Many companies have employees that work remotely either permanently or for a specific period. If you work with SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional at your office, you are connected to the local server, which hosts your files and lets you share information with your company. But did you know you can use PDM to stay connected to your data from anywhere and at different levels of usage, from project work, review/approve to view/print/search? You might have some questions such as: “What are my options?”, "How do I stay current with versions and revisions?” or “What happens when I go back into the office?” In this article, we’ll review the available options and will look at the pros and cons of each method.
How Your Vault Connection Works
One of the significant benefits of PDM is the fact that it stores your information locally. That information is retrieved from the server on an as-needed basis, but it’s important to remember, it is NOT encrypted. This is perfectly fine when you are inside your company’s network, which is often protected in other ways from hacking, packet-sniffing and other malicious attacks. When you work remotely, you need to make sure that your company’s information is protected.
Here are the preferred methods when using PDM Professional to stay connected:
- Virtual Private Network connection (VPN)
- PDM Professional Web2
- Work Offline Mode
Virtual Private Network Connection (VPN)
A VPN creates a secure tunnel to access your company’s network and servers. You would need to connect to a VPN if you’re using your office computer, if your PDM client is already installed and the vault view has already been created. Your IT department is responsible for setting up your access to your company’s private network and with the proper bandwidth, you should be able to use the vault with no problems. This solution is ideal for engineers who need full functionality of a PDM client. However, it is not applicable for users without access to a VPN system and a computer with PDM configuration.
There are some advantages and disadvantages of working with PDM on a VPN:
- Full access to PDM with SOLIDWORKS functionality: With this solution, PDM users will not have to change their work process or have any reduction in capabilities.
- Long term solution: This setup is a one and done. Once the setup is applied, the user can work remotely indefinitely since they are connecting directly to the vault.
- VPN software required: In this scenario, you should already have a software in place to create the VPN to your company’s network. Not all IT departments have this setup.
- Internet connection dependent: Very few, if any, remote internet connections will replicate the performance of a PDM system utilizing an on-premise network. So, while this setup offers full function, the performance may not be the same as working onsite.
- Requires full PDM client: This solution requires a computer with all the pre-requisites of a PDM system onsite.
PDM Professional Web2
The Web2 client is a Web client that lets users connect to a SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional vault from most devices with an internet browser. It has been around for several years, but not too many users are familiar with this option. The Web license comes with each CAD Editor, Contributor or PSL license. You can dynamically preview SOLIDWORKS files in different supported browsers without loading plugins like Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and others. This makes it beneficial for external and internal users who are not connected to their office network or have an unsupported operating system.
While this option requires additional hardware and professional setup, you should consider it if you are constantly approving SOLIDWORKS files and working remotely. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of going this route:
- No client install: Since this runs on your browser, you do not need to install options for mobile connection and browser independence. Almost any device can be used to connect to PDM.
- Any device access: With support from most browsers, mobile and desktop, nearly any device supports Web2 to work in the vault.
- Additional hardware and software requirements: Making your PDM information available online requires additional server and network configuration to keep your company’s data safe.
- Professional implementation recommended: Implementing Web2 on a PDM vault is a technically challenging project that has the best chance for success if you utilize a professional.
- Limited design function when compared to PDM Client: The Web2 interface doesn’t have the same integration within SOLIDWORKS. If engineers and designers need to use PDM remotely, the better option will be the VPN solution.
Working in Offline Mode
If you’re not connected to a SOLIDWORKS PDM vault, don’t worry! There’s an option for you too. You can work on files in your local cache offline. If you know which files you would need to work on while offline, then this option is great for you. When working offline, you will only have access to files in your local cache and the ones that are checked-out are writeable. These are the blue folders in your PDM vault. Once you get back to your office, you would need to check them in, so they are saved in your server. This solution is ideal when there is no connection to your company’s network.
Here's what to consider if you choose this option:
- No pre-requisites: This function is included with out of the box software. There is no requirement for VPNs or Web-facing servers to allow this to work.
- No configuration required: Your PDM vault already has this functionality and doesn’t need additional configuration to allow users to access this feature.
- Only edit checked-out files: Since you are working offline all files need to be checked out before you go offline if you are going to modify them. Once you go offline, you will not be able to get other files in your vault or see if changes have been added.
- No review and notification: The ability to change workflow states or receive notifications require access to the database and are not available in offline mode.
Any of these scenarios give you the flexibility to work remotely and access your PDM vault. We encourage you to explore each option further and choose whichever is the best one for yourself and your team.
Download our complete guide for specific scenarios and instructions on how to set up your vault using all three of these different options for SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional.