Posts Tagged ‘Backup System’

The Best Hardware Configuration for SolidWorks CAD Software

November 10, 2011 3 comments

SolidWorksOptimizing hardware for SolidWorks is essential for getting the most out of this heavy-hitting CAD application, as we’ve discussed on CADspeed previously. So we were thrilled when the SolidWorks forum addressed this very issue recently on their forums.

The key to getting the most out of SolidWorks, or any CAD application for that matter, is ensuring your hardware can handle the workload. Remember that your situation is unique. In simple terms, two users using the same software on the same system may have very different perspectives on their workload efficiency if one is using 3D rendering and the other is not. Consider your needs first and foremost.

On the flip side, if you know you need new hardware, simply buying the most expensive machine may not pay off in the long run either. Think in terms of your productivity while shopping for a new workstation to get the most for your budget, hopefully with a little room to grow for those inevitable upgrades.

That said, here’s a summary of the recommendations straight from SolidWorks themselves.

RAM (Random-Access Memory)

The amount of RAM you need depends less on SolidWorks and more on the number of applications you run at the same time, plus the size and complexity of your SolidWorks parts, assemblies and drawings. SolidWorks recommends you have enough RAM to work with your common applications (i.e., Microsoft Office, email, etc.) and load your SolidWorks documents at the same time.

The recommended RAM for the current SolidWorks versions is 6GB. That should be your starting point. For more information on how much RAM you need, here’s a great resource on the SolidWorks forums.


Processor speed is another key factor when selecting the right hardware for you. It’s hard to sort through all the different options though, so we recommend testing a system with your actual models. SolidWorks also offers a helpful Performance Test, which offers a standardized test for determining performance of your major system components (i.e., CPU, I/O, video) when working with SolidWorks datasets. Even better, when you complete the SolidWorks Performance Test, you have an option to share your score with others. This gives you, and other community members, a sense of where a system stands relative to others. Nice!

Note that SolidWorks and some of its add-ons (PhotoView 360) have some multithreaded capabilities, so the application can use the second processor or multiple cores. But SolidWorks says that rebuilds are single threaded and therefore rebuilds generally will not be faster with multiple CPUs or cores.


The size of your hard drive or solid-state drive should be based on the disk space you need. Take a look at all your system’s components: operating system, applications and documents. If you work primarily on a network, your needs may be different than those who primarily use their local drive. Don’t forget to develop a back-up plan for your data, if you don’t already have one. (You do have one, right?)

Graphics Cards

The very nature of CAD software requires a good workstation-level graphics card and driver. You are probably going to need at least a mid-range card, if not a high-end card, depending on the type of CAD work you do. For graphics cards, we recommend starting with the SolidWorks Certified Graphics Cards and System, because SolidWorks has done the testing for you.

Can’t get enough about hardware configurations for SolidWorks? Check out this great post from SolidWorks on their forums. Or learn more about the minimum requirements for SolidWorks.

Set Up an Online Backup System for Your CAD Data, Part 3 – The Enterprise Solution

July 21, 2011 1 comment

So we established that you need an online backup system for your CAD data, then we gave you some suggestions for solutions if you are a freelancer or small business owner. But what if you work for (or own) a company that is a large CAD service provider?

For the Enterprise

Server roomCongratulations! You’ve worked hard and now your small business has grown into a CAD service powerhouse! Your legions of CAD professionals are plugged into your computer network and depending on your server every day. Your data is as important as ever, but the dollar amounts have inflated! You need to know your data is safe and your employees need access to your data that is a notch above “backup.” It’s time for a complete data backup solution.

A local/off-site backup solution like the Barracuda Backup Service is just what you are looking for. This is a hardware/service solution that combines a backup server to install in your office server rack and off-site storage in a secure data center. The local storage portion of this solution offers lightning fast access to data backup that is versioned by date, while the identical data is available online for access anywhere on the net. Barrracuda offers their hardware and service in various capacities to suit every size company.

Start Up on the Backups

There is no time like now to begin securing that valuable data. Don’t be caught short handed should disaster strike. Whether you are the lone freelancer or the master of a CAD empire, you can see that there is a backup service that is right for you. But the full list of backup choices doesn’t end here. There are many different services across the internet to choose from. If you are using a backup service this isn’t on our list be sure to leave a comment below and tell us about it. However you backup, what is important is that you do backup. So get to it and start backing up now!

Have your own suggestions for online backup services? Leave a comment below!

Author: Curt Moreno

Set Up an Online Backup System for Your CAD Data, Part 2 – The Freelancer and the Small Business Owner

July 20, 2011 3 comments

So we established that you need an online backup system for your CAD data. So, where do you begin?

