Advocate for Internet Access for CAD Tools25 Mar, 2014 By: Robert Green
Are you battling with your IT department over a necessary resource? As CAD software becomes increasingly Internet-enabled, these conflicts are intensifying — so it’s time to start talking.
I recently received a letter from a CAD/building information modeling (BIM) manager who is having serious problems performing his job because of the actions of his company's IT department. I know that IT issues are a day-to-day frustration for many CAD managers, but this particular letter made me realize that the growing impact of IT on CAD poses an imminent threat — one we all must address.
In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll explore this issue and give you some talking points to start a conversation with your IT leadership so you can be ready for these problems, rather than be victimized by them. Here goes.
CAD Is No Longer an Island
Like it or not, our CAD users are becoming more and more dependent on tools that reside outside our company's internal network. The types of systems we use may vary, but they typically include the following:
- FTP access sites for file uploading and downloading.
- Remote access of workstations for technical support.
- Remote log-on sessions to run compute-intensive tasks, such as rendering or analysis, on powerful remote workstations.
- Enterprise data management (EDM) and product data management (PDM) systems for CAD/BIM models and files.
- Cloud-based services on vendor-supplied servers.
Whether you use one, several, or all of these Internet-based resources in your day-to-day CAD system, the fact remains that using CAD is no longer something that you alone can control. And when you must reach out over the Internet to complete your CAD tasks, IT becomes a crucial part of your workflow.
What challenges have IT departments had to deal with in recent years as Internet resources have become more and more common? We can loosely categorize them:
- Recreational use (games, Facebook, etc.).
- High-bandwidth streaming media (Pandora, YouTube, Netflix, etc.).
- Malware/virus threats embedded in ordinary web sites.
As users have become more involved with Internet tools, they've tried to bring them into the office. IT departments have had to respond to the above threats for the following reasons, respectively:
- To stop non-business use of company resources.
- To preserve network bandwidth for critical work processes.
- To limit exposure to threats that could disrupt company systems.
From the IT department's point of view, the easiest way to mitigate these problems is to simply shut off access to most web sites, or even to ban Internet access altogether. I can understand this strategy, because IT's number-one job is to secure the network — and they feel they can never be too careful.
Another big problem IT faces is that security threats, which prompt most IT blocking of Internet resources, are constantly evolving. This means that IT departments change policies and procedures all the time, and may block resources without CAD managers even knowing it.