Mike DeKoning, TPM Technical Solutions Consultant, Manufacturing
Now that we’ve learned how to access our SOLIDWORKS licenses from home, we’ll dive into what’s needed to access our SOLIDWORKS PDM data. Because SOLIDWORKS PDM is a client/server application, this poses some unique challenges compared to single computer programs. However, you do have options to access your vault when working from home.
Use VPN (Virtual Private Network)
You can use VPN to connect to your PDM system from home using your work computer. There are many VPN clients available and it is likely your company has chosen and configured one.
While you may experience some delays depending on your connection speed, you will generally have the same experience as being at work. Caching files across the internet instead of from a local server will undoubtedly take more time. This will occur when checking out and viewing files that aren’t already copied to your computer, so be prepared for this and have patience.
Tip: Avoid having the Preview tab open when selecting files as the system will automatically cache the file to show you the preview.
Information in other tabs comes from the vault database, so it will be retrieved more quickly.
Use a Remote Desktop Solution
Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection will give you access to your work computer if it is still at the office. This still requires a VPN connection to your network and a computer (or mobile device) at home but it’s a great option if your work computer is a desktop workstation.
Google also has its own remote desktop solution called Chrome Remote Desktop. It allows you to connect to another computer without using VPN. You can install it from here. You must enable access and set up a unique PIN for the computer but then you can authenticate using your Google account, computer and entering the PIN. There are many other remote access solutions available. Many can be used from mobile devices as well after installing the software. Using a Remote Desktop solution also allows you to run SOLIDWORKS on your work computer. Get permission and assistance from your IT group to set up a remote desktop solution.
Use SOLIDWORKS PDM Web2 (PDM Professional)
If your company has set up Web2, you can connect using any modern browser such as Chrome, Edge or Firefox.
The web server must be configured for access from outside your network in order to use it without VPN. There are some limitations in functionality using a browser. The version of SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional you are using will determine those limitations as SOLIDWORKS has continued to add functionality in newer releases. For instance, History tab, Bill of Materials tab and the enhanced Download with References features were added in the 2020 release.
Work in Offline Mode
Finally, you can work in offline mode. This requires some pre-planning but will allow you to work without any network connection. This usually works best if you have a particular project or design you’re working on. You must cache all referenced files you will need to access when disconnected. This can be accomplished by selecting a folder (or individual files) and choosing Get Latest Version.
Also, check out any files you are going to edit before you go offline. When you disconnect by choosing Tools > Work Offline the Explorer will close and when you reopen it, the vault folders will be blue instead of green.
As shown below, the system will not have access to the database so the Columns view, Data Card, Bill of Materials, Contains and Where used tabs will be empty.
For this reason, you should do a search which includes the files you will be working with whether checked out or not and save the results.
You can open the results file with Excel to provide information while working in offline mode.
When you are once again connected to your company network you can go to Tools > Work Online and the folders will return to green and you can check in your modified files.