I am searching for advice as to methods and technologies used to connect multiple offices at different locations together to allow as seamless as obtainable access to the central file of one project.
Hypothetically assume four office locations of the prime architect, associate architect, structural engineer and mep engineer firms working together on a 200k sf hospital addition, each office utilizing Revit products.
Each office currently is connected to the internet via at least a DSL connection. How have others tackled this issue? What specific technology has been used successfully? VPN? Detaching central file? IM for Granting Request?...
Using a collaboration site such as Autodesk Buzzsaw is an effective method of providing multiple offices and disciplines direct access to link there working project models into the architectural project model. Collaboration sites such as Buzzsaw free any one office from having to provide band-width into their servers or open ports/VPN other locations into their LAN security system. Collaboration web-sites also provide the coordinator with security controls for user access and permissions on what each user can access or view and print. Last but not least, collaboration web-sites provide access from anywhere a user can gain access to the world wide web and eliminates bottle-necks due to band-width uploads or download transfer limitations on multiple sites having to access a centralized server in anyone sites offices.
Alternative:Host the central file on your server and give access into your LAN via VPN or some other method of letting outside users connect into your LAN. They would then link their structural or MEPS models to your Building model. Problem is two fold: 1.) Ports opened to allow them into your LAN could be hacked; 2.) Exchange of data will impact your band-width speed and LAN performance as other discipline project models stream into your system and the central file will be heavily impacted with updates from outside models.
Alternative: Everyone e-mail their models to everyone else and someone in each office location updates the links manually to each others central model. To easy to be out of date and requires tremendous emailing resources of large project model files and management of data in each office.
No, your situation definitely suggests collaboration web-site as the best way to coordinate and manage the project models between offices and consultants and client access and opportunity. This way each office and consultant can update the central file at their own speed or time frame and have a corresponding e-mail sent to tall of the other participants notifying them of the changes. The central model will automatically update each of the other users upon opening the project file or refreshing the linked files under the managed linked feature in all version of Revit.
Thanks Mel for your thoughts. I am beginning to realize that it may now be unrealistic to pursue the "real-time" collaboration interfirm as we have intrafirm. This may indeed then lend itself to a linking of files that are updated daily from a central repository as you suggest.
Indeed within our own firm (6 Revit stations) the difficulties associated with granting of requests due to crossing over workset boundaries are cumbersome and inefficient. Magnify this phenomena by 4 firms and it is not hard to imagine quagmire.
It is also not hard to imagine the leverage and resulting efficiencies of actually being able to work with the full range of consultants in a "real time" manner.
i think it's basically a fast WAN but i'm not a network guy so i could be totally off my rocker
i'm about in tackle my first revit job with multiple architectural offices (and it's also my first revit job period so that should be interesting) so i'm faced with the same issues you are. i'm thinking that the best strategy i've been able to come up, so far, is to break the building into separate linked files (maybe shell and interior?) for each office. not sure i like it but, in concept at least, it's no different than how i've worked in AutoCAD before so i know, believe, it will work.
another idea i had, though untested, is to have two copies of the central file (one in each office) and use worksets to attempt to isolate whose doing what and to also use Coordination Review or Interference Check to catch the inevitable changes to associated elements
i'm not so keen, they are using straight compression (very good compression) but sending a lot of redundant data, and VERY pricey for the delivered speeds, of which actual seem to be a good bit below their optimal