There are many different options for remote work, and one size does not fit all. Choosing an option depends on your particular circumstances, including size, the type of files your employees work on and whether you want to keep your infrastructure on-premise or in the cloud. In the Digital Agility Summit (DAS) session “Remote Workforce: Infrastructure Options,” the benefits and drawbacks for companies of cloud vs. on-premise were discussed.
There are different cloud services for storage and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). It’s important to gather all the facts before you choose a storage solution to tie everything together.
Years ago, almost all of us worked in an office, and our files were located in that office. Aside from a few glitches now and then, things ran pretty smoothly. Then everyone went home.
Working from home presents unique challenges. When people were sent home to work in early 2020, most companies fortunately had a virtual private network (VPN) they could use right away to keep employees connected, extending the office environment to employees’ homes. While this is workable, it has limitations. Latency is one of them.
Latency is described as the delay before a transfer of data begins following the request for that transfer. Latency causes large design files to take a long time to upload and download, and it cannot be overcome with better bandwidth. Whereas a download may take a millisecond in the office, it might take 30 milliseconds across the VPN. That translates into 30-times as long to download the same file when working from home. A huge bottleneck can form behind those files a user is waiting on – and that gets multiplied by the number of people using the VPN.
Exchanging the office server for the cloud does not solve latency either. Unless your files are small, most platforms are not designed to handle large design files. The best scenario is to keep the data with the users and control it.
One solution is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). You can keep your data secure by restricting access and using digital certificates.
Your company can have the best, most resilient network, but what does the home user have? The weakest link in work-from-home is the home network. [One promising development is the SpaceX Starlink satellite service, which will have low latency due to an orbit that is closer to Earth than traditional satellites.]
The more infrastructure you have in the cloud, the less you need to invest in equipment to accommodate each employee. Fewer servers to invest in in means less capital expense taken from net profits.
The platform options for cloud computing in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) space include:
- Global file system (Panzura)
- VDI using Workspot (like a LAN) as a virtual “office” running on top of Azure
- Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop
- Nutanix Xi Frame
- Amazon WorkSpaces
- Boxx Cloud (high performance)
When using Panzura, for instance, everyone can be on the same file system. You don’t have to worry about different workflows for different files, where to store them and where find them.
CAD users and others in the AEC industry need local horsepower for their design work, so they may not need as much cloud computing capability as some of the platforms listed above provide. Many CAD users are already familiar with remote desktop protocol (RDP). This allows them to connect, access and control data on a remote host as if it were local.
During the DAS session, BIM 360 was also discussed. This tool from Autodesk is designed to handle large design files and work in the cloud. It allows multiple users to work on the same files without typical latency issues.
Whatever direction you decide to take your company’s infrastructure for your remote workforce, it is important to talk to a cloud expert about your particular workflows and potential storage solutions. Make sure it’s possible to do what you want to do.
Digital Agility Summit 2022 is Thursday, January 20 from 1pm – 5pm ET. Take advantage of AEC industry topics, such as “How to Collaborate Remotely in AEC,” “Avoiding Redundancy,” and “Computational Design.” Check out these classes:
- Becoming Ransomware-Proof
- Secrets of High Performing Firms
- How to Supercharge CAD Design Productivity Using the Cloud
Can’t attend? Register to access sessions on demand after the conference.