Top 10 Information Technology Best Practices for the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Industry

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1 Top 10 Information Technology Best Practices for the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Industry How can a business owner in the Architectural, Engineering, or Construction community improve their business performance solely based upon their implementation of IT best practices? As technology continues to evolve, understanding how to achieve ROI on a limited budget while achieving maximum performance can be challenging. M3 Technology Consultants manages the information technology needs for many Architecture, Engineering, and Construction firms in the greater metro DC region. We understand the technical requirements of software such as Bentley, AutoCAD, Revit, and Deltek Vision. After working with so many AEC firms we have been able to define the top 10 IT challenges for your industry. Our remedies work. These fundamental best practices will help you target your spending in the areas that will have the greatest positive impact on your company s performance and its bottom line.

2 Challenges Solutions 1. CHALLENGE: Maintaining adequate storage space for files The Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industries have a high need for storage, primarily because of AutoCAD and Revit drawing files and models which can become extremely large. These files grow in size and number as a project evolves and soon can overload your firm s available storage space. SOLUTION: Add an iscsi storage device A best practice is to keep percent of the space in your system available for expansion. If you run below that threshold, then it s time to expand. M3TC implements a flexible storage system, which can be expanded without replacing the entire system an attached networked storage device called based on the iscsi protocol. The ISCSI device acts like an additional hard drive attached to your server and makes expansion a simple process with minimal downtime and rapid configuration. 2. CHALLENGE: Providing powerful workstations Architecture and Engineering firms must provide powerful computer workstations. That means, in addition to computers that can perform efficiently under the load of large programs, work-stations must also: Accommodate engineering models as they run calculations Move extremely large files Have the capability to handle the workload of multiple staff Provide adequate space to store large files SOLUTION: Install high-end network switches and capable workstations Using the right equipment improves user performance and efficiency. The purchase of network switches that can handle 2-3 gigabyte speed to the servers. This will provide more bandwidth when accessing large files like those used by architects and engineers. Your firm s computer hardware must be able to handle the load of your required software, otherwise, you will lose productivity and money. Most Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industry software packages including AutoCAD, Revit, and Deltek Vision require advanced processing speeds, fast hard drives, and specialized video cards for rendering graphics. We customize hardware packages to meet the advanced needs of your industry today and tomorrow. 2

3 3. CHALLENGE: Preserving older files without slowing down system Because Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industry files are large, they quickly consume storage space. However, you still want files available for future use. SOLUTION: Archive every 6 months Organize your projects by year and project number. When files are organized, they can be easily retrieved. Then archive them semi-annually to free up server space and get them off of your primary system. Removing files from your primary system prevents accidental manipulation. Archived files with read only-access remain protected. For example, when you need to reuse a plan, you can access the archived project, make a copy of the files, and edit the copy. 4. CHALLENGE: Recovering from disaster What happens if your office floods or burns to the ground? What if your trusty old server goes down and is no longer accessible? Businesses in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industries maintain years worth of projects and data. How are you going to protect your data? SOLUTION: Create and implement an on-and off-site disaster recovery policy You need a plan for the retention of that data. First you must determine how far back you want to recover from? Two months? Several years? Then you must decide where to store it. Onsite backup is as simple as a storage device like an external hard drive. Through onsite backup you can recover your data with ease. Off-site storage covers your loss in the event of disaster and you can still recover your data. Storing data to an offsite facility is done using automated software. 3

