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Tom Klaber

Project Sharing - Where are we?

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Posted (edited)

@inikolova fantastic! Project Sharing Server seems to be the ultimate way to work in a multi-user environment in Vectorworks. It's more efficient, more reliable and more immediate than file syncing. But it takes know-how to set up and is not currently optimised for use over the internet (e.g. no password protection). Early in PSS's life I set up a Docker on cloud computing service DigitalOcean and it worked really well but I didn't fancy maintaining it, it was an extra cost I couldn't justify—especially as I would need to maintain the server—and I didn't like that the only level of security was obscurity and needing VW to access files.

 

We currently use Resilio and it works great, and I like that all our projects files are located in our project folders, and on our own machines only, but if a Project Sharing Server for VCS proved to be faster, more reliable, and perhaps even more feature rich than file syncing, then we'd be first in line.

 

You have the added complication of file syncing for VCS now, so the first thing that comes to my mind is that you'd need to ensure that they're conceptually separated to avoid confusion.

 

Next is adding password protection and encryption. Ability to choose region of data centres (as with file sync). Then I presume you'd just add it as an option to the current PSS interface. Or maybe you separate locally served PSS files from internet-based PSS files? Would we perhaps also need some sort of access to manipulate the files directly in case of a problem? Not sure. Backups would presumably be needed on server as well. Otherwise somebody in the team might be unable to recover from a failure. Ability to keep working if you lose connection would be a must. Built in team messaging would be great.

 

Even if it was included as part of the current VSS subscription the key to adopting it over Resilio/Dropbox would be: stability, reliability, speed and extra capabilities. If it was superior in all these cases it would be an absolute no-brainer.

 

Would love to hear what ideas are circulating.

Edited by Christiaan
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1 hour ago, Christiaan said:

Project Sharing *Server* for VCS! 

 

Yes ! That's what I would love too. Simply uploading a file to VCS and invite others to collaborate on this project would be a great ! Imagine what a time saver this could be for example with adapting light plots to a venue, or sharing rigging plots. No more endless Re- Re- Re-sending e-mails with endless versions of plots. A milestone for all stage managers on festivals ! (And I'm shure other industries have similar workflows.)

 

1 hour ago, inikolova said:

We are currently investigating the possibilities that can prevent your data from leaving the physical boundary of the country.

 

Yes, this is a must have. Designers need to have security that their plans will not become "common property" as soon as they have shared them with their clients.

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Posted (edited)

I do really appreciate all the new sharing features on VW2021 SP3 and VCS and I agree with @Christiaan that a project sharing server on VCS would help in the future, especially for small-medium practices with little IT experience.

  • For individual and/or small companies, having a robust content management and file sharing platform on VCS, could be a plus. It makes files accessible from multiple devices incl. mobile (iPads, iPhones), making collaboration possibile (via share sync) and providing storage in the cloud optimised for VW files (as an alternative to Dropbox, etc.). I also find the web interface now a bit confusing when it comes to permissions but even for simple silly actions (e.g. renaming a folder...  I am struggling to understand how, but I remember I did rename files in VCS in the past)
  • For small-medium companies, working both with BIM models and other files, a mix between share sync and project sharing server in VCS would be great. It would probably push to a move from nas, small servers and local storages to VCS, at least for Vectorworks and design files. File versioning but also an integrated file&folder history management (and backup guides!) would also be great to store design milestones (project issues/revisions etc.). Group and or granular permissions would also help to share data with internal/external collaborators. Having somewhere in the cloud 1) a .vwxp centralized BIM model (and/or a Common Data Environment?) with VR/AR capabilities and running on a VCS project sharing server  2) shared .vwx files (e.g. details, miscellaneous... but than maybe everything should/could be .vwxp?) 3) .pdf and/or .ifc files issued to other professionals and or clients would be great.

I would love to have a clear overview on how to deal both with file versioning and backups on VCS before fully integrate this workflow.

To share some info, we are a small architecture practice, less than 10 people, using VW both CAD/BIM, currently smoothly running a Synology Nas - after years of Mac OS Server - for storage, file sync via Synology Drive, file sharing with external via box+wetransfer, using VCS for VR/panoramas/presentations, testing now VW projects sharing via Docker (and it looks sooo much better than sharing via files & afp/smb... but for use at the office only, no idea on how to deal with it from remote...).

Edited by str

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13 minutes ago, str said:

I also find the web interface now a bit confusing when it comes to permissions but even for simple silly actions (e.g. renaming a folder...  I am struggling to understand how, but I remember I did rename files in VCS in the past)

You can currently manage your file organization from your local Vectorworks Cloud Services folder. All changes will be synced to the web portal if you have the VCS desktop app running. We hope to be able to support rename/duplicate/move commands on the web portal in the future. 

