Keeping Laptops Standardized (CAD Manager's Q&A)

9 Oct, 2007 By: Robert Green

I try to keep all my in-house CAD users standardized via our network, but I struggle with keeping laptop users up to date. Any suggestions?

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Robert Green replies: When I manage laptop users, I always set things up so the laptop stands alone and does not have to connect to the corporate network to run. My logic is that the laptop user may be at a paper mill running on the hood of a truck without a cell signal, much less Internet. Besides, when the laptop stands alone, it will never be bogged down by slow connections at hotels or conference facilities.

To keep the laptop up to date, I provide users with a way to synchronize their laptops to make sure they have the latest files on their C drives. There are a few methods I've used, which I'll summarize here:

Self-extracting ZIP files. Put the support files in a ZIP file with the correct paths, and then convert to a self-extracting file so everything will unzip to the correct path on the laptop. The WinZip trial version does not support self-extracting files, so you'll need to buy the real version to create self-extractors. But at $29, the software is a bargain. The self-extracting ZIP files can simply be emailed to laptop users periodically or just when things change.

VPN folders. If users can log into your network via a VPN (virtual private network), you can maintain standard folders with all the support folders your laptop users will need to stay in sync.

FTP sites and sync utilities. If you have an FTP site that users can connect to, try using a synchronizing FTP transfer utility like WSFTP Professional or Beyond Compare on the user's laptop to allow him or her to automatically sync to your FTP site. I will say that both these tools require some configuration on your part, but they both do a great job for $30 to $50 per laptop.

I admit that there's no rocket science here, just basic file management made easier via clever use of simple software utilities. And I've found over time that the simpler you keep things on traveling laptops, the better things work!

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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