CAD Manager's Newsletter (#434)

8 Oct, 2019 By: Robert Green

Is Your Data Management Strategy in Sync with CAD Needs?

Do your users rely on free file-hosting services like OneDrive or Dropbox to sync their files? It's time to get educated about the requirements — and real risks — of this approach.

I recently received a question from a CAD manager asking for my opinion on how to deal with CAD/BIM users saving their work in file-hosting services such as OneDrive or Dropbox. My immediate reply to her was to run away from these options as fast as she could, and embrace true data management control instead. But upon further discussion, I realized I needed to address multiple data management concepts and justify my fear of using this type of tool as a poor man's data-control scheme.

In hopes of helping the many CAD managers who are struggling with data management issues, I'll share with you a distilled version of our conversation on the topic. Here goes.

The Elements of Data Control

Whether you're dealing with CAD files, building information modeling (BIM) models, spreadsheets, or PDF files, the basic mechanics of managing files are the same. They include the following:

Data security. The surety that files won't disappear, be accidentally overwritten, or vanish into a cloud-based black hole.

Simple, dependable revision control. The ability to trace the development of a file over its lifetime. What did a drawing look like at Rev 1, Rev 2, etc.? Can you reliably get back to an old revision if you need to?

Mechanical/BIM/Civil revision control. Similar to the revision control issue above, but more complicated. These software tools have complex interfile relationships such as parts in assemblies, coordinated systems inside buildings, point clouds and surfaces along with in-ground infrastructure, etc. Change a part, and the assembly and drawings change; change a building size, and the HVAC ducting has to change. Can you keep track of all these relationships and revisions?

Parallel revisioning. This refers to the possibility that two people — usually in different branch offices — may be editing the same file at the same time. This "whoever saves last wins" work management methodology creates uncertainty at best, and rework in most cases.

WAN topologies. Wide-area networks (WANs) allow work teams all over the country (or world) to share files and work responsibilities, which only amplifies the types of problems already outlined. To make matters worse, WANs can be very slow, making an already difficult coordination project unbearable when large files take many minutes to load/update over slow WAN connections.

Ever wonder why it is so hard to control project files? It's because there are many things to keep track of — and many ways to lose track of key data. In short, data management is difficult because so many things can happen that allow errors to creep into the process.

Sync Architecture

Before we dive into what syncing files really means, let's take a few moments to define the basics. Imagine that you have a desktop machine and a laptop that you'd like to keep perfectly in sync, with all your files exactly the same on both machines. This is the architecture that programs such as OneDrive and Dropbox create so that you can edit a file on either of your machines and those changes will be replicated — or synced — to the other machine. The key things to recognize about this data synchronization architecture are:

A solid Internet connection is required for both machines. In addition, the speed of that connection is important because it controls how quickly changes can be synced between the machines.

Offline machines put syncing on hold. If you take your laptop on a trip to a remote job site with no Internet coverage, then the changes you make can't be synced to your desktop machine until your laptop hooks up to the Internet.

Data loss can happen very easily. What if your laptop gets stolen while you're visiting that job site?

Read more »

Tools and Resources

SOLIDWORKS Offers Free Trial of Visualize
A free trial of SOLIDWORKS Visualize Professional is now available to site visitors who register. Visualize helps users apply their 3D CAD data to create images, animations, interactive web content, and virtual reality. Added features include configurations, 360-degree VR renders, camera filters, and more. The trial will run in the browser, on any device, the company reports, including Mac computers.

AU Registration Discount Available through October 13
Autodesk University (AU), a conference for users of AutoCAD and other Autodesk software applications, will be held November 19–21 this year in Las Vegas, Nevada. The full conference pass is currently available for $1,750; on October 14, the price will increase by $425.

What's New at

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This webinar and supporting materials are now available for viewing and download. Read more »

nTopology Advocates Repeatable 'Recipes' Instead of One-Off Part Creation — Part 2
Offering more than modeling and analysis, the nTop Platform is also an authoring environment for repeatable engineering workflows — because 'nobody should have to do things twice.' Read more »

Sponsored: Cloud Engineering Software — More Than Engineering Software on the Cloud
From Siemens PLM: Cloud software applications can simply replace on-premises infrastructure, or they can add more value by leveraging special cloud computing characteristics to deliver previously difficult — or impossible — solutions. Read more »

Sponsored: Apex Structural Design Creates Spectacular Suspension Bridge with Tekla Structures Software
From Trimble: Winner of the 2019 Tekla BIM Award for Small Projects, the Whistler Skybridge is a vertigo-inducing pedestrian path made possible by accurate design — and a helicopter. Read more »

ThingWorx 8.5 Simplifies Multi-Site Deployment of IIoT Solutions
Latest version of PTC's industrial IoT (IIoT) platform also features tighter integration with Microsoft Azure cloud computing services. Read more »

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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