Day after day our support team reports the same thing over and over. Many SOLIDWORKS users are working in one of the most inefficient ways possible. What is that way? Working directly from a shared network drive. I am not an IT professional and will keep this discussion high-level, but we will talk about the reasons why opening SOLIDWORKS files from a network drive is bad.
Reasons to Work From Shared Locations
There are different reasons why SOLIDWORKS users prefer working from shared locations:
- Convenience: Using shared locations allows users to access the data they need to. Once a project is complete we need to put it somewhere and if someone else needs to access it they need to know where to find it.
- Data backup: It's easy to back up data in shared locations. No company is going to allow its valuable Intellectual Property to exist without being regularly backed up
- Slow speed: No matter the speed of your network, loading something from your local hard drive is always going to be much faster. With the increasing use of SSD's that gap is widening even further. Remember opening a SOLIDWORKS assembly may also require the loading of many other referenced components at the same time.
- Instability: Remember, if you are opening SOLIDWORKS files from a network drive there are at least two pieces of hardware involved, your computer and the server. There may also be other devices between them like switches. Any bottlenecks or failures while opening can lead to you having to start the process over. If something happens while you are saving you may end up with a corrupt component. At that point we have to get SOLIDWORKS Technical Support involved and pray they can recover your component. If they can't, you are requesting a backup copy and redoing your work.
Understanding Network Drives
Here's a quick analogy. Imagine you are packing the family minivan for a week long road trip. A pretty inefficient way to do it would be to pick up everything you are bringing, carry it out to the car and load it without putting anything down. A sane person would bring everything out to the car, put it down then load it.
Customers will often call frustrated that an assembly takes a long and often variable time to load. They are growing weary of waiting for the “Busy” icon to clear so they can actually do some work.
If your blood pressure is rising just seeing this, then you know what I’m talking about. We have a simple test that we ask customers to try which is to copy the data set to their local drive. This is often most easily accomplished with a Pack & Go. 9 times out of 10 they will report the assembly loads dramatically faster. Even when accounting for the time to copy the files to the local drive it is still much faster to get that assembly open this way.
So at this point we've convinced the customer that it is faster to work from their local drive instead of the network. They are still going to tell us this method is not practical and they are correct! They now have lost the protection of having routine backups. When they are done they still have to put the components back on the network. If I copy a fifty piece assembly from the network to my local drive and change 10 parts I have to put the ten changed components back when I'm done. Perhaps they were in different folders on the network. I have to determine which components changed, and put them back. Then I should delete the files from my local drive.
Using SOLIDWORKS PDM to Save Your Data
That is the most basic scenario but let me throw in a couple other wrinkles. What if you want to keep the old version of the file for history? How can you be sure you loaded all the changed files back to the network before deleting them from your local drive?
The answer is: you can overcome these challenges with enough time and a thorough understanding of SOLIDWORKS referencing. Frankly, I'm guessing nobody got into engineering and design dreaming of spending hours moving files around.
There has to be a better way, and there is. The answer is Product Data Management or PDM. PDM makes all these challenges go away by: automatically moving files to your local drive to be edited, putting the changed ones back when you are done, and making sure that only one person changes a file at a time. If you are getting the idea you need PDM you might as well start with the Best PDM system for SOLIDWORKS files, SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM.