials (BOM) spreadsheets, and construction details. It seems that it isn't the newness of the CAD tool that predicts productivity, but the degree of thought and customization put into it that determines success.

The Case for Local Software

Though the software companies tell us there's no reason to worry about running software in the cloud or on mobile devices, I've yet to hear good answers to the following questions:

  • How can I work through an Internet outage?
  • How slow will my Internet become with all the new cloud CAD traffic?
  • What happens if a cloud software tool experiences an outage or is hacked?
  • How often will I have to update the mobile apps?
  • How can I be sure all my cloud and mobile data is secured?

Locally installed software has the following advantages:

  • It works even when Internet service is down.
  • It doesn't place bandwidth demands on your Internet pipe.
  • It doesn't depend on a vendor server to run.
  • It can be updated via service packs — or not — as I choose.
  • It can be customized as I see fit, when I see fit.
  • It saves data to my secure servers rather than public-domain cloud servers.

Simply put, locally installed software provides more control, more predictability, less chance of work interruption, and more certainty of security.

The Role of Customization

Customization, if well done, makes your CAD system work in a way that accelerates workflow, but non-customized systems require you to train your users to work around a cumbersome CAD system. It isn't hard to see why customization makes sense. Read more »

Tools and Resources

Cadalyst Publishes Guide to Choosing CPUs for CAD Workstations
When it comes to the options available in workstation-caliber CPUs for CAD professionals, OEMs and users alike are seeing an expanding choice of brands and configurations to choose from. And while that might make for a more challenging shopping exercise, a few simple guidelines can help you narrow choices down quickly and outfit your next CAD machine with an optimal CPU for your workload — at an ever-more-aggressive price point. Workstation expert Alex Herrera provides clarity and guidance with his accessible explanations in this collection of three Herrera on Hardware columns.

What's New at

Herrera on Hardware: CAD Workstation Form Factors 101, Part 4 — New Flavors of Mobile Workstations Diversify the Spectrum
As mobile workstations become ever more popular, the form-factor options buyers have to choose from are expanding to include exotic display types and portability options. Read more »

Cadalyst Publishes Guide to Reality Capture for AEC Projects
Is it time for your firm to get a grip on reality ... reality capture, that is? This downloadable guide will help you get started. Read more »

CAD Manager Column: Assess Your CAD Management Plan
When you're absorbed in the day-to-day challenges of your job, it's easy to miss something important. Taking the time to analyze the various aspects of your work will help you become a better manager. Read more »

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

For Mold Designers! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the mold design professional. Sponsored by Siemens NX.  Visit the Equipped Mold Designer here!

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