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We are looking to make our staff more mobile so that they can relocate easily within the office to work with specific teams or to use a different workspace for a specific task. We currently utilize desktop computers for most staff using Revit. Since their profiles reside with the machine, if they go to work at another station it isn't set up exactly the way that they are used to. Does anyone have suggestions of the best solution to achieve our goals? Ideally, someone would be able to sit at any workstation in the office and not be any different than their assigned desk.
Richard, we went thru the same issue a couple of years ago. We came to the realization that it would work better for our employees to have laptop computers, giving them the most mobile platform. We looked at the cost to buy a new workstation and the cost to purchase a laptop with essentially the same specs and it was just about even. We even bought docking stations and a 32" monitor for each employee. We phased in the laptops within a year or two. We have had no performance issues with Revit, AutoCad, Sketch-up or Adobe products. The only issue we ran into was not having enough VPN licenses for employees to connect to work from home! We find laptops work very well allowing spontaneous meeting to occur in the office in the multiple conference/team rooms we have, employees can work from home if need be, and we always have our own info at client meetings and don't have to worry about saving to a flash drive to take to the meeting or on a loaner laptop. It's a big investment but very much worth it I think. Let me know if you have any questions about our decisions.
Timothy Hillhouse, AIA, NCARB, LEED® APProject ManagerSenior Project ArchitectO'Brien/Atkins Associates PA
PO Box 12037Research Triangle Park, NC email@example.com | www.obrienatkins.comp. 919.941.9000 |c. 919.618-5508
Handful of options here... Laptops are obviously an option as stated above. What you're really asking for is Roaming Profiles. This is an option through Windows Server where the profile is synced back and forth from the servers on login. I don't have any experience with that, but it might be worth looking into.
We use a software called ProfileUnity to do something similiar. You can store user profiles in virtual disks (VHD) and have them attach from a file share on login with the user's profile contained in that disk (ProfileDisk). There are also options to have the profile saved and restored to desktops on login and logout (Portability). ProfileDisks is pretty quick on login, but I have to admit we don't use it in the scenario you do, but rather for non-persistent Virtual Desktops, but the concept is the same... Doesn't matter what machine they log into, they get their settings and files.
We have talked about doing something similar with flexibility in movement with thin clients and virtual desktops. This is the highest cost of the options as you would have to plan and build a VDI infrastructure that can get complex and pricey. We have found it has some advantages in remote access though as the data and the desktop are sitting in the data center and you're just streaming the images back and forth rather than syncing a 300 MB Revit file.
Hopefully that gives you someplace to start!
What we are doing with ProfileUnity indeed takes care of all of this (settings, ribbon, etc). We are making any part of the user profile portable from machine to machine... I literally have generic virtual machines that users log into a fresh one daily (when a user logs off, the machine goes back to a completely clean state) and all of their settings, files, preferences, etc are brought in at login and it looks like they logged into a normal machine that they used yesterday.
I've been using Revit exclusively on a Lenovo laptop for almost a year now and haven't once looked back. Portability was my number one deciding factor and it's been every bit as beneficial as I hoped.
Our firm is on laptops, but use revit on a server, so it is not local on each laptop. very versatile, and allows for us to work anywhere we can get a Internet connection, and have access to all office files and families. also means you can check out any laptop, and get your settings, since they are kept on the server and not on each individual laptop.
Through my experiences Archicad is probably one of the easiest and most portable solutions. It is optimized for multi-threaded machines thus it harness a lot of the processing power found on most base line CPU's. It also has the Delta Server aka BIM Server which allows projects to be easily worked on by multiple people without a requirement for large bandwidth. It works on both Windows and IOS devices. It's been around since 1983 and was built for and by architects.
There are a number of other features that makes it ideal for a portable office. It also has the ability to read a lot of different file formats and can translate Revit files. The BIM Server (Delta Server) is a very powerful and highly modular co-working solution that is very mature in its development. Previously there was Teamwork 1.0 which was a bear to work with but in 2011 (or so) Graphisoft introduced Teamwork 2.0/Delta Server and it revolutionized the way large team, working on highly complex projects can work together on very low bandwidth (2G connection or above as far as I have tested).
There are also a number of connecting software applications that are as light weight and robust that provide time tested performance. For instance Solibri Model Checker.
This may be a bit overboard, but maybe not if you already have a Virtual infrastructure for servers. We have started using Revit on Horizon View virtual desktops with nVidia Grid cards in the host server. It is working good and you can log in from anywhere, including outside the office and get your same desktop.