For the Freelancer

Storage data bankSo maybe you think that you don’t need a dedicated backup routine because you are just doing CAD work on the side. You are the part-time freelancer with only a few jobs on your drive. But data of any kind is important, especially if it belongs to a client. Backing up for the freelancer does not have to be complicated. is a freemium service (a service with both free and premium versions) designed to make backing up as easy as saving to a local directory. Just visit Dropbox and register for an account to get 2 GB of free storage in the cloud. Once you are registered, download the Dropbox application for your desktop or mobile and you are set up. The installation will put a nice little “Dropbox” folder icon on your desktop. Treat it like any directory to save files and create sub-directories. The trick is that everything you put in this magical folder gets backed up to the cloud! Your data is instantly saved off-site at Dropbox’s secure data centers and available anywhere you can use a browser!

For the Small Business

So you’ve been working as a freelancer so long that you are now a small business! Maybe you have a few employees and more clients. Your data storage needs are too big for Dropbox so what now? Enter Carbonite. is a online backup service designed for heavier lifting than Dropbox. Signing up with the Carbonite service will bring automated backups to your small business. Just like Dropbox, Carbonite will automatically backup your data to off-site servers. However Carbonite service plans allow you to back up data from all of the workstations and servers in your small business! Not only will your data be secure in the Carbonite data centers, it is secure on the way there with end to end encryption.

Do you have a larger business and more intensive data backup needs? Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you. Next we’ll talk about enterprise solutions.

Have your own suggestions for online backup services? Leave a comment below!

Author: Curt Moreno

Set Up an Online Backup System for Your CAD Data, Part 1

July 14, 2011 5 comments

Set up an online backup system for your CAD FilesFire. Hurricane. Theft. Tornado. Grape juice. Electrical surge. Really when you get down to it there is no end to the list of disastrous events that can beginning of the end of your workstation’s hard drive. That may seem pretty obvious, but what may not be as obvious is that there is no end to the dangers that your data must face also! Whether you are a corporate giant or a freelancing CAD professional, the danger is really the same. Any day could be the day that you lose your valuable data!

What can be done to save our precious data from the evils of the world? Should we build hurricane and nuclear proof shelters around our workstations and servers? Should be install wind turbines and storage cells to provide clean, constant electrical currents to our equipment? Should we duct tape our children to cinder blocks whilst they enjoy their afternoon juice box? Well we could do all that or … we could just back our data up.

No Safety in CDs

No I am not referring to that pathetic stack of CDs and DVDs you have haphazardly stacked by your monitor. Half of those things aren’t even labeled! If that is your backup scenario then the things are looking pretty bleak. What would happen if a disaster struck your office and destroyed workstation? If your backups are sitting right next to that workstation, they are gone too! Not much of a system, is it? They probably weren’t up to date anyway.

No, what you need is an off-site backup system. That, of course, is the system where your data is saved securely at a location away from the workstation. This is the only way you can be sure that your data is safe and you can carry on with business in the face of disaster. “Off-site backups” may sound complicated, but they aren’t. In fact there are dozens of services ready to help you get started.

Next, I’ll outline specific services for different types of organizations.

Author: Curt Moreno

Build a Network System for CAD Operations, Part 3: Data Vaulting

April 29, 2011 1 comment

So far, we’ve discussed the value of building a network system for CAD operations. From an operator perspective, the workstation has the CAD application itself stored locally. But the files should reside on the shared storage device.

The next component of a network system for CAD operations is data vaulting. Data is the core of your business. All of your data — your CAD designs as well as your emails, customer records, documents, invoices — they’re all data you can’t do without. A data disaster can be crippling for a business, and the cost of downtime is typically in tens of thousands of dollars.

Offsite Data Vaulting

The solution is to backup your irreplaceable data from your desktops, laptops and servers with an offsite secure data vaulting service. This service should provide your business with the ability to back up your data offsite, to a dedicated backup server that’s managed 24/7 at a secure datacenter.

Did you know that 43% of U.S. companies experiencing data disasters never re-open, and 29% close within 2 years? The loss of revenue for each hour of downtime varies from industry to industry. Don’t let your company become a statistic.

Why Backup Online

Online backups are the easiest and surest way to protect your data. Backing up to an offsite server ensures that you can recover your data even in case of a physical disaster, theft or loss. Online backups also eliminate many of the error prone steps associated with traditional backup methods like tape. Users can restore ‘point in time’ versions of files without loading tapes one after the other.

With an online backup solution, your data is encrypted and compressed even before it leaves your computers. After the first full backup, only incremental block level changes are sent — optimizing bandwidth & storage usage.

How Offsite Data Vaulting Works

With offsite data vaulting, your IT department installs an agent on each computer (workstation /server) that you wish to protect. After the initial configuration, backups happen automatically and your IT team can monitor and manage the process remotely.

The best data vaulting services will backup your data off-site to the main office and replicate it to another office, giving you redundant backups just in case the worst happens.

Data backup is inexpensive insurance against a business disaster!

Authors: Mark Shaw and James Ecklund

Build a Network System for CAD Operations, Part 2: RAID

April 25, 2011 2 comments

Our first post introduced the idea of building of a network system for CAD operations. From an operator perspective, the workstation has the CAD application itself stored locally. But the files should reside on the shared storage device.

