The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most organizations to relocate their workforce to their homes; causing challenges in getting their jobs done using the tools they need. Enabling users to collaborate with their engineering data and complete projects on time, without interruption, is very important. For our electrical engineers using SOLIDWORKS Electrical, it is no different.
The purpose of this post is to help users understand the various options and best practices available when it comes to collaborating and designing remotely with SOLIDWORKS Electrical. There are several important factors to consider when setting up your environment for remote work. The flow chart below outlines the various paths to take depending on different use case scenarios.
As you can see from the chart above, there are several avenues and approaches to take when configuring SOLIDWORKS Electrical that are specific to your situation. Now, let’s take a deeper dive into each situation and the corresponding options.
First, your organization will have to decide how SOLIDWORKS Electrical will be accessed. Will the users access their work computer utilizing a Remote Desktop connection? Are there normal work computers going to be brought home that will access the network via VPN? Or will they be installing it on a remote computer (home computer, temporary company computer, etc.)?
- Remote Desktop Connection
- VPN Access
- Local Installation
When working with a remote desktop application, such as Windows Remote Desktop, you will need to work with your IT department directly to ensure proper Remote access. This is important on both the remote PC you will be using as well as the PC on the corporate network containing SOLIDWORKS Electrical. By using this approach, users will interact with the Electrical data in the same way they did at the office. The end-user experience using a remote desktop solution relies heavily on the bandwidth and latency of the connection, therefore, it is important to check this first.
The second, and in my opinion, is the easiest, of all the options. This involves using your organization’s VPN to access your networked Electrical environment. You will need to work with your IT Department on this item as well to ensure proper permissions are in place and that all network drives all mapped properly. This method will allow for the user to use their existing work PC and connect with Electrical in the same manner as at work. Again, depending on your network speed at your home office, it may impact performance when performing any task to the database. If you are using a VPN connection but also want to work locally to improve performance, then see below for guidance on how to control database and library management.
For those users unable to use applications like Windows Remote Desktop, they will need to install SOLIDWORKS Electrical locally; on their personal PC or a PC provided by the company. With this scenario, it is important to take into account the working environment – is it a single user of SOLIDWORKS Electrical, or is it multiple users that collaborate utilizing the same database?
If your organization has multiple users, and they can NOT connect to their network with VPN, then it is IMPORTANT to assign one of the users with the role of “Librarian.” The Librarian will have the responsibility to create and modify all library content while the users are offline (not connected to the company network) for the company environment. This is critical because everyone is working locally; therefore, any content created or existing content modified will cause multiple versions of each element to exist. Once the users Unarchive back into the company environment, it will be difficult to manage which versions are accurate and ready to use. By having a single user act as the Librarian, this will ensure that all changes are managed appropriately upon return.
During this time, it will be very important to identify a means of communicating changes and additions to the electrical Librarian. This can be done via email or other digital communication tool. Email is nice because it will provided a digital paper trail tracking the changes made and requested.
As changes are made, the Librarian can provide the users with periodic updated environments, ensurinh all users are using the same data.
If you are utilizing your normal work computer at home, and you can NOT connect with VPN, then it is important that you take note of the settings that are currently configured for your work environment. These will need to be changed while working from home, then returned to their previous values when you return to work and connect to the network. To make this transition easier, take screen shots of your current work settings and save them for later (as shown below). The images below show which areas need to be changed for your local instances.
The last scenario is if you have to install SOLIDWORKS Electrical on a personal PC. SOLIDWORKS is currently offering a variety of licensing options that will allow customers to access licenses for home use. Once you have obtained that license through your local VAR, you will need to download and install the software. Following the on-screen prompts during the Installation Manager setup, it will set up and configure SOLIDWORKS Electrical to run locally by default. Below, you will see the options that will specify a local installation. When installing the software, it will automatically install a version of SQL Lite that will allow you full functionality of SOLIDWORKS Electrical, just like at work. It is recommended that you do not modify the default password provided for the SQL database instance.
Unless you are connected to your company network with VPN, all other scenarios will rely on SOLIDWORKS Electrical’s Archive and Unarchive features to initially extract the data and then to finally update the data when returning to the office.
When an Archive is performed, it will capture all of the data the way it currently resides in the database. This includes, symbols, macros, libraries, Project Templates, projects, title blocks, etc. To create an archive, the steps are as follows:
- Perform an Archive of the current SOLIDWORKS Electrical environment from your company system.
- Once you have successfully archived your environment, you will then Unarchive onto your remote system. This will take all of the data mentioned above and copy it into your local set up; giving you access to all of the projects and project data as it was when you archived it at work. Think of Archiving as a snapshot.
Another important thing to remember when working remotely: when it comes time for you and/or your team to return to the office, no data will be overwritten automatically during the process. As shown below – if there is any data that is conflicting, you will be given the options to “Do Nothing,” “Keep Both,” or “Replace.” These selections help manage combining data after all users return to the company environment. As mentioned above, assigning a single user with the roll of “Librarian” will help alleviate the pain of merging multiple databases.
We understand that things are changing quickly in today’s world and that all of this can be a lot to handle on top of your already busy and hectic schedule. Just remember we are here to help you navigate through these tough times. You can always reach out to your local VAR for a more in-depth discussion as to what it will take to keep you and your company successful when working from home with SOLIDWORKS Electrical.