Plant Innovation: Project Template Environment Selection

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When creating a project template, usually the first decision you need to make is “Where will my project live?” Applied Software has developed a workflow that will help you choose the best location for your project, as well as provide guidance on the use of products such as the Autodesk Construction Cloud (ACC – formerly known as BIM 360) and Autodesk Vault, as well as other options such as LAN, VPN or local networks.

Workflow

For the first step, we need to determine how many users will have access to the project.

If the answer is less than three, then the answer is SQLite. This eliminates the need to set up an additional SQL Server for multiple users on a network and makes creating new projects a breeze.  

If you have more than three users, then you need to know if you will be requiring automatic maintenance or backups. If yes, then setting up a SQL Server will be the best path. If not, then SQL Server Express should be adequate for your workflow.

Something to be aware of though: any network latency, network architecture, as well as infrastructure, will also play a role in determining what is the best path for your organization.

During this stage of the Project Template setup, it would be best to include your I.T. department for specifying the server requirements and configuration for the most efficient use. Reference the following flow chart for the above workflow.

Project template workflow

Platforms

There are other platforms outside of SQL to consider: Vault and ACC.

The best use for Vault with Plant 3D would be when multiple users are in close proximity (<250 miles) and would like to have either workflow options to control visibility of drawings or need to have their data on their own servers.

If you have multiple users that are more spread out, then ACC may be a better use for your project workflow.

With both Vault and ACC, users will have access to features like version control, collaboration with other users and secure backup processes. The Plant Team of Applied Software has found, when it comes to working with Plant 3D and other disciplines, ACC has been extremely useful to customers.

FeatureNetwork (LAN)ACCVault
Files on corporate serversX X
Reference drawings outside of projectsX X
Version Control XX
Workflow Visibility  X
Shared ContentX X
AutoCAD StandardsX X
Long Distance Collaboration (> 250 miles) X 
Automated Backups X 
VPN*X *X

Files on corporate servers – For companies that need to keep all their files and data on their own internal servers, a LAN or Vault project is the only option for the project environment.

Reference drawings outside of projects – When working with Plant 3D, sometimes it will be necessary to reference drawings and models from outside of the project.

Version Control – Mostly used with P&IDs and other deliverables such as Isometrics and Orthos, it is necessary to be able to access recent version of the drawings. Within the models, this could save time in the event of a change or a drawing corruption.

Shared Content – In Plant 3D, shared content such as Pipe Specs, Report Templates and P&ID symbols are typically not stored within the project. So it will be necessary to maintain consistency for all users across the project.

Automated backups – ACC keeps a constant backup of your project with little configuration necessary.

VPN – When using VPN, the workstation with Plant 3D should stay in the office with direct access to the file server and SQL server. The user may access by using a light laptop with VPN/RDP capabilities to log into the workstation.

Best Practices

The Plant Team has identified best practices for determining the best working environment for Plant 3D projects, as well as several questions that must be addressed while developing your project template.

  • Maintain Project Templates outside of ACC/Vault
  • Use Windows Authentication
  • Define Read and Read-write Groups

These mainly pertain to the security of your project information which can sometimes be proprietary. The Plant Team found that even if your working projects are in Vault or ACC, it’s always safest to store the Project Template itself in a secured folder.

  • Use latest available SQL Server version
  • Use internal database administrators (DBAs) if available

For companies with DBAs already in place, it alleviates the need for someone on the design team to manage the server database, as well as managing the Plant 3D users. That also can help when it comes to implementing processes such as backup and restoring projects and drawings, as well as having an archiving procedure in place for when the project is complete.


This blog is one of a series that will continue with “Tagging” in the next installment. For more information on Applied Software Plant Innovation: Project Template, check out the Applied Software webinars that cover the overview of these and future topics on Project Templates.


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