Data Management

A Data Management Wake-Up Call for All CAD Managers

11 Mar, 2015 By: Robert Green

Network technologies are changing with the times, and your data management strategy must follow suit — or it will put your company at risk.


Way back in 1989, the company I worked for realized that we had to do a better job of file management — we were just dropping all of our 5,000 CAD files into network folders. We'd already lost some files and had written over others, and we were feeling the pain of having to recreate that lost work. We implemented a data management system and never looked back.

Fast-forward 26 years, and I can't believe how many companies still manage their valuable file assets using — you guessed it — simple network file folders. And perhaps even worse, many IT departments think that rudimentary backup procedures are all they need to manage CAD data.

In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll explain how managing your CAD data in simple folders is going to become much more complicated as wide-area network (WAN) and cloud architectures become common. To help you understand the risks involved, I'll argue that CAD managers must be integrally involved with data management, and list some action items you can take to make sure your company moves toward ever-better data management as things change. Here goes.

Basic Data Truths

One reality we all deal with is that our companies produce a lot of CAD data each year. And as your company completes an ever-increasing number of projects, you must manage an ever-larger mass of extremely valuable data.

The second truth is that this data won't manage itself. In fact, if you let users manage data on their own, you'll have a huge mess on your hands in no time. Now I don't mean to imply that users are incapable of managing their own data; I simply mean that when everyone is left to their own devices there aren't any standards, and that lack of consistency inevitably leads to data being misplaced.

Of course, the data you manage is diverse in nature (think CAD models, calculation spreadsheets, PDFs, renderings, etc.), but if any of it disappears your company will suffer. This leads to the third truth: The lack of data management strategy can be a severe liability for your company that could result in hugely expensive losses of data.

Action Item #1: Make sure you understand the risk of not having a solid data management plan for your CAD files, and communicate that risk to users and management alike so everyone is on alert. Should the worst ever happen, at least you'll be on record as having sounded the alarm.

What IT May Not Know

Of course, data management is often perceived as an IT department issue rather than a CAD manager's concern. My experience has been that when IT plans for data management, they often think of simple backups and disaster recovery — as they should — but forget the unique challenges of CAD file management, such as:

  • File-to–file folder relationships that must be maintained during backup and recovery operations.

     

  • The need to keep track of file revisions of not just drawings, but parts, assemblies, families, and all manner of supporting documents that relate to CAD project work.

     

  • Extremely large file sizes, which make retrieval from backups very time consuming.

     

  • The need to recall projects at various stages of completion rather than simply restoring directories with the latest saved files.

Taken together, these challenges make it obvious that CAD data management isn't just about backup and restore operations. The ability to manage, archive, and recall whole projects at a moment's notice is a common requirement.

Action Item #2: Confirm that your IT department understands the unique issues, as outlined above, that make CAD data management more complex than other types of files. Strive to create a data management solution that can archive CAD projects in their entirety so they can be quickly restored if needed.

Action Item #3: Be sure that project managers and senior managers in your company understand how many work-hours it would take should you have to recreate a project without proper data management procedures.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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