There are almost as many cloud storage services as clouds in the sky these days. Cloud opens a huge opportunity to simplify data sharing. The need to share data is clear. The demand for CAD data and files sharing is growing as a result of trends such as – globalization, design supply chain, outsourcing, and many others. CAD vendors put a significant focus on how to help engineers to share and collaborate. Just remind you hugely successful eDrawing tool from SolidWorks, DWF data format from Autodesk, JT from Siemens PLM and maybe few more.
The idea is simple and execution is getting simpler these days. However, the choice of file sharing maybe different if you do it for individual or business needs. eBIzMba published an October 2013 list of most popular file sharing website. Navigate here to take a look. Among many of available services, there are clear leaders. Another writeup by techradar.pro can give you a comparison of top 10 of the best services for sharing big files. Business needs clearly can make a difference, so some of file sharing services are focusing on specific versions that can provide value for small businesses. Small business computers publication provides a comparison of the best tools Small business file storage, sharing and syncing services.
However, engineers are different. Most of you would agree. Therefore, when discussion comes to the point of sharing and exchange of design data and CAD Files specifically, it is not unusual to hear about special needs and characteristics of these tools. Hardi Meybaum of GrabCAD shared his perspective on that in his blog – Why using Dropbox, Github or Box for CAD sharing is a mistake. Read the article and draw your own conclusion. Here is my favorite passage from Hardi’s blog post:
[Instead of Box, Gmail, YouSnedIt]…SaaS cloud tools allow you to share your CAD design, even if your customers or manufacturers don’t have CAD software. A specialized CAD tool allows them to spin, section, measure, explode, and give you feedback where the CAD files are. They keep your design review process in one place, to save you time. It makes for a much better user experience for you and your clients.In the new SaaS world where there are better APIs, it’s easier than ever to connect applications. Target the right tool for the job and make sure your engineers have exactly what they need. Integrating multiple apps just requires more coordination and management, but it’s worth it.
GrabCAD blog as well as growing attention to specialized cloud tools for engineers made me think about what are potential advantages of using specialized CAD file sharing tools and services. I decided to summarize it below as my top 3 pros and cons to have special CAD file sharing service on the cloud:
Top 3 pros:
This is clearly one of the top reasons why company would decide to use special CAD service. CAD software is not cheap and to have it installed up and running cost licenses. Embedded viewer or viewer integration can be a significant driver to convince customers to share CAD files using specialized service.
2. File Dependencies
CAD design is rarely located in a single file. Usually, CAD files have dependencies – assemblies, sub-assemblies, parts, drawings. Depends on your working environment, it is hard to share everything you need.
3. Special publishing services
Depends on the purpose of CAD file sharing, you may need to eliminate some information from CAD files. It might be related to specific details, manufacturing specific or just to provide a subset of data to your design supplier. To have such service can be clear differentiation that provide a value vs. generic services like Dropbox, Box.net and others.
Top 3 cons:
1. Trust / Security
Individuals and especially businesses put a lot of focus on how trustful you cloud software providers. It is especially important when you share CAD data that usually represent your corporate IP. Large and well-known brands have established polices and in general can be considered as more trusted service providers.
Cloud storage cost is getting cheaper every day. Nevertheless it still cost money. When you run on scale, numbers can be significant. In cloud business, scale is clearly matters. You can easy run your own comparison of how much free storage you can get from mainstream companies like Google, Dropbox, Box.net and others as well as how much do you need to pay to growth and compare it to specialized data sharing services.
3. Scale (Performance, availability, etc.)
As I mentioned before scale does matter in cloud business. Mainstream brands such as Google, and others backed up by large finance has more power to provide reliable service. It doesn’t mean specialized services cannot scale, but I assume capability of global cloud companies is level up from specialized vertical service providers.
What is my conclusion? Vertical specialized service providers can put more focus and attention on details and functional needs. Nevertheless, scale and cost are also matter. At the same time, cloud business is tricky. Nobody is guaranteed from a failure and you can potentially get HTTP 404 from mainstream and specialized providers. The only question is what is a probability of this event. There is no silver bullet these days. Depends on your needs and priorities, you may decide to use different services for different purposes. Just my thoughts…