CAD in the Cloud? What you really want is cloud-based PDM!

There has been a lot of talk lately about “CAD in the cloud” - but I think there is an important distinction to make when discussing this. Are you talking about actual CAD design in the cloud, or referring to leveraging file storage and management on the cloud (while your CAD system still resides on your desktop)?  I think many of the people who talk about “CAD in the cloud” actually want “CAD files in the cloud” or “PDM in the cloud”.  Let me tell you why.

CAD cloud

What are the benefits of storing CAD files in the cloud?

Your data is securely stored and backed up - You don’t have to worry about a folder being deleted or losing an older version of a design. And you don’t even need to rely on IT to help you access or retrieve your work - the cloud solution provider is already taking care of that for you in the background.

You don’t have to worry about physical disk size limitations - If you’re reaching the point where you’ve broken the ceiling of how much data you can reasonably save on your workstation and hard drives, you’re probably fearing the need for humming servers with their own office space, personnel and AC units. Once again leveraging cloud solutions can handle all of this for you quietly in the background.

You can access your data from anywhere - Anywhere there’s internet you can access your data - your work computer, your home computer, your mobile device, wherever. The cloud unchains you from your work desk.

You can securely share data with anyone - Traditional on-premise PDM and PLM systems only allow you to share with other coworkers with a paid seat of the same system and within your corporate firewall. The cloud opens up sharing to additional stakeholders in your product design process whether it be someone in a different department like sales and marketing or completely external collaborators like customers, manufacturers, contractors etc. But that doesn’t mean its a free for all either, sharing is executed with invitations, locking, and different access levels to ensure absolute control and security.

Why not CAD in the cloud?

Hardi wrote about this in his post Why CAD is not moving to the cloud (quite yet) but here are the top reasons I’ve heard from engineers of why they aren’t interested in moving to CAD on the cloud:

  • You love your CAD system

  • You’re worried about network latency slowing down your design sessions

  • You have data in the proprietary format of the CAD system

  • Your design and manufacturing processes are tuned to the data format and capabilities of your CAD system

  • You have partners on the same CAD system

How can you take advantage of the cloud?

By using GrabCAD Workbench you can get all of the advantages of “CAD in the cloud” without giving up the CAD system that you love. Workbench runs on your PC, synchronizing your local files with your Workbench projects.  If you use SolidWorks, Workbench even runs right within SolidWorks - and more systems are on the way.

If you’d like to see your CAD files stored securely in the cloud, with all of the benefits listed above,  check out GrabCAD Workbench. And keep using that CAD system that you love!

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guide to CAD file managementThe Next Generation of PDM  

More teams are using Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, and Social tools to speed up product development. Independent analyst firm, Consilia Vektor, explains how this changes Product Data Management (PDM) as you know it and how this can help your team work smarter.

guide to CAD file management




  • Hi Jon, I generally agree, just wondering whether some might view CAD file storage in the cloud as not any less/more safe than company servers [hackers are known to be crafty devils…], and as far as access anywhere, most companies have VPN, while maybe a tad less convenient could be more secure than cloud servers? [Nothing against GrabCAD BTW – personally I am a fan…]

    • You raise good questions about security, and many companies are weighing the security tradeoffs of cloud vs their current approach. Many enterprises have concluded that storage in a secured environment is preferable to storage of data on internal networks, personal computers and personal devices that have not been subject to third party penetration tests, network security scans and facility audits. They have also concluded that sharing data by secure methods is far preferable to sharing data using email, thumb drives and DropBox. This has led to corporate employee information, sales and marketing campaign and even board book information management by SaaS products such as, Success Factors and Concur.

      To your second point, VPN is a great solution when it’s available, but many of our customers have had trouble getting it to work, especially when it comes to sharing with supply chain partners. VPN requires a client be available on a device/OS pair and IT assistance be available to set firewall rules. Also, many security policies preclude VPN access to internal networks by non-employees. In those cases the employee is stuck without a secure way to share and often resorts to some of the insecure methods I mentioned earlier.

  • Jimbo

    Not interested. Do you realize that many of the popular low cost CAD programs are written in Communist China? China has been very active in stealing the designs for advanced American weapons systems. Just a couple years ago, they stole the designs for 26 MAJOR weapons system that cost American taxpayers a $ Trillion dollars to develop. (Obama didn’t bat an eyelash.) Who’s to say they haven’t designed “backdoors” into the software to enable their intelligence agencies and industrial groups to steel the access codes and passwords for the cloud? Of course, it is possible even without the cloud, but why add risk? Plus even without foreign nations stealing designs, what about all the hackers who consider it a fun challenge to hack accounts? If you want your carefully designed project stolen, be my guest.