4 5. CHALLENGE: Archiving according to a written policy communication is the standard in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industry as companies communicate with clients and interested parties about ongoing projects. Keeping those messages accessible for future reference is important for a number of reasons. You do not want to keep messages over a year old in your active system because they eat up space and slow your system down. Nor do you want records stored on any individual s computer hard drive in the event that individual leaves the company or that system crashes. When you leave archiving up to each employee you cannot guarantee consistent compliance. What if your firm finds itself in a legal dispute where your defense is contained within an old communication or, you are subpoenaed to provide all communications surrounding a project involved in a lawsuit? SOLUTION: Develop a policy for automatic archiving to your server Formalize an archiving policy and configure your in-house system to automatically archive, taking the burden off of any one individual. Archived is stored to a separate location on your server, which makes the archived accessible, but separate, with a minimized chance for corruption or accidental deletion. All of your data remains searchable. Occasionally, you may be required by law to show your archiving policy. This occurs in the instance of a project lawsuit. If, for example, your policy states you delete messages from your archives after three years and you are summoned to provide electronic communications from a 4-year-old project, you are protected under your policy. Policies are generally included in your HR Manual or Internal Processes and Procedures Manual. 6. CHALLENGE: Absorbing the high cost of software licensing As you know the licenses for a single engineering program are very expensive. The question is how to keep the cost down without affecting productivity? SOLUTION: Purchase network licensing Network licenses are shared and permit concurrent usage. In most cases a number of people can use a network-licensed software program at once. If you cannot afford a networked license for a particular software, install the networked license on a dedicated workstation where your staff can use the software as needed, one person at a time. This dedicated workstation can have remote access capabilities enabled so a staff member can access it from their computer remotely over the network to perform calculations or manipulating drawing files without the need for a license. 4

5 7. CHALLENGE: Working from multiple locations The flexibility for staff to work remotely is quickly becoming a workplace necessity. The Architecture, Construction, and Engineering industry presents a few unique challenges to working away from the main system because manipulating AutoCAD, Revit or Adobe images remotely can be difficult. For example, colors can appear differently and the user might experience lag time with keystrokes. SOLUTION: Remote access There are ways to optimize remote access for engineering and architectural programs. Specifically, one setup involves maintaining a computer at home and at the office where work is performed at the office and then refreshed at home. The setup works this way: a virtual private network is used from home to reach the office, and then from there a remote desktop connects to the office computer. The virtual private network (VPN) creates the connection to the office network from your remote location. The remote desktop connection allows you to access your office computer to directly access network resources and CHALLENGE: How to take advantage of cloud computing If you are wondering what cloud computing actually means and how you can use cloud computing in your business, you are not alone. Applications in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction, industry are not the same as in less technical business applications because of storage requirements and the large amounts of data transferred. SOLUTION: Cloud-based and software infrastructure works perfectly in the Cloud. Platforms like Microsoft Office 365 and Rackspace allow you to host through a monthly subscription. Performance is as good as using an Microsoft Exchange server sitting in your office. Hosting is stable with multiple connections and power sources. On the downside, you are now dependent on someone else and lack the ease of native configurations. Once you switch to monthly user-based subscriptions, reverting back to your own Exchange server can be expensive. Another Cloud benefit is web-based software. The accounting software Deltek Vision, popular within the Architecture, Construction, and Engineering industries, recently switched to the Cloud. You can now access this software through an Internet connection by paying a monthly fee. Web-based software is managed and protected in a remote data center, which gives the software stability and viability. Best of all, like cloud-based , you can access the software anywhere there is an Internet connection. 5

6 9. CHALLENGE: Maintaining security without affecting performance There are different security considerations in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industries because of viruses written specifically to attack AutoCAD and other industry-specific business applications. To further complicate the issue, some antivirus programs negatively impact your system s speed and performance. SOLUTION: Install Symantec Endpoint Antivirus Symantec Endpoint Antivirus detects AutoCAD specific viruses without inhibiting performance and stability as much as some other programs might Other antivirus applications can cause performance problems, are limited in protection mechanisms for Autodesk products and can cause stability problems on high performance workstations. Symantec EndPoint is a tried and true application that has been thoroughly tested for performance and protection. Symantec is a leader in security protection software and is one of the most trusted security software providers on the market today. 10. CHALLENGE: Finding an IT consultant that understands the Architecture, Construction, and Engineering industry The strains placed on the IT infrastructure of an Architectural, Engineering, or Construction firm are unique because of the large drawing files they create, move, and store, in addition to the complicated calculations they run through their computer systems. An in depth understanding of the need to protect, store, move, and create this work efficiently is needed to best manage your IT. SOLUTION: Trust M3 Technology Consultants M3 Technology Consultants Fairfax Blvd, Suite 20 Fairfax, Virginia Call: Contact us today! 6

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