COVID-19: Working in isolation


Photo by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

COVID-19: Working in isolation

As self-isolation quickly becomes a reality for many, the challenge of figuring out how you’ll continue to work might be daunting.  To help, we’ve put together some information for working remotely and attempted to present the least costly options – this is no time for a sales pitch.  This post is not technical, but the content here should be enough to point you the right direction. 

Autodesk software is easy to use almost anywhere, and with cloud storage included in your subscription, sharing your work is not difficult.

CADPRO has invested heavily in systems over the last few years to help our staff work from anywhere mobile data is available.  We have two members of staff learning first hand the implications of self-isolation and the profound impact it has on everyday life.

Staying connected

Communication (and coffee) is the key – so keeping the conversations going is important.  There are plenty of one-to-one messaging applications, but we recommend the type where groups can chat together.  

Mircosoft Teams is an obvious choice because it’s part of a standard Office 365 subscription, but there are plenty of others like; Skype, Slack, Telegram, What’s App etc.  Chat tools can be more “inclusive” than phone calls – because everyone receives the same news at the same time, and they allow group conversations to flow without people talking over each other.  You also have the potential to be more productive because you only need to respond when you’re ready!

Autodesk software: Isolated, but still a team member!

If you are the only person using Autodesk software in the office – or if you are part of a larger team, staying productive with your CAD tools while in isolation should not be difficult.  In most cases, a VPN (a virtual private network) will be all you need.  (NOTE – VPN’s are not suitable for Revit users, see below.)  Setting up a VPN is not a big task for a good IT person.  With more people working in isolation, internet traffic will likely increase, so here are some tips to help you minimise the network traffic when sending or receiving large CAD models over your connection.  The less data you send/receive, the less time you spend waiting.

We’ve split this subject into 4 sections to save you reading the entire post:

  1. Single-user vs. Multi-user licenses. What’s the difference?
  2. Inventor (and other manufacturing software) with or without Vault
  3. AEC software (like Revit)
  4. AutoCAD and “LT” products like AutoCAD LT, Revit LT, Inventor LT

Included with every Autodesk subscription is 25GB of Cloud storage.  This online storage is accessible within most Autodesk applications, so the only barrier to using is learning how it works!  See this video on YouTube.

If you need help getting any of the processes below implemented, or you want to discuss your plan, please contact us through [email protected] or using the “Comment” box below.

1. Single-user vs. Multi-user licenses.  What’s the difference?

If you are unsure what you have, call us.  Both license-types can be used away from the office, but single-user licenses are easier to manage.

Single-user: Require you to sign in before the product will run.  These are the easiest to use away from the office or on your own device because they only require your username and password.  (We suggest you sign out of your applications in the office before you leave.)  On your device, download the Autodesk Desktop App and sign in.  You will be presented with all the applications your subscription entitles you to – download what you need and start working.  The license is taken care of by your sign-in credentials.

Multi-user: These are network licenses, so if you disconnect from the company network, your application stops working.  A VPN connection from home to the company network will resolve this problem for the licenses. (Tech’ note: Port 2080, and 27000 to 27009 are used for the license manager.)  If your network connection is slow, you may need to reduce the speed with which your CAD software gives up looking for a license – see here for details.  We do not recommend borrowing licenses from the server.  There are some technical issues with borrowed licenses that will cause your application to “freeze up” for several seconds if your computer cannot “see” the license server on the network.  If you need to borrow a license, don’t disconnect the VPN connection to the office.

2. Inventor (and other manufacturing software)

Working without Vault:

There are a number of options open to you, but understanding your companies filing structure is critical.  If you can describe (without reading the manual) how the Inventor Project file manages folder locations for Design Data, Content Center Files, and Templates – then you’re one of the lucky few who will not find this process difficult.  If you are unsure, reach out to us for some help.  Getting it wrong by guessing will cost you long term.  Technologies to consider would be VPN, but we wouldn’t recommend saving to a network drive over the VPN – it’ll be too slow.  Create a single-user project and work with your data locally.  Save your work back to the office network a couple of times a day.

Working with Vault:

You are the lucky ones! Congratulations – that investment is about to pay off. Thanks to the way Vault handles delivering files to your computer’s hard disk, your IT provider only needs to set you up with a VPN (Virtual Private Network).  Once that is done, you can pick your computer and take it to your isolation unit.  Remember that when checking files out of Vault, the files are retrieved from the server and delivered to your computer’s local hard disk, and when checking in, the reverse happens.  But Vault is smart enough to only transfer the files which have changed. 

With or without Vault:

When that dialogue pops up after hitting “Save” – RESIST THE URGE to click “Yes to all”.  The files flagged “No” do not need saving!  Clicking “Yes to all” pointlessly creates more data to be sent back over the network to wherever you save your data.  “Yes to all” will cost you time.

Sharing progress:

See the “Collaborate” tab in Inventor – try the “Shared views” function to create web-viewable versions of your designs or drawings and exchange comments with stakeholders.

3. AEC software (like Revit)

General information:

VPN connections are, unfortunately, not the answer.  They will work to provide access to network licenses, but they are not the answer for saving large models to a network drive in the office.  We’ve had many bad experiences with VPN’s and Revit, so while you might get it working with a simple test, the reality is that it does not work.  You risk corrupting your data.

Single operator working on a project

You can work locally, saving your model back to the office as needed.  The cloud storage provided in your subscription is an excellent place to store models because you can share updates with stakeholders without sending the model.  They can log in to see progress using a web browser. See this video on YouTube.

Multiple operators collaborating on a project

BIM360 Design is the best solution – by far.  Even with very low-speed connections, BIM360 Design allows full collaboration capabilities between Revit users because it only transfers the data that describes changes in a model.  Even the largest projects can be worked on locally whilst sharing updates with other stakeholders.

4. Other software, including “LT” products

Users of other software like AutoCAD, Navisworks (for coordination), the LT products, or other tools in AEC and Manufacturing Collections are not so lucky.  You will likely be waiting for upload & downloads to complete.  A VPN back to the office is likely to be the “quick fix” solution, but if you save your files on a network drive, you might want to reconsider.  Each time you press save, you will have to wait for your work to be copied back to the server.  A better (in terms of risk) strategy would be to copy the file(s) you need locally – work on them – and then copy them back to the server.  This way, an internet outage will not corrupt your files or interrupt your work.

The cloud storage provided in your subscription is an excellent place to store data because you can share updates with stakeholders without sending the model.  They can log in to see progress using a web browser. See this video on YouTube.

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.