Today, with the right setup, working away from the office can be very effective. In a previous article, we showed you how to set up your SOLIDWORKS license if you need to access it remotely. Now that you know how to access SOLIDWORKS, how about we give you some tips on how to manage data and file information remotely?
First, I would introduce you to the concept of the classic SOLIDWORKS as we know- we refer to this as a “thick client” or SOLIDWORKS mechanical CAD (mCad). This version requires installation to a specific computer as opposed to a cloud-based solution that just needs access to the internet. There are essentially two supported SOLIDWORKS solutions that will allow you to share files and collaborate with a locally installed version of SOLIDWORKS mCAD. Let’s review those first. This will include supported SOLIDWORKS data management solutions, and for those that don’t have access to those solutions, I will speak to non-SOLIDWORKS tools that will help with data management too.
Data Management via SOLIDWORKS PDM
SOLIDWORKS PDM is a product data management software that allows users to share files on a safe and controlled space called a vault, which is connected to a server. There are multiple PDM packages available, which include different features. SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard is beneficial for smaller organizations that are mainly looking to organize and store data in one office location. SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional could be the ideal solution for larger organizations that would need things like replication, automation and possibly a connection to other software through Application Programming Interface (customization). If you’re working away from the network, there are two options to plug into the vault: (1) using a VPN and (2) working offline.
Option 1- Using a VPN with SOLIDWORKS PDM
The first option would be to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This would require more planning and infrastructure from your company’s IT department. If IT has set up a VPN, you’ll be given a kind of passkey and can tunnel into your company’s network and work as if you were there. With the proper bandwidth, you may have a seamless experience to their vault with a VPN.
It should be noted that SOLIDWORKS does not test and thus not certify any VPN. They recommend not borrowing a SOLIDWORKS license while connected to a VPN. This could orphan your our license once you disconnect and close your VPN connection. It is up to your specific organization to set up the VPN and have a reliable connection and does not have anything to do with the PDM software itself. Details about support guidelines and policies for VPN can be found in the notes at the bottom of the SOLIDWORKS and SOLIDWORKS PDM System Requirements page.
Option 2- Working Offline with SOLIDWORKS PDM
Users can choose to ‘work offline’ if they will be away from the office or company network for a period. While away, the user is not connected to that vault but can work online again once the connection back to the server is made. You can find instructions on working offline here:
It should be noted that to work offline, the user first has to be online and have a connection to the vault to check out the documents they are planning to use.
Data Management via the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform
In terms of sharing files and collaborating with your team today, the cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE Platform is another solution for SOLIDWORKS that allows users to control file version and revision management. The PLM Connector is a connector software installed on the end user’s machine, but there is no vault deployment or implementation. Unlike PDM where companies set up workflows, data cards and every aspect to which a file traverses the vault - the platform has little to no setup. That’s not to say there’s no granularity; you can still set user permissions and control who sees what and when.
The graphic above shows how, like PDM, the SOLIDWORKS plugin in the platform lets the user take ownership of their files, control their maturity and also lets them see the status of the file. The main difference is that those files live in a shareable and secure space on the internet rather than a company server vault.
Also, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform offers several relevant apps and widgets that show where files are in the design process or how far behind schedule. Properties and also Collaborative Lifecycle, among many other valuable tools, let you share those files across your design team regardless of where they may be globally.
Data Management Solutions via Non-SOLIDWORKS Cloud-based Solutions
If the options mentioned above are not available, there are file storage solutions I have been using for years for projects outside of my job, which include Google Drive, One Drive and Amazon Cloud Drive. I would prefer and recommend the options for SOLIDWORKS I’ve already covered, but this may help some of you in the short term. The Cloud file management providers all have varying price points, and you’ll typically have to pay for any useful amount of storage for what you’re looking to do. Google is what I am currently using to back up my personal SOLIDWORKS files. Let’s start with how I have it set up.
The user installs the Backup and Sync app from Google and specifies if he or she is backing up to the service, or if the local folder is to sync. Syncing is a nice option as what you have locally is there on the cloud, and with ample bandwidth, that layer of redundancy is quick.
As you can see in the above images, what you have locally is what exists in Google Drive. This is great not just as a backup, but users can also create shareable links via Google Drive. If going between your team members, just remember the same rules apply. If sending an assembly or drawing, one will need to Pack and Go the file set as to embed all the necessary references.
Shown below is FreeFileSync- I am using this to mirror and synchronize my second partition to a secondary external disk on a local server. Basically, this is my local cloud. With FreeFileSync, users can choose when they want to sync and exactly what that process does. Once the data is mirrored, in my case about 600gb (yes, gigabytes- lots of SOLIDWORKS files, presentations, classes, etc), the sync is very quick as it essentially compares what you have and what the secondary box doesn’t and makes only those changes.
Hopefully, this helps in how you can manage files today when working away from your typical work setting. In the same light, you can be safer with redundancy without the complexity of setting up network attached storage devices. Start with SOLIDWORKS solutions including PDM and or the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.
Want to learn more about the 3DEXPERIENCE platform? Watch our on-demand webinar, where we answer some of the most popular questions about this cloud collaboration software.