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Christiaan

Project Sharing and Dropbox

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We're considering a move from our local Mac server to Dropbox but I want to test a project first.

  1. Is there anything I should know?
  2. Is it as simply as moving the Project File to Dropbox and off we go or is there some process I need to follow?

One other thing I'm curious of, because I seem to remember somebody telling me it works this way:

  • Does Save & Commit and Refresh data get transmitted over the LAN if the Project File and Working Files are on the same LAN?
  • Or does it need to upload to Dropbox first and then download again?
  • Can we expect any kind of delay if we're all on a LAN?
Edited by Christiaan

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Duplicate Project File created within a few minutes of testing. Required a Reset, then we carried on as normal and didn't appear to lose any data. Deleted the duplicate.

 

Is this other people's experience?

 

Edited by Christiaan

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Ugh, exclusive locks error too. Waste of time. Will have to stick to local file server for the time being.

Edited by Christiaan

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We use project sharing with Dropbox. Typically, only two people are shared on a project file. We are careful to commit changes: not too often and not simultaneously. We've had trouble when a user opens a file or commits changes before Dropbox has synced all files. For example, an employee opened a working file at home and committed changes before his internet connection could sync files. We did not get a "conflicted copy" error in Dropbox, but the link between the working file and project file was broken and we had to go through a tedious process of creating a new working file and manually copy and paste everything from the corrupted working file to the new working file.

 

We continue to use project sharing with Dropbox, but we really have to tip-toe around this limitation. We are a small office and, like a lot of small offices, we abandoned our local server long ago and use Dropbox instead. Vectorworks (including Cloud Services) needs to play better with Dropbox.

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When a local file is created, edited, or deleted, those changes are synced to the cloud then synced to client machines at the earliest opportunity. In most cases, that sync is nearly instantaneous. In other cases, the sync is queued until a computer has an internet connection. Computers on the same LAN are synced directly without an initial call to the cloud. We run a Dropbox business account that has unlimited backups. If a file is accidentally deleted by another user, it can be recovered easily via the web app. In day-to-day use, this is rarely a problem.

 

It's essential to have a clear folder structure and file naming scheme, to communicate regularly about who is working on what, to make everyone responsible for keeping files tidy, and to close and sync files before walking away. We've implemented those basic rules and have run on Dropbox without any problems since 2010.

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Interesting - we run a local server, with cloud backup every fifteen minutes (I think - some short period of time, anyway).  When a file gets corrupted or a user does something unfortunate, we go back to the cloud backup.  Day to day, everyone works off the fileserver.

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We do pretty much the same thing. We rely on Dropbox for file recovery, but we have redundant local Time Machine backups running hourly and remote Crashplan backups running every fifteen minutes. We have not yet had to recover files from Time Machine or Crashplan because Dropbox has been so reliable. Deleted files are hidden by default in Dropbox, but you can show them, browse, and recover files as needed. You can also recover or revert to incremental versions of any file, which is really amazing.

 

5a874c153f5de_DropboxRecoverFolder.thumb.png.4f925194266ed33533ee0134041ea1e1.png

 

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5a874c1f22165_DropboxRecoverVersions.thumb.png.dfa454dda41bbc9b7b35b8575f0dad49.png

 

 

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We have been moving towards as little paper as possible, both for long term archiving as well as day-to-day filing, so we keep almost everything on our own server.  As paper comes in, we scan most rhings and file them on the server.  Here is our hierarchical file system.

 

HA Filing System.pdf

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On 16/02/2018 at 4:04 PM, ThreeDot said:

We are careful to commit changes: not too often and not simultaneously. We've had trouble when a user opens a file or commits changes before Dropbox has synced all files.

 

Thanks Threedot, so we just need to be more careful. We'll persevere then and see if it's worth it.

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Running local server in our office, but perhaps it is time to go forward and minimize costs

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Yeah, agreed. Dropbox is so flexible, secure, and reliable that there are very few arguments for running a local server. We work in a shared office with several similar-sized architectural and design firms. The firms running local servers often run into problems and limitation that require IT intervention and awkward workarounds. Our team must stay organize and communicate about who is working on what, but that is how a well-oiled team is supposed to run. In a funny way, we've found that Dropbox's limitations actually reinforce better structure and communication within our office.

