Is Google Docs A Good Place To Store CAD Files?

Is Google Docs A Good Place To Store CAD Files?

I was reading Google Enterprise Blog – Store and share files in the cloud… My hunch is that PLM eco-system needs to be prepared in potential leak of users going to collaborate via Google accounts. So, I decided to put my pros and cons for this scenario.

The pros of this scenario are obvious to me. The store is online, access is in everyplace. You don’t have to think about devices, backups, USB drives, etc .. However, CAD-related environment is not there (yet). To see a potential, you can take a look on Google 3D Warehouse.

What is potential cons. Size is one of them. At the time when the cost of external hard drives is going sharp down, cost of online storage can definitely a question. The second (and first asked everytime you speak about online) is security. However, it will depend on the type of customers. I do believe, initial adoption will be going bottom up and smaller customers will less care about the security topic. The missing piece in Google App chain is a solution for viewing of CAD files. The question if some of Viewing Solutions, available on the market, can be adopted to Google App? This can be a very interesting turn.

What is my conclusion today? The interest for online storage for collaboration and data sharing will grow. Based on good consumer experience with online services, customers will start to ask questions about how to adopt similar practices in the companies. What is your view on that? Will you be interested in the cloud based collaborative apps?

Best, Oleg


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  • Joe Fowler

    It sounds kind of intriguing however, PLM software and work flows can force horizontal integration within a company and with its supplier base, updates can be real-time, change management can be enforced. Not sure how these things would occur using the google warehouse.

    I would be concerned about security.

    Tell me more…

  • Security is a false reality. Look at the last bomb threat on an airline. Do you really think it is that hard to get something on a plane they don’t want on a plane. No it is not. Same is true for CAD data. I have been to India and seen CAD (Paper) drawing blowing across the parking lot. And say nothing about the fact that you have no idea where your electronic files are going on the backs of email. So how secure is your data? It is not. Go find a friendly spy and they will tell you they can get what ever they want, it is just a matter of money and dumpster diving. Remeber the weak link is human, not technology.

  • Oleg
    CAD files for individual components could reside anywhere (Cloud, or Google Docs or even file sharing websites)…the moment you introduce complexity by adding a structure or inter-dependence storage and data management could become a nightmare…

    In most cases, I highly recommend a good data management solution that is closely knit with a change management system…If you want that then google docs wont work…also hosting CAD files on the cloud in my opinion wont work even with a proper data management closely tied to change management system. Why?. As CAD/PDM and PLM have evolved, CAD can now pull in meta data periodically and alert the user about changes…This was a challenge across the WAN when you have design work done in multiple continents…The only way I could get this to work was have a single brain / single central storage and then replicate across…not sure if google docs would have that capability any time soon.

  • Hello Oleg

    What real business benefits would a company derive from storing and sharing individual CAD files in Google Doc? That would take us back to where we started with – individual CAD part files!

    However, your discussion brings up an intriguing idea- can Google (Doc, Wave, etc) be a platform for a PDM/PLM software? Will some new young entrepreneurs develop PLM solutions on Google platform?



  • Hello Oleg,

    Perhaps an idea is not to store native cad files, but the view files. With this it is possible to share the information with Suppliers or Customers.

    On my blog (in Dutch) I wrote something about WEB 3.0 and perhaps Google Wave as a PDM/PLM Platform.


    Menk Slot

  • Joe, Thanks for comments! Google Warehouse in my view is a collaborative facilitator. Even if we like complicated definitions sometime, but in many cases’ “collaboration” for people is just an ability to share files, open and review them together. Google docs can do so efficiently for Google apps, but I’m sure to another content too soon. Best, Oleg

  • Chris, In general I agree. In my view, we’ll see more and more examples of “cloud breathes” when people will understand that they already use cloud in many worst cases in comparison to design and manufacturing. The question what role IT is going to play. This will be depending on their interests. With potential interests of IT to get some money from cloud based services, they can facilitate the introduction of cloud in enterprises. Another opportunity is huge cost cut, especially in the cases of smaller companies. We need to watch dynamic of prices on cloud storage and services in 2010. Thanks for comments! Oleg

  • Swati, I think, I understand your point. You are saying – CAD/PDM/PLM is complex, interconnected, dependent, happened in multiple place…. So, we need special systems to handle it… right? My view is that such approach is a dangerous, since in some cases complexity can be introduced by existing systems. On the other side, oversimplification of Google is also dangerous. My observation shows, that despite visible simplicity, Google demonstrates a set of very interesting and sophisticated features on the scale that cannot be achieved by today’s enterprise systems… Does it make sense from your standpoint? Thanks for commenting! Oleg

  • Nik, thanks for your comment! I think you almost answered your question in your comment :)… In my view Google’s platform provides very interesting capabilities on the huge scale of implementation. I don’t think you are right with regards to separate files. They are separate if you do have them on your laptop. In case of Google, they are co-located and can be shared by others. Have you tried, for example, co-present using Google Apps just by sharing URL of document? Try this as a experience and think about CAD files… Best, Oleg

  • Menk, Agree with you. To start with viewing capabilities is the right first step, in my view. Thank you for link (thanks to Google translate!). Best, Oleg

  • Michael

    Hello, Oleg

    I think that security in cloud environment is not enough mature to use it with sensitive information(including CAD).

    I agree with Chris that weak link is a human, but organized and centralized information on the cloud is much better for potential thief then “one CAD paper blowing across the parking lot”.

