Working from home is the new normal for a lot of companies. There are numerous methods businesses are utilizing for establishing remote connections and sharing of data. Some are using options such as Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc… Other companies are using Bentley ProjectWise. The most common method is logging in via a VPN and then connecting to internal company servers just as if they were sitting in the office.
MicroStation, OpenRoads Designer, and other Bentley applications can certainly function in this type of VPN environment, however, this often leads to excruciatingly slow open times for dgn files. All of the data and resources are passed through the VPN connection every time a dgn file is opened. Even with a fast home internet connection, it is not uncommon to take ten minutes or more to fully open a single design file. We have many clients who are all experiencing this to one degree or another.
There are different strategies that can be used to combat the long file opening times over a VPN:
- Remote Desktop Connection
This scenario requires each user to have two computers: their normal desktop computer in their office, and a home computer (either the user’s personal home computer or a second computer provided by the company). The user logs in to the company VPN using their home computer as normal. Then using the Windows Remote Desktop Connection (or other similar application) logs in to the office desktop computer. The user then launches MicroStation/ORD off of the office computer just as if they were sitting at their desk. This eliminates the VPN bottlenecks as all of the data stays on the local network and doesn’t have to pass through the VPN. The home computer can be a fairly low-end unit as it does not require MicroStation, ORD, or any related configuration files be installed as everything is run from the office computer. This may be the easiest and cleanest way to set up a remote working configuration, but it is not a viable solution for many companies as it requires each user to have two computers. Many users have a laptop as their office desktop computer and just take that home to work remotely. They have no computer in their office to remotely log in to. Furthermore, many IT security policies only allow VPN connections from company-issued computers.
- Full Local Configuration
Another option some companies have employed is to replicate all of the WorkSpace, WorkSet, resources, and design file data locally on each user’s home computer. As users complete their design file edits, the files are copied over the VPN to the internal office server so they can be shared. While this also eliminates a lot of the VPN bottlenecks, it is not a very good configuration option. File syncing and sharing between users can be a real problem. The remote dgn files are not backed up. Having multiple versions of the same dgn file scattered across different computers is never a good situation.
- Hybrid Local Configuration
This is similar to the Full Local Configuration option above but has one key difference. The WorkSpace, WorkSet, and related resources are copied locally, but the dgn files are accessed remotely over the VPN. Every time you open a dgn file, each dgnlib file is reloaded. The loading of the dgnlib files is a big part of the lag in opening files in ORD. Loading across a VPN exacerbates the issue. Replicating these files locally on remote users’ computers makes sense as the configuration files, dgnlib files, cell libraries, etc. are fairly static and eliminates the transmission across the VPN every time a dgn file is opened. The dgn files can be directly from the internal server in the normal project folder structure. This eliminates the major problem with the Full Local Configuration option. While not as fast as the other two options above, it is a very good compromise as file opening times are greatly reduced over having everything come across the VPN.
We are currently working with a number of our clients on implementing a Hybrid Local Configuration. In every situation, this has greatly improved the performance of opening dgn files. To see how we can help you solve this remote access problem, contact us.