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19 hours ago, Corall said:

Running local server in our office, but perhaps it is time to go forward and minimize costs

 

It's actually debatable if it does minimise costs, at least in terms of upfront costs. For instance the subscription we've chosen is just over $1000 US a year. Same price as a Mac Mini, which will last you years.

 

The main advantages are not having to manage your own server (which is a cost saving) + things like much easier backup and sharing. 

 

One little thing: although we now have the disadvantage of needing to cut down on the number of save and commits we do (which means things are more often checked out when you want them) and the disadvantage of having be more careful about communicating when we're going to do a save and commit etc., we do now have the advantage of save and comments and close and releases being much faster, as each person has a copy of the Project File on their local hard drive.

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@ThreeDothave you ever experienced what happens when you have an internet outage in your office?

 

I expect, despite syncing working via LAN, Working Files still need to send information out to the Dropbox server version. So then nobody can checkout or release, or save and commit? So you end up in offline mode?

 

Does this mean that you guys tend to check out whole design layers, even all layers just in case this happens?

 

What about if you get to work and your internet is down? I guess you've always got the option of converting a WF to a standard file and carrying on. Or even converting to a new PF and putting on a spare local file server until internet comes back up.

Edited by Christiaan

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2 hours ago, Christiaan said:

It's actually debatable if it does minimise costs, at least in terms of upfront costs. For instance the subscription we've chosen is just over $1000 US a year. Same price as a Mac Mini, which will last you years.

 

I suppose the cost of a Mac Mini versus Dropbox licenses is roughly equal, but we’ve found:

 

A. IT costs over time are much lower. Zero time is spent on hardware or software upgrades related to a server. We have to maintain local machines an our network, but that is very light. In fact we rarely need any IT for our office.

 

B. Staff efficiency is much better. All “server” files are local. There is zero delay tabbing through folders and files can be previewed at the flick of a finger. Files and folders can be shared, individually or en masse, very easily. It’s nice to be able to drop a shared link into an email and not worry about file size. Or, to provide a contractor with persistent shared access to a folder with drawings, SKs, or cutsheets. Or, for staff to access any file, at any computer, phone, or tablet, at any project site, or long train commute, at any time without having to “remote in”. Ack! The value of all of that is priceless. 

 

I recently jumped in with a partner firm to help out with a deadline. They are running a Mac Mini server with SSD drives on a gigabit network. I was shocked at how slow everything moved. Every click, delay. Every photo preview, delay. Every folder move and rename, delay. Maybe they are set up wrong, but I would not last a day in that environment.

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Dropbox does make a call to the cloud before starting a LAN sync. We've had fast, reliable connections over the past ten years and rarely run into problems. With general, non-Vectorworks file sharing, temporary outages have not caused any problems. We've only recently started using Vectorworks Project Sharing. We've had the internet drop out once or twice while users had objects and layers checked out. We continued working as usual and committed changes when service was restored. It did not cause any problems for us.

 

We've had a few problems with Vectorworks Project Sharing that are not related to Dropbox. Vectorworks support recommended, in general, that we check out layers and sheets rather than individual objects. It seems that reducing the check-out and check-in cross traffic is recommended whether using a local server or Dropbox. I would really, really love for Vectorworks to introduce more reliable, more granular commits. Does ArchiCAD do this, or do I have grass-is-greener syndrome?

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Thanks ThreeDot. We're full steam ahead with Dropbox now and everything is going reasonably smoothly since taking your advice on the softly softly approach to save&commit/checkout/release. We've had a few oddities but nothing systemic.

 

 

I've set everyone's Dropbox settings to online-only (and told everyone to set the folders of their active projects to local) and then I've added Dropbox to our old file server and made all the files local, so that if the internet goes down we still have access to everything. Do you have a computer set to do this or are all your machines set to have all files local, as you imply in a post above?

