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5.3.15

Taking the "Wahhh" out of WAN


  • Is saving a large design file across a WAN (wide area network) supported? 

<grumbling> Yeahhhh...


  • Is it a good idea to do this without a data management plan? 

NO!

Whether you are working in Revit, a flavor of AutoCAD, 3DS Max or other product that creates a large file, you are setting yourself up for poor performance when saving this file to a server that is not local to your office.  Even though the workflow of saving a CAD file to a remote network drive is not explicitly unsupported, it is generally a bad idea.

One of the biggest hits to performance when working in AutoCAD-based stuff is trying to actively work off the WAN. Even with a WAN accelerator like Riverbed, the performance can be frustrating to an end-user. The farther you are physically from the server in question, the slower your experience will be. There are lots of other factors are well. If you are interested, here is a fun latency calculator by Silver Peak (another WAN optimization company). 

Look to possible network issues if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:  
  • Poor performance 
    • long save times
    • sluggish mouse, especially if rollover tooltips are on
    • slow to change views 
  • Crashing on save, autosave or other mundane activity
    • The old "I just walked away for a minute and it crashed!"
    • Freezing when viewing 3D objects
  • Revit "File Not Saved" or other "Unable to Synchronize" messages
  • "Locked for Edit" messages for files that for sure were not in use by other people.
You'll know you are running into this issue when you copy the project locally and the problems magically go away. 

So what to do?

GOOD: Go to the Cloud!

If you are an Autodesk customer, you already have Autodesk 360. This is a cloud storage solution that is built into Autodesk products. You will want the desktop sync app as well.

Similarly, you could use a service like box.com, dropbox.com or Panzura that allows you to work from a local folder and contnuously sync.  The service will create copies of files if there is a version conflict. These services are relatively inexpensive but are not ideal for fast-paced projects where XREFs are updated frequently.

The best use of cloud sync services if for storing shared resources. For example, this would be a great place to store linetypes, fonts or template files.  The caveat is that the pathing to the sync folder must be identical between multiple users.


BETTER: A Data Management Tool

Use a data management program like Projectwise (Bentley) or Vault (Autodesk). Both of these products manage the file a person is working on by temporarily (and without the user realizing it) copying the file to a local drive.  In this case I'm talking about projects themselves rather than resources. 


BEST: Virtualize!

Don't pull your data to you, go to your data.

There is a big push to get Autodesk products tested in virtual environments. Most of the more widely used products are now supported on Citrix XenApp 6.0 or higher. Here a handy list: http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/item?siteID=123112&id=13959101. I know of people using virtualization tools other than Citrix, but currently those are not supported (yet). 

If I had a nickel for every support case I've ever taken where the problem stemmed from storing files on a remote network, I could buy a venti skinny vanilla latte.