    The devil is (as usual) in details.

    Best, Michael

  • Michael, Thanks for comment and welcome to Think Tank! In my view location really doesn’t matter. It is all about perception. I don’t have the statistics, but on the level of feeling, think that theft of drawing using USB stick has much higher probability rather than doing it in the online system. Design information is big (in size) and you can monitor massive retrieval of such information from the cloud account outside (in the similar way Gmail accounts are sensitive you if you are trying to export data from Google). What elements of security you see need to become more mature to be ready for “CAD sensitive information”. And why do you think, it is more sensitive than payroll information (i.e. ADP online already many years in US), sales and customers information (i.e. So, this is all about human perception. Best, Oleg

  • Michael


    IMHO, you are not right.

    1 – You do not reduce the possibility to steal the data with cloud services.
    You simply add one more place where these data may be stolen – and you can not control this place.

    In your organization you can control almost everything with the help of DLP systems.
    In the cloud – you do not have the slightest control over the machines where it all runs.

    In your organization you can dictate the password policy, regulate access to external devices, etc.
    In the cloud systems, you can not do so.
    In your organization you can establish an audit on access to data.
    In the cloud it is more difficult – if not impossible.

    2 – Systems of payment through the Internet are usually protected much better than cloud systems.
    And most importantly, the compromised payment(or visa card) can be quite safely cancelled/reversed.

    Strictly speaking, one of the most effective components of the security model of payment systems is just the audit (to know that it was stolen),
    complete with cancellation of compromised payment tool.

    Yes, by the way – numbers of visa cards(and SSIs) are being regularly and successfully stolen.

    Main difference between drawing and payment from security point of view is very simple:
    Payment can be “undone”.
    Drawing/document can not be “unread”.

    Best regards, Michael

  • Michael, What I like very much is your comparison with payment (means you can undo payment, but it is hard to prove undo of IP theft). It brings me to think more about financial aspects of the IP theft. My point is that credit card’s insurance system was developed many years and becomes fundamentals of online and cc businesses.
    However, I have to say that you omitted some of my other examples – i.e. ADP and These are the biggest, but there are many more…
    With regards to your specific questions related to security of cloud based systems. Did you analyze the level of security on Google premier accounts? I believe most of what you mentioned can be possible there – audit, password policies, etc… Thanks for very interesting conversation! Best, Oleg

  • David

    Congratulation for your blog ! great work !

    To my point of view, security subject on clouding services could be partialy solved by private clouding, evently running directly within the customer building.
    The customer could even rent its building to IT services company that manage service delivery in a private cloud.
    One of rising problem is how to manage the switch from one It services to another ? How to be sure that data are remaining under the ownership of the customer ?

    Best regards !


  • Michael

    In general thinking is always useful 🙂

    Please note, that there is a big difference between
    “to put data on the cloud” and “to put the data to the Internet”, so Salesforce is not good example.
    (By the way, Salesforce is not so unbreakable – google “salesforce hacked” for more information).

    All successful solutions have some mechanism of “hack compensation” built in.
    ADT, payment systems , etc – all of them taking in account potential security breach and possibility
    to at least reduce damage caused by the hack.

    Stealing drawings/other reusable IP is more problematic: it can cost too much.

    As Chris wrote before, the weak link is a man, not a
    program or system.

    Breaking one cloud element can lead potential thief
    to all elements in cloud. It makes cloud services more interesting target to attack – and vulnerability of your service-mate(which is not controlled by you) can
    cause you enough problems if hacker breaks in cloud mechanisms(by the way, there are enough viruses that can break out from virtual machine).

    See the following link for example:

    This means that if I can buy virtual machine in same cloud, I can potentially access your cloud file system.

    Regarding google apps – I think it is possible to find
    vulnerability in google apps core and exploit it.
    As I understand Google premier account and usual account have exactly same password engine(which means that 1 idiot with not secure password can leak all documents he can access).
    Also all google authentication mechanisms are global.
    This means that you can not restrict to your user to connect someone out of his working environment.
    (I’ll be glad to be mistaken. Really).

    Regarding potential sentence “Currently CAD data mostly stolen by USB sticks”:

    As I understand currently CAD data mostly not stored there(in the clouds) 🙂
    So I think that when it will be stored it will be immediately stolen 🙂

    Best regards, Michael

  • David, Thank you! Agree, private cloud reduces security risk. For many environments, it will be the only possible solution. The next stop will be at the time when two companies using “private clouds” need to be connected or even share some data. In my view future evolution of multiple “private clouds” can get us closer to the way cloud application can serve multiple companies and still provide a satisfactory level of security. Best, Oleg

  • Michael, Thank you for sharing your opinion. I agree, security topic raises lots of questions and in many cases discussions are very sensitive. When it comes to the point of “stolen data” or “hacked account” people sometimes got crazy. In the consumer space, I still can see people that feel not comfortable to put their cc to the eBay or Amazon account. However, I do believe that balanced approach between needs, opportunity and risk will drive this topic forward. There are very sensitive industries (like government, defense, etc) and there are fewer sensitive ones. If you are manufacturers of consumer goods or telecom/electronics with short development cycle and later exposure of your products to the market, in many cases “reverse-engineering” of your products is even a higher risk in comparison to the hacking of you cloud account. So, getting to your original comments – devil in details and needs/cost/risk will be playing all together each time before a decision to use cloud software will be taken. Best, Oleg

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