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Cloud Based Workflow - Best Practices

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I've read through most of the posts on Cloud implementation on this board, but still don't have a comprehensive idea of what works and what doesn't.  It would be great if VW could make some recommendations or at least rate the different platforms available based upon compatibility, ease of use, etc. 


I've been impressed with the speed and ease of using the VW Service Select libraries and now that we're working remotely, setting up a Cloud solution makes sense.

My Goals:


1) Implement a cloud based Workgroup Folder for all of our templates, standards and libraries

2) Upload our project files to a web storage location so that it can be accessed from anywhere.

3) Project Sharing is not yet a need, but I am mindful that it one day could be, so ... a solution that can eventually work with that functionality.


I am in the process of trying to achieve the above with:  iCloud, Dropbox, and Google Drive.

I keep running into problems, so I am continually moving between them trying to find one that works for all of our needs.


From what I have read among other users is that Dropbox or OneDrive is better for project sharing.  (We don't have a microsoft account, so that one isn't presently on our list).


iCloud works well for the workgroup folder - by keeping a copy of the data locally and then syncing it to the cloud.  It's fast and effective, but I have more fiddling to do - namely to get my staff to use a Company apple ID rather than a personal one.  That is a logistical challenge, but feasible.  iCloud is not a good solution for the project file storage, without some hacking.  By default it stores copies of the online data in your USER folder - which in our case is a small SSD drive and doesn't have ample capacity.  It looks like an external disk can be specified as the storage location, but who knows what havoc might break loose if that disk isn't properly mounted or recognized by the CPU.


Dropbox has good integration with the system and behaves as a secondary (offsite) drive.  However, It appears unwilling to copy empty folders - which doesn't bode well for VW's required file structure.  Is this a problem?


Google Drive functions more like a backup location than a fully integrated drive.  I haven't been able to figure out how to include a file path to the drive from VW to be able to use it for a workgroup folder.  Is there a way to do this?


For those of you who have figured out a good working solution, a quick post of what service(s) you use and any tricks that you needed to get it working would be appreciated.


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About Project Sharing

We use server through VPN, but it takes too much time to open and edit any file directly from the server. So I use Google Drive to store all my current files and edit them directly from the Google Drive File Stream folder.

I considered to use Google Drive File Stream for Project sharing as well; but when we tested, it was not syncing the changes in Project File in "real time". If someone had checked out something, it would not appear on other users file till the project file is completely uploaded and downloaded by the Drive. So it opens gates for all kinds of problems. It works, but is frustrating. It is possible to go around it, if all the users work in different layers. I don't recommend using Google Drive for Project sharing. For everything else I love it.

When we tested Dropbox, everything worked as it should. It checks out objects when someone has edited them in 'real time', and it doesn't allow to edit the file while the project file hasn't been synchronized in your dropbox folder. All these were the BIG problems with Google Drive File Stream.

I'm planning to use Dropbox for project sharing, but Google Drive and all the apps for the rest. 

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Taproot, our entire office migrated to Dropbox about 18 months ago & we shut down our local file server. Its made working from home WAY more productive as there's just a lot less time spent on slow file transfer, or forgotten-item-on-desktop time.


We have set up project folders, which have plenty of empty folders within as a default structure. Also have an office standards folder which, among other things, holds the Vectorworks Workgroup files without issue.


Like you we havent gone to project sharing yet for production, but have tested it out and it worked pretty darn well.


FWIW, we also have spent a fair amount of time with Vectorworks Cloud and not had much luck. Mostly font related, but it also had a lot of trouble mixing relative and absolute links within Vectorworks files.


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@techdef  Your post gave me just enough motivation to make it through the stuck point to success.  I don't know why empty folders weren't showing up before on Dropbox, but they are now.  I was also flummoxed by the inability to shift between "local" and "online" locations for our files.  Everything was initially setup to "local" and there was no way to switch them ... so online workgroup folders wouldn't function properly.


It turns out it was a glitch in Dropbox.  After making the "smart sync" changes in the dropbox settings I had to shut everything down and restart the computer before the settings would take effect.  Now - everything seems to work!  So, if anyone else gets stuck ... the solution is the tried and true - turn it off and back on again.


I appreciate the collective wisdom that Dropbox is the best all-around cloud option.  Thanks.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi there, just a quick simple question around this. 


I'm experimenting with the Cloud Services publishing and wondering about a basic workflow. 


As I understand it, to publish via the Cloud I must, as is my preferred option, place the Project File into the VW Cloud Services folder. 


After this point - should I keep working from the Cloud Services folder on the project?


Thank you






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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

Hi @mattleaf,


That's correct - in order to Publish using the Cloud, the file must be saved to your Vectorworks Cloud Services folder on your desktop. The only requirement is that the file needs to be in the folder at the time the cloud server actually starts working on the job. After that it is up to you whether you want to keep working in the same folder or not. 


Best regards,

Iskra Nikolova

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Thanks @inikolova 


That helps.


Only thing I noticed was the render does not seem to output all my lighting (I'm using Spotlight).


In ordinary rendering in the main window, or as a Viewport, the render comes out fine - I'm currently using the Realistic Interior Final Renderwork style that comes with VW. Furthermore I'm often using Lit Fog on the RW BG in order to achieve some effects I'm after. 


Outputting to PDF via Cloud does not seem to achieve this quality, only a kind've basic OpenGL looking effect.


Furthermore, I run into a similar issue after re-opening my document. 


A fix I've found is selecting all my lights via the Viz pallete, and turning them off and on again. I'm then able to render using the desired RW style, however as mentioned no such luck outputting via Cloud PDF.


Any pointers in this regard that seem obvious?


Hope you're well and thanks for the response above.








Edited by mattleaf
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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

Hi @mattleaf,


If you see the issue after re-opening the document, that is most likely the reason why the rendering on the cloud produces incorrect result, not the cloud rendering itself. There is a Vectorworks on the Cloud that opens the file you submitted and does the Publish the same way that you would do manually on your local computer. If you could email me (inikolova@vectorworks.net) a simple test file that can demonstrate the problem, I can submit it to our rendering team to investigate further. 


Best regards,

Iskra Nikolova

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Thanks @inikolova 


I've sent an email 🙂


Just quickly - can the Cloud folder be on a server? Or must it be on a local drive ie C drive?


I've tried placing it on our server where we usually store our files. Everything seems to sync and download ok.


However the Sheet Layer only appears red in the right hand side Publish column also, and there are dialogs about saving (when it is already saved ?- and sync'd).




When I output the PDF it seems to take a while as its rendering, but then only a 1kb is returned which cannot be opened. 


Any advice is appreciated.  


Kind regards



Edited by mattleaf
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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

Hi @mattleaf,

We recommend that the Vectorworks Cloud Services folder is on the local computer - any physically connected hard drive, not necessarily the C drive where the OS is installed. While it may seem to sync and work properly, there may be cases that the app is not handling, such as the Publish issue you are seeing and many more.


The reason why you get a file that cannot be opened is because you are submitting a job that has the items in red, which means that they cannot be found. It is a known bug that we allow the job to proceed in this case, while in fact it should not allow you to proceed, because there is no way the job can produce results when the items can't be found.


I hope this helps!


Best regards,

Iskra Nikolova

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  • 10 months later...
  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

Yesterday, Vectorworks 2021 SP3 shipped, and with it Vectorworks Cloud Services' enhanced folder sharing. With the new “Sync and Edit” permission, participants can sync a shared folder to their local desktop computer, enabling workflows that require multiple users to access and edit files stored in a common location. For Vectorworks Design Series users, project sharing and workgroup folders are now supported. I hope you enjoy it!

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