Here it is 2018, and there is still hang-wringing and skepticism about the value of cloud computing for many aspects of Engineering Document Management (EDM). Some of the complaints sound right out of the late 1980s when engineering companies started wiring together each engineer’s computer into a network. Loss of privacy, loss of security, slower access to data, and other canards were tossed about then, and they are tossed about today when the discussion turns to using cloud technology for EDM.
The hand-wringing continues because interest is rising regarding the potential value of EDM cloud computing. Adoption of cloud-based solutions is up, as awareness of the benefits and advantages of cloud computing become more widespread. As Synergis Software’s Todd Cummings told the audience at last year’s Adept User Conference, “The private cloud is the new WAN.”
As with any new technology, there should be a cold, hard look at the issues. Any company considering moving their engineering document management from an internal network to a cloud-based system needs to visit the key issues of Security, Access, Uptime, and Control. IT administrators are moving to cloud technology because of — not in spite of — these four attributes. Think of them as the secret SAUC(e) of EDM.
All enterprise applications available for cloud deployment — such as Synergis Adept — offer a level of elasticity unmatched by other methods. If you need more people accessing Adept, it becomes trivial to add extra user licenses without interrupting daily work. If your data and documents grow exponentially, you don’t buy and deploy more computers, you tell your cloud service provider you need more CPUs, RAM, disk space, and bandwidth to accommodate the growth and it is ready, often in minutes. This means scalability is no longer a potential disruption or budget breaker. And adding new user locations are generally irrelevant, they simply connect to the existing cloud infrastructure wherever they are.
Growth is not limited to new users and additional licenses. A web-based installation of Adept can quickly add PublishWave or the Adept Reviewer/Explorer, extending the benefits of those add-ons immediately.
The cost associated with computer usage change with cloud deployment. Buying new computer hardware has been a capital expense (CAPEX), but the use of a vendor’s cloud services is an operational (OPEX) expense. This means the cost of upgrades and maintenance are no longer upfront costs, but ongoing budget issues, the same as electricity or coffee service.
Adept is quite flexible when it comes to cloud deployment. If you have concerns about an outside vendor managing the hardware, or just want to keep intellectual property in-house, there are options to pursue while still taking advantage of the SAUC(e) benefits. Consider these deployment options:
Hybrid cloud/local #1: Put the Adept Server, the Web Application Server, and the Database in the cloud and keep your CAD and related files local.
Hybrid cloud/local #2: Use Adept’s Replication Services to select what sites (local, cloud, remote) have access to files. This is a great option for a far-flung workforce, or when much of your Adept access comes from mobile users. The main vault is in the cloud, replicated to other cloud servers or to one or more company sites. This method has the advantage of redundancy — a key aspect of both security and uptime — built-in to the installation by design.
Cloud hosting, user managed: The most straightforward type of cloud application installation. The cloud servers become a logical extension of your local infrastructure.
Cloud hosting, Synergis managed: An option for any company with limited IT resources. Who better than Synergis to manage an installation of Adept? This option also ensures there is a consistent user experience for every user, in every location. Synergis handles all IT level issues, such as backups and OS maintenance.
No matter what method a company uses to deploy Adept, there will need to be decisions about such issues as redundancy (for both the application and the data), access to data, and maintenance/service issues. These issues have to be settled even if there is no cloud technology involved; bringing cloud into the discussion provides new options.
Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985. More information is available at https://www.linkedin.com/in/randallnewton.