 

Thank you, @str and @Christiaan for your insights as to how we can continue to enhance Vectorworks Project Sharing with VCS in order for it to become your preferred solution. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and will be considered.

 

Best regards,

Iskra Nikolova

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@inikolova there is one other form of project sharing that we would like—and would in fact be our preference over all other options—and that's to host our own Project Sharing Server on a NAS or a Mac but be able to use it over the internet.

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6 hours ago, Christiaan said:

@inikolova there is one other form of project sharing that we would like—and would in fact be our preference over all other options—and that's to host our own Project Sharing Server on a NAS or a Mac but be able to use it over the internet.

This is exactly the way to have it work. Yes Yes Yes!

 

Having to put a select few active cad files on the Vectorworks server and everything else on your in house server or other third party server is not a functional system for an office.

Thank you

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Posted (edited)
52 minutes ago, Matt Hall said:

Having to put a select few active cad files on the Vectorworks server and everything else on your in house server or other third party server is not a functional system for an office.

 

Yes, totally agree!

 

Nobody wants to drive a Porsche if forced to use tyres exclusively merchandised by Mercedes, especiallly when you have your garage full of suitable tyres from manufacturers all over the world. 😉

 

Edited by halfcoupler

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7 hours ago, Christiaan said:

there is one other form of project sharing that we would like—and would in fact be our preference over all other options—and that's to host our own Project Sharing Server on a NAS or a Mac but be able to use it over the internet.

You could do this today with the Project Sharing Server. You essentially have 2 options:

  1. Host the Project Sharing Server on your internal server, and open up the server so it is accessible over the internet. (This is not recommended because your connection is unsecured)
  2. Host the Project Sharing Server on your internal server, but only make the server accessible over a VPN. VPN will provide authentication and encryption.

 

 

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oh, sorry for my comment. Now I remember that I read somwhere that this is possible with the new project sharing server. I will test it out !  Lets see what speed the porsche can make . 😀

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1 hour ago, Tolu said:

You could do this today with the Project Sharing Server. You essentially have 2 options:

  1. Host the Project Sharing Server on your internal server, and open up the server so it is accessible over the internet. (This is not recommended because your connection is unsecured)
  2. Host the Project Sharing Server on your internal server, but only make the server accessible over a VPN. VPN will provide authentication and encryption.

 

Tolu, the problem with option 2 is:

1. Added complexity

2. Another thing to maintain

3. Performance issues

 

For a small company like ours that does all its IT in-house we were so happy to ditch VPNs when file syncing came along. VPNs in our experience are an annoyance to be avoided if at all possible.

 

We have encryption and authentication built into Project Sharing Server.

 

Have you tested PSS over VPN?

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Hi @Christiaan,

 

I agree it adds complexity. However, a solution that works out of the box, using your servers or machines without any maintenance, is non-existent. You will have to manage certificates at a minimum. Encryption relies on certificates. Certificates are tied to a specific domain. Vectorworks cannot give out a certificate that is tied to your domain. You have to purchase a certificate from a Certificate Authority and install it on your servers.

 

This is why AWS, Windows Azure, etc., have a business. You pay a fee, and they handle all the security and certificates for you. The caveat is that you do not use your machines.

 

38 minutes ago, Christiaan said:

Have you tested PSS over VPN?

Yes, we have been using Project Sharing Server over VPN for more than a year. When our office was closed last year due to the pandemic, anyone that wanted to use the Project Sharing Server had to use it over VPN from their homes. Besides, we did all our acceptance tests for VW2021 using Project Sharing Server over VPN.

 

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My understanding is using the Vectorworks server is the only supported system to use project sharing.

I'm not a network guy and maybe I am misunderstanding, but what I have taken from all of this is:

 

Vectorworks confirms that google file stream hasn't worked for Vectorworks users (it worked for us for several weeks but then kept giving us errors to the point I had to split up a project and rebuild it)

 

The Vectorworks solution has been to develop their server to transfer data a particular way that supports Vectorworks project sharing.

This is great in that there is a project sharing system that Vectorworks supports, however one needs to be deliberate about what files are on their server and what are on an office server.  So it's not a very functional way for an office to work. 

 

If this is what Vectorworks has set up to make project sharing work, I'm assuming that I cannot trust a server other than the Vectorworks server to have success with project sharing.  So setting up an internal server (like NAS) to use project sharing doesn't seem to be an option. 

 

I'm assuming that it is a given the all this needs to work for remote workers and not people sharing one office space.

