Cloud-Based CAD — The Predictions and the Reality

8 Jun, 2015 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: A recent survey by the Business Advantage Group highlights the gap between forecasts and real-world adoption rates.

Preliminary Conclusions

Reading between the lines on the above points from the survey, and drawing on my own experiences and conversations with CAD managers, I reached the following conclusions:

Awareness: The CAD companies have done a great job of talking about cloud-based CAD via their promotional channels. CAD users now know what the concept is based on what they've read — but not from actual experience.

Importance: It is clear from the survey data that implementing cloud-based CAD tools simply isn't that high on the CAD user community's priority list. I have to agree with the survey's conclusions in this area.

Perceived benefits: Clearly, as with all business software tool users, CAD users expect to get more mobility and more storage at a lower cost, as compared with their existing tools. When you contrast this "more for less" expectation with the reality of what cloud-based CAD is going to cost, that's where the disconnect starts.

What Is the Cost — and Who Benefits?

Going back to the sessions I taught recently, the discussions we had about cloud-based CAD usage dovetailed with the actual usage numbers I see in this survey. Only about 1 in 20 hands went up when I asked if any of the companies represented in the room were using cloud technology in conjunction with their CAD environments. But it really got interesting when I started asking the following questions and tabulating the common answers:

Q: For your cloud tools, are you currently using cloud-based CAD applications?

A: The answer was a universal no. Not a single CAD manager reported cloud-based CAD application use.

Q. Is anyone sharing building information modeling (BIM) models, 3D models, or anything beyond general documentation when using cloud storage services?

A: The answer here was a very emphatic no! There was a strong feeling that putting highly valuable intellectual property in a cloud environment was very risky from a security perspective.

Q. Why are your companies so hesitant to move to cloud-based CAD tools?

A: The top two answers were along these lines:

  • "Because we're very afraid of getting hacked and losing data."
  • "Because when my software is on the cloud, the software companies can raise the price or stop me from using it if I don't pay an annual fee. With the way it is now, I can keep running my software without those risks."

Bingo! The two things that are not being addressed in all the cloud-based CAD advertising and promotion are the two things that are preventing companies from taking the cloud plunge: security and cost.

Given some of the well-popularized hacking attacks that have occurred in the past few years, you can see why people might feel their data isn't secure on the cloud. It turns out that corporate IT departments are more paranoid than ever about protecting sensitive intellectual property, and rightly so.

And when software you install and run on your own computer — which can keep running for years after your subscription lapses — is replaced with rental software that must be paid for annually and resides on the software company's servers, customers are also right to be concerned about the financial risk/value that cloud-based CAD offers.

I will point out that I'm not just stating my own opinion here; I'm also relaying what I heard in the room.

Summing Up

So, will we start to see huge shifts toward cloud CAD applications in the next three to five years, as the CAD Trends Survey participants suggest, or will we see a much slower adoption rate due to fears about security problems and ongoing costs? My bet is on the latter. What do you think?

Why not download and read through the survey report for yourself, then e-mail me your thoughts at Until next time.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Re: Cloud-Based CAD — The Predictions and the Realit...
by: schuletw
June 10, 2015 - 1:10pm
Robert, I don't see any compelling reasons to move to the Cloud for software. In addition to the reasons you provide, one other concern is network connectivity. One if you have access to a network connection and two is the connection fast enough handle upload or download of the CAD file. Easy access to a network connection is an assumption today, but there remains times when you can't connect to a network. We are a long way from having something in the cloud that we can rely on. All the demos the software companies give never quite seem to live up to reality.
Re: Cloud-Based CAD — The Predictions and the Realit...
by: MichaelPartenheimer
June 10, 2015 - 3:47pm
I can't recall the last time I used out-of-the-box configurations on a project. Most of our projects require agency templates, plot configurations, etc, etc. It's difficult enough for a CAD Manager to control project-specific CAD profile configurations in a local environment. You would think a cloud system would make that easier... but without project-based CAD Management controls, it's not. That makes cloud-based CAD useful only in spot situations. ...and worth the additional resulting management. Another negative: Named Users. Staffing on our projects shifts from day-to-day, minute-to-minute. There are no licensing challenges in our current licensing set up (other than simply having enough on hand). Honestly, would FedEx put up with having to establish a "named user" for each one of the trucks it leases? The named user system is an intrusion into my project's staffing schedule. No thanks!!!!

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