Find out how to manage CAD and BIM data across your company without losing important information.
October 11, 2023
Data Management for WANs
How to manage CAD and BIM data across your company without losing important information.
I get a good number of questions about how to best manage CAD and BIM data across wide area networks (WANs) to support distributed- and home-based work teams. What continues to surprise me is that the problem has gotten worse over time as data set size and expectations have exploded while Internet speeds have remained static.
In this edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll start to guide you through discovering your WAN needs and talk about how to manage your data, plus offer some possible solutions of how to manage work via WANs. Here goes.
Image source: MR/stock.adobe.com.
What’s Really Required?
Perhaps the best first question in the process is: What should a good WAN data management strategy include? Here, in no particular order, are the key components I’ve come to believe are required.
An enforceable storage, numbering, and revision scheme. This is how you know where the current versions of files are and assure that everyone is on the same page. Whether you use a software application or file folders and manual file naming, the point is to achieve consistency. Note that enforceability (via software tools or management edict) is key — users cannot be allowed to improvise on naming, revising, and storing files!
A file locking mechanism. In cases where multiple team members may need access to the same file, there must be a way to assure that one team member doesn’t write over another team member’s file. There are a variety of software and WAN management tools that can provide file locking, which we’ll explore later.
A data synchronization tool. The only thing better than keeping track of everything is not having to and that’s what data synchronization is. A transparent file service that makes it seem like all the data you need is on your local server even when it isn’t. More on this later.
Durable backup/restore for disaster recovery. This is most likely taken care of by your IT department and includes the ability to store massive amounts of data offsite and then retrieve it rapidly to bulk-restore entire servers, user email accounts, etc. (CAD managers typically need not worry about this unless retrieval times are too long.)
Local project archive storage. These archives contain all data needed to “reload” an old job and work on it again. Archives typically are made at key points in a project timeline (bid, initial submittal, final submittal, as-builts, etc.). The archive data must be locally available to the CAD manager so jobs can be quickly pulled from archive (no waiting two days to download something from the cloud).
Company Size and Topology
Now that we know what to manage, let’s turn our attention to how our company size affects our approach. The first thing to consider for your data management plan is how your company is configured from a topology point of view. The reality is that the farther your offices and workers are from each other, the bigger an IT problem you’re going to have. So, think about which of the following categories your company best fits into:
Smaller company with all data in one server location, with some remote-based and travelling workers.
Medium-size company with a few branch offices and travelling workers.
Large company with many branch offices and travelling workers.
Find out what your company needs to consider when setting up a WAN. And, why CAD users must use one, even when they are tempted to circumvent it.
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