 

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7 minutes ago, Matt Hall said:

Vectorworks confirms that google file stream hasn't worked for Vectorworks users (it worked for us for several weeks but then kept giving us errors to the point I had to split up a project and rebuild it)

Google File Stream is supported. However, Google File Stream does not have Delta Sync, so its performance is subpar compared to VCS, Dropbox or Resilio. If you are/were having issues, could you please send me a direct message? 

 

8 minutes ago, Matt Hall said:

The Vectorworks solution has been to develop their server to transfer data a particular way that supports Vectorworks project sharing.

This is great in that there is a project sharing system that Vectorworks supports, however one needs to be deliberate about what files are on their server and what are on an office server.  So it's not a very functional way for an office to work. 

No, the Project Sharing Server allows you to put your files anywhere. We just need to know where the files reside. This is done by setting the "Projects Directory" to where your files reside. The Project Directory can contain any file (not just Vectorworks file). For example, you could set the Projects Directory to be the root folder that contains all your files. 

 

11 minutes ago, Matt Hall said:

If this is what Vectorworks has set up to make project sharing work, I'm assuming that I cannot trust a server other than the Vectorworks server to have success with project sharing.  So setting up an internal server (like NAS) to use project sharing doesn't seem to be an option. 

We fully support installing the Project Sharing Server on a NAS. You can install the Project Sharing Server on a Mac, Windows, or a NAS device. Please refer to this link on how to install the Project Sharing Server: https://university.vectorworks.net/course/view.php?id=297

 

12 minutes ago, Matt Hall said:

I'm assuming that it is a given the all this needs to work for remote workers and not people sharing one office space.

If you want this to work with remote workers that's when you need an IT department (or a network guy) to setup a VPN so that access to the Project Sharing Server is secured and authenticated over the internet. If you do not have a IT department, I recommend you use Project Sharing with a Cloud Service (e.g. VCS, Dropbox, Resilio, One Drive, Box, Google Backup & Sync, or Google File Stream).

 

I hope this clarifies the conversation.

 

 

 

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15 hours ago, Tolu said:

Hi @Christiaan,

 

I agree it adds complexity. However, a solution that works out of the box, using your servers or machines without any maintenance, is non-existent. You will have to manage certificates at a minimum. Encryption relies on certificates. Certificates are tied to a specific domain. Vectorworks cannot give out a certificate that is tied to your domain. You have to purchase a certificate from a Certificate Authority and install it on your servers.

 

Ah yes, good point, I forgot about certificates. Although using a self-signed certificate would simplify that.

 

15 hours ago, Tolu said:

Yes, we have been using Project Sharing Server over VPN for more than a year. When our office was closed last year due to the pandemic, anyone that wanted to use the Project Sharing Server had to use it over VPN from their homes. Besides, we did all our acceptance tests for VW2021 using Project Sharing Server over VPN.

 

What's the verdict on performance?

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3 hours ago, Christiaan said:

What's the verdict on performance?

It is dependent on your internet speed and the size of your Project File. If your upload and download speed is 10 mbps, and your Project File is 300 MB, your experience will be poor. However, Project Sharing Server will still function. Even with a cloud-service, like Dropbox, a 10 mbps internet speed will result in a poor performance.

 

Below is an excerpt from the system requirements for VW2021 on Project Sharing:

"As the network bandwidth increases, so does project sharing performance. Slower network speeds can still provide a satisfactory user experience if you minimize operations that transfer large amounts of data over the network (such as committing changes to the project file or refreshing a local working file)."

 

https://forum.vectorworks.net/index.php?/articles.html/articles/vectorworks-2021-system-requirements-r829/

 

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I have 1 Gbps download, 400 mbps upload so I'l test it and see how it goes.

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My google server experience with project sharing did not go well.  but I need find a way to use project sharing over the internet.

 

I'm looking to use the Vectorworks service select server for project sharing.

 

I'm having difficulty finding how to set it up.

 

I have two users each with service select accounts.  How can I put a shared project on the Vectorworks sever so we each have access to it.  I would like for both of us to access the shared folder from our desktops and not through a web browser.

 

any thougths

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3gPB12Gnfw

 

Hello @Matt Hall

You create a folder, either locally and it syncs up to the cloud, or just create the folder on the cloud.  Select the folder using web portal, then share with edit permissions to the emails of your team members.  Add the project file to the shared folder.  Team members will have the vwxp project file in their local drive if they add the folder to their Home.  When using VW just open the local vwxp and it will be coordinated with the cloud project.

 

This button in the VCS desktop application (in the tray ^ on the Mac) opens your local cloud folder:

 

Screen Shot 2021-04-29 at 1.58.34 PM.png

 

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