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The AIA Technology in Architectural Practice Knowledge Community (TAP) serves as a resource for AIA members, the profession, and the public in the deployment of computer technology in the practice of architecture. TAP leaders monitor the development of computer technology and its impact on architecture practice and the entire building life cycle, including design, construction, facility management, and retirement or reuse.

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File server options for mobile team

  • 1.  File server options for mobile team

    Posted 11-12-2012 01:30 PM
    I run a small office with 6-8 staff. Several of us work from the field or home regularly. We use a VPN connection to our server as well as Dropbox for our file sharing. Dropbox is great, aside from the lack of file locking, so it requires good communication to avoid file conflicts. VPN is secure (but woefully slow) for our team to connect to. Even accessing a small file requires lots of waiting during saves when out of the office using VPN. So, we use Dropbox for most of these files. We have decent internet connections.

    Does anyone have suggestions for a better mousetrap that combines the file-locking capability & security of VPN with the accessibility of Dropbox-type cloud systems? Or, perhaps my VPN system is the culprit and could be sped up?

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    David Whitney AIA
    Principal
    Whitney Polcyn Architects
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  • 2.  RE:File server options for mobile team

    Posted 11-13-2012 07:19 AM
    Hello David,
    I've been using DropBox for over a year now, and actually put up PDFs of my Acad DWGs to bid out my projects.  Works great.  Paperless bidding!  Not had any problems.

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    Rand Soellner AIA
    Architect/Owner/Principal
    Home Architects
    Cashiers NC
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  • 3.  RE:File server options for mobile team

    Posted 11-13-2012 11:23 AM
    Have you looked at GTeam by Gehry Technologies?

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    Michael Kilkelly AIA
    Middletown, CT
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  • 4.  RE:File server options for mobile team

    Posted 11-14-2012 08:32 AM
    Perhaps after I learn Revit.  Looks like the 3D sharing aspects would be good then.  Thanks.

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    Rand Soellner AIA
    Architect/Owner/Principal
    Home Architects
    Cashiers NC
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  • 5.  RE:File server options for mobile team

    Posted 11-15-2012 05:06 AM

    In most jurisdictions printed/plotted paper sets should be made for bidding. The number of sets vary on the specifications' bidding instructions. There may be legal bidding problems when questions arise between two equal bidders.

    Problems happen from the bidding documents that are not absolutely perfect. The decision makers in an open meeting or in a closed meeting like the paper sets to negotiate a resolution before it gets legally confrontational.

    A fourth party, plan rooms like Master Builders or similar, is also a good practice besides the Owner, successful Contractor, and Architect hard copies. Plus, an additional benefit is that small sub-contractors can supply their bids to general contractors.

    In a perfect world everything would be paperless. However, there isn't any good reason to not make it easy for bidders that perfer not having all the various software, and therefore hardware, required for the many Owners and Architects wanting work completed.

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    Steven Oberbroeckling AIA
    Principal
    Oberbroeckling & Associates P.C.
    Des Moines IA
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  • 6.  RE:File server options for mobile team

    Posted 11-15-2012 03:20 PM

    Rand,

    GTeam has some great 3D features but it also works well for 2D and other file types. It's basically Dropbox for the AEC industry (but with file locking capabilities). Files are saved to the cloud but you also have a local version on your computer. You check files out via the GTeam website and then work on your local version of the file. Files that are checked out cannot be overwritten by other users. When you're finished, you synchronize the cloud version with your local copy and unlock the file. The other users are notified that a file has been updated and then they synchronize their local versions with the cloud.

    For the sake of full disclosure, I used to work at Gehry Partners and I did a lot of testing with GTeam before it was released. That said, it is a very nice system for sharing files in a distributed environment. I believe they offer a 30-day trial so you can check it out before committing to a monthly plan.
     
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    Michael Kilkelly AIA
    Middletown CT
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  • 7.  RE:File server options for mobile team

    Posted 11-16-2012 07:36 AM
    Hello Michael, I heard Gehry had the largest architectural firm on the planet until the crash.  3,000 people!  it must have been amazing to work there, although I'm sure that number was broken up between various offices. Thanks for your input.

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    Rand Soellner AIA
    Architect/Owner/Principal
    Home Architects
    Cashiers NC
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  • 8.  RE:File server options for mobile team

    Posted 11-19-2012 08:45 PM
    Rand,

    The largest Gehry Partners grew to while I was there (2005 - 2012) was a little over two hundred people. Though there was talk of opening a satellite office, it never came to fruition. Gehry Technologies is a little larger and they have a number of offices around the world. Regardless of size, you're right - it definitely was a great experience.

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    Michael Kilkelly AIA
    Middletown CT
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  • 9.  RE:File server options for mobile team

    Posted 11-14-2012 09:21 AM
    David:

    First, you don't mention what type of files you are sharing. Are they CAD drawings or BIM models?