 

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That's great! I had to look up what you meant about online-only versus local folders. That is an early access feature that I didn't know about. It looks interesting. iCloud sync works like that. This will be great for my MacBook!

 

We've had pretty much the same Dropbox procedure since the beginning. All files are synced to my work iMac, which is where I do most of my work and where I have redundant local and remote backups running constantly. I selectively sync files to my MacBook—for working at home or on the train—and we share folders as needed with staff and consultants. We've structured our file system to allow for sharing and syncing on a folder-by-folder basis. There is a standard set of folders that everyone gets access to automatically (e.g. reference library), but specific files are shared on an individual basis. Project proposals and agreement folders are shared with our attorney. Business and financial folders are shared with our bookkeeper and accountant. Branding and website folders are shared with our graphic designers and in-house design staff. Project files are shared with project architects. And so on. In that way, everyone has all relevant files synced locally to their own machine(s).

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Nice!

 

One other thing I've just realised—which I love!—is that we now have access to all our files on our phones when we're out on site meetings etc. And with Nomad we even have the ability to navigate any 3D models and mark up PDFS.

 

Should have done this long ago!

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Yeah, totally! Being able to pull up any drawing, specification, or correspondence on site has saved us sooooo much time. I wish that Vectorworks' connection to Dropbox was more convenient. Or maybe I just don't understand how Vectorworks Cloud Services is supposed to work. Perhaps you can help.

 

We keep all project files, including Vectorworks files, in a Dropbox folder. Simple. I like that Vectorworks Cloud Services can generate models and render viewports on demand or on a pre-set schedule, but it seems that Vectorworks files have to live in the VCS folder. I don't want to duplicate Vectorworks files into a VCS folder, nor do I want to relocate active project files outside of the Dropbox project folder. I guess I don't understand how the Vectorworks-Dropbox integration is supposed to work. Our initial tests were frustrating and I didn't see a way to work without disrupting project folder integration.

 

Do you use Vectorworks Cloud Services? How does that work (or not) with your new Dropbox workflow?

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16 minutes ago, ThreeDot said:

...but it seems that Vectorworks files have to live in the VCS folder. I don't want to duplicate Vectorworks files into a VCS folder, nor do I want to relocate active project files outside of the Dropbox project folder. I guess I don't understand how the Vectorworks-Dropbox integration is supposed to work.

 

I'm in the same boat of not quite understanding.

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Hi,

I am chiming in to bring some information about the Vectorworks Cloud Services integration with Dropbox.

If you use Dropbox to store or share your Vectorworks projects, you can enable integration with Vectorworks Cloud Services, so that Vectorworks Cloud Services accesses the files in your Dropbox storage directly (the files are not duplicated in your Vectorworks Cloud Services storage). Integration allows you to use the Vectorworks Cloud Services features without having to modify your existing Dropbox workflow or file structures.

There are two integration options. You can switch from Limited access to Full access at any time.

  • Limited access: A folder for Vectorworks Cloud Services is created in your Dropbox (Dropbox > Apps > Vectorworks Cloud Services). This is the only folder to which Vectorworks Cloud Services has read and write access. Dropbox only allows App folders to be shared as links, so the advanced Dropbox sharing capabilities via email are not available. Vectorworks Cloud Services’ email and link sharing are available.
  • Full access: Vectorworks Cloud Services has access to all files and folders in your Dropbox. All Dropbox sharing capabilities are available in addition to the Vectorworks Cloud Services’ email and link sharing.

The cloud server can process .vwx files to generate other types of files.

- 3D models for viewing in a browser or in the Nomad mobile app, including AR viewing mode on compatible devices (can also be done on a set schedule)

- Update and render viewports in .vwx files and generate PDF files (can also be done on a set schedule)

- Publish files to all file formats that Vectorworks supports locally (started from Vectorworks and done on the Cloud)

- Export Rendered Panoramas (started from Vectorworks and done on the Cloud)

 

Please let me know if any additional information is needed.

 

Regards,

Iskra Nikolova

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