RAID – Redundant Array of Independent Disks

In general, you want to talk to your IT department about RAID, which stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. In essence, the term describes exactly what it is – computer data storage devices that are set up to divide and replicate data among different drives. The drives are separate, but the operating system enables them to function as one disk.


RAID-1 can be used in a workstation.


RAID has many levels. One of the simplest, called RAID-1, creates an exact copy of a set of data on two or more disks. RAID-1 is useful when read performance or reliability is more important than data storage capacity. RAID-1 can be set up on a CAD workstation itself, which is common in high end workstations to ensure their uptime as well.


RAID-5 is just one level of RAID -- there are many configurations available.

RAID-5 and Higher

For comparison, RAID-5 stripes both data and parity information across three or more drives. It exchanges the dedicated parity drive for a distributed parity algorithm, writing data and parity blocks across all the drives in the array. If one drive fails, the duplicated data is still safe on other drives. RAID-1 and RAID-5 are two of the most common levels, but there are many more. Your IT department can help you develop a system that meets your company’s needs.

Taking every precaution is vital because recreating CAD work is hard work. Next, we’ll discuss data vaulting.

Authors: Mark Shaw and James Ecklund

Build a Network System for CAD Operations, Part 1: Prevent Catastrophic Failure

April 25, 2011 5 comments

A network system in a CAD facility is a vital part of the operations of any CAD production team. The nature of CAD work has value far beyond the price tag of the workstation, software and server. CAD files often have hundreds of man hours wrapped in data files – time and effort that equals money.

From an IT perspective, no CAD operator should have all the work he/she does sitting on a computer. It is essential to make CAD files available as shared files. Often, teams of people work on CAD designs. Plus other people need to review the work. It’s important to have a network that facilitates the review process as well as the data integrity. Updates of CAD software have continually improved the operator’s ability to work as a team. However, a solid network is still an essential part of the CAD production environment.

Don’t Rely on Luck

We had a client with CAD files sitting on his laptop that represented 150 man hours. He had been traveling extensively overseas, and he wasn’t able to back up his computer as normal. The hard drive failed. He was lucky. At great expense, we were able to retrieve most of his data. But besides the hefty bill for recovery, he lost the time involved in retrieving the data, not to mention the mental anguish.

So, given that your CAD files represent a huge chunk of your time and mental energy, how do you prevent catastrophic failure? You make sure you have your files stored in a secure location.

Our next post will explain one way to do that.

Authors: Mark Shaw and James Ecklund

Tips for Going Mobile with CAD, Part 4: More 15″ Laptops

April 15, 2011 4 comments

In Part One of this series, I talked about how 17-inch mobile workstations aren’t really mobile, but rather desktop workstation replacements that you bring to a stable destination, plug in and go to town. In Part Two, I outlined the features I would look for when selecting my 17-inch mobile workstation. This post continues our discussion from Part Three about features for 15″ mobile workstations:


For the display, just make sure that it is at least an 8-bit option. Ask and be sure to check out a gray scale blended image with your own eyes, before you buy. If you see banding, you want to look for a different display.

Hard Drive

While a regular hard drive is fine for a 17” workstation where you are putting down roots when you use the system, with a 15” mobile workstation, you need an SSD (solid-state drive) for two reasons:

  1. You are going to be moving this thing around while it is working. 6 lbs. is not light, but it is light enough that you will have your machine on while you take it with you from your office to the kitchen or bathroom. You are supposed to power down your hard drive when you move it, but I never do this. I simply move the laptop with the hard drive spinning away. This is a recipe for data loss. However, SSDs can be moved without potentially damaging your data. There are no moving parts to break. So get a 200+ GB SSD. If you can afford it, spring for extra storage in a 500 GB SSD.
  2. The other big advantage of SSDs over hard drives: typically they are faster and lighter.


Finally, get some kind of backup option in place, preferably cloud-based so it is offsite. 15” laptops are magnets for theft because they are small and relatively lightweight. So have an automated cloud backup system in place. I have been using Mozy because it had an unlimited option and runs in the background. The unlimited option has been discontinued, so do your research for other cloud backup solutions. At the very least, backup your critical working data to the cloud, while backing up movies or mp3 or photos on a USB drive.

What about 14” or Smaller Mobile Devices?

For CAD production work, forget anything smaller than 15” — you won’t have the performance or the real estate you need. But for CAD or architectural presentation work, smaller laptops or tablets can be great options. You can do some incredibly sexy demos of your CAD work to clients on an iPad. While you can’t really modify anything, you can present your work in a form factor that makes everyone want to interact.

The Next Generation

I’m not privy to the refresh cycle for Dell and HP mobile workstations, but each is at about a year since last update. So in the next few months, for 15” inch mobile workstations, I would expect to see: lighter devices (6 lbs. is increasingly difficult to justify in a word of MacBook Airs and tablets), high end FirePro mobility graphics cards, and maybe quad core CPUs with higher clock speeds and lower power consumption than today’s dual core systems (e.g. Fusion and Sandy Bridge).

Author: Tony DeYoung