    While CAD is far better suited to saving local and then overwriting your network files after editing. However, this won't allow the files to be locked during use. Remote computing becomes much more difficult if you are trying to work with BIM models.

    Probably the best practice and least expensive solution would be to continue to use your VPN, but increase the size of your internet bandwidth both on the server side and at your remote location. In some cases, you will need to reconfigure your VPN, firewall and anti-virus software for less communication interference. Without knowing your exact configuration, it is difficult to provide much more information than this. There are also some other solutions out there that are too pricey for your size firm.

    We have run BIM models located on servers in Los Angeles from multiple workstations in Sacramento (450 miles away). This requires enormous bandwidth and still is not quite as fast as sitting on the same network as the servers in LA.

    Bottom line is that whatever solution you come up with, it will never quite be as fast as what you experience in your native network environment.

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    Gordon Rogers AIA
    EAS Department Executive
    Kitchell CEM, Inc.
    Sacramento CA
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  • 10.  RE:File server options for mobile team

    Posted 11-14-2012 12:07 PM
    Also take a look at IMSCAD: http://www.imscad.co.uk/site/

    They set up virtual servers where your team can share files.  All of the normal file-localing and local-central file work sharing are supported.  A VPN or slow network connection is sufficient.

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    Brian Smith AIA
    M+W Group
    Chicago IL
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  • 11.  RE: File server options for mobile team

    Posted 12-17-2020 12:53 AM

    8 years later, have they figured out file locking yet?  My IT person keeps trying to get us to switch but to my knowledge the lock still doesn't work and I guarantee there will be issues without it...  If you know that this now works, let me know if you know what level of dropbox you need to purchase as it appears the business version has more features and also do you sync to your desktop vs online access only (I assume online only for file lock).  Note I know they have developed further for AutoCAD Web App but we are not interested in the web app.



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    Thomas Fallon AIA
    Benner Stange Associates Architects, Inc.
    Portland OR
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  • 12.  RE: File server options for mobile team

    Posted 12-21-2020 03:11 PM
    Hey Thomas, I’ve been using Dropbox for the last 6 years and I think it is great! I’ve recently upgraded to the business, but I think the personal version is more affordable and just as good, unless you are concerned with employees mis-using company assets, but I think a form of NDA / MOU is better than restricting it on the tech side.

    In terms of version control, in the rare occasion that we don’t coordinate well, we would have accessed and alter the files at the same time. Version conflicts and version histories are both methods to resolve the two files. It does require a manual integration of the two, but it shouldn’t be too difficult. I worked in 3D models, so it meant that I would manually adjust my models to the other person’s specification in his version. In AutoCAD, this should lesser of a problem, as you can easily copy and paste new details, and most of the references are linked but worked on separately.

    Charles


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  • 13.  RE: File server options for mobile team

    Posted 12-22-2020 10:13 PM

    Thank you for your response Charles.  So to be clear, even the business version does not do file lock?  If that is the case, it just won't work for my team.  There is too much back and forth sharing of plans and site plans.  Thank you!



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    Thomas Fallon AIA
    Benner Stange Associates Architects, Inc.
    Portland OR
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  • 14.  RE: File server options for mobile team

    Posted 12-23-2020 03:26 AM
    I’m not aware of file locking. You might want to double check with the Dropbox team.

    My sense is that the sync is done passively, and file locking would be problematic when someone forgets to close out of a file or lose internet midway. I usually rely on the activity reports to stay out of the way.

    Again, I think you’re best to double check. I think box.com is another more professional system.

    Charles
    Sent from my iPhone


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  • 15.  RE: File server options for mobile team

    Posted 17 days ago
    Hi there,

    This is an interesting thread going back so many years!

    In my role supporting I.T. environments for architects, I've seen two solutions used more than any others. My primary suggestion is to use Engyte which WILL support file locking for CAD files unlike the other solutions mentioned here. They also have solutions for storing files locally on a NAS that is auto-synced to the cloud, allowing for some folks to work locally on a server while others access in a cloud. Egnyte is one of the only storage vendors that actively support the AEC industry.

    Sharepoint/OneDrive is also an option for firms that are leveraging the Microsoft eco-system, though you won't solve the file locking dilemma in that system.

    Happy to answer any questions about this topic!

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    Josh Weiss
    L.A. Creative Technologies
    Los Angeles CA
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  • 16.  RE: File server options for mobile team

    Posted 16 days ago
    If you are looking for a free solution that is AEC-focused, Autodesk Docs has file locking capabilities built-on and is well-connected to the other cloud offerings and dashboards. The best part is that Autodesk Docs is included in every AEC Collection subscription which includes both Revit & AutoCAD. You can read more about it here: https://www.autodesk.com/products/autodesk-docs/overview?term=1-YEAR&support=null#features

    Autodesk Collaborate Pro allows Revit cloud worksharing to ensure your projects are well-coordinated in the cloud with no lag time introduced by VPN and servers.


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    Angi C. Izzi
    Head of Partnerships & Integrations
    Autodesk Construction Solutions
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