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Comparison of Cloud-Based CAD Collaboration Services: TeamPlatform vs Autodesk 360

By Daniel Dobrzynski, May 2, 2013

This review aims to describe my experience in using TeamPlatform and Autodesk 360 with the aim of comparing two products highlighting their benefits, options and features, and build a more objective view of the main application fields of each. Both products have the same basic goal: to use cloud service as a collaboration tool, but differ greatly in their additional capabilities. Both TeamPlatform and Autodesk 360 provide a service for those who want to share and collaborate on projects containing product designs (engineering, architecture, concurrent design, etc.) with 3D CAD assemblies & parts, 2D CAD drawings, 2D/3D scans & meshes, different kinds of files as office documents, spreadsheets, presentations, PDF, videos, animations, etc., etc. Let’s start with a few words from their creators:

From Autodesk, Autodesk 360 is "a cloud computing platform that provides a broad set of features, cloud services, and products that can help you dramatically improve the way you design, visualize, simulate, and share your work with others anytime, anywhere..."

From TeamPlatform, their product’s goal is "to help people and companies work together much more easily and quickly than with conventional tools. This is a new way to connect businesses, effectively sharing and collaborating designs no matter the complexity or the CAD file, with the added of workflow tools that are fast to use and easy to set up..."

Workspace Comparison

Let’s now take a look at the common characteristic of TeamPlatform and Autodesk 360, with what I think is the primary mission of both products. I'm talking specifically here about sharing information within a team and with possible external partners, using virtual external storage servers, non-technically called "the cloud." To be fair, I will test the no-charge level of each product.

Uploading and Organizing Documents with Autodesk 360

Uploading documents and organizing them online are extremely easy to use tasks that I found user friendly as they are regulated by an intuitive process I created an Autodesk account, and then logged into Autodesk 360 (see figure 1). On the home page, I can upload documents by a simple click on a button. If I am using Firefox or Chrome, I can drag and drop files from Windows Explorer into the browser. Uploaded documents are shown in Recent Activity area and listed on the Documents page. Whoever uploads a document becomes the owner of it.

Figure 1: Autodesk 360 home page showing the upload and share options; also available are training videos

The organization of the documents is by a folder and subfolder structure. Document Details and Folder Details pages display information about items, such as their size, versions, and recent activities. If I am the owner of a file, then the page also displays sharing controls (see figure 2.)

Figure 2: Document Details folder; the example shown here is an of a CATIA file

I found all these processes very easy to follow. For instance, a right click on a file gives me access to functions like Download, Move, Copy, and Delete or Restore. An option to create and manage categories and subcategories provides flexibility in organizing items, especially because I can apply multiple categories to each item.

Finally, I can add comments to files, and there is an effective version control system.

Uploading and Organizing Documents with TeamPlatform

TeamPlatform is based on the concept of workspaces, which, simply put, is a collection of files, folders, tasks, and comments, as well as settings that define people’s access to the documents. I found TeamPlatform's workspaces great, a powerful and simple way to organize, manage, and collaborate on any type of project. In other words, workspaces are where people work.

After I log into TeamPlatform, I click on the Dashboard folder (see figure 3). This is a quick snapshot that shows me various types of information relevant to the project, such as Workspaces Update, Recent Discussions, Tasks To Do in project planning, Recent upload and download activity, and Recent Comments. It’s good for managers and others who want to see the most significant information in one shot.

Figure 3: TeamPlatform’s Dashboard giving an overview of recent files and activities

After creating a new workspace, I added a title and an optional description, along with those with whom I want share files by defining access permissions for anyone, all my team, or with specific accounts, email addresses, or entire groups. I saw the whole process for setting up online workspaces as an easy process, and a dynamic one with which I can quickly organize and work in partnerships on projects.

Figure 4: TeamPlatform showing a Workspace in list mode view

Everything I need to enable a project team is included in the workspace environment. (I will go deeper into this later.) For now, I want to expose you to some conceptual ideas to provide a more extensive picture of how it works. As the owner of the files, I am administrator and I can invite people, and define their access to the content with simple operations.

It is a sufficiently intuitive process that just about any level of user can add comments to nearly all workspace elements, such as Files, Pages, and Tasks. This allows anyone in the team to freely share ideas and request feedback on every detail of the project.

A powerful feature lets members create contextual hyperlinks between items. Users may organize a considerable amount of content easily, including documents, CAD data, and project tasks - allowing all files can be managed entirely inside TeamPlatform.

Members can comment almost anywhere; by default, comments and other actions send email notifications to all people. (This is customizable.) This function is useful for project tracking.

I can drag-and-drop to add folders and upload files or by synching them with DWM [desktop workspace manager]. It’s possible to view almost any file after uploading; see Viewing section for details. No matter the size of a file, it can be moved and copied freely between shared workspaces. Files can be visualized in most any Web browser meaning that no special software is required (Microsoft Internet Explorer must install a patch to view 3D). While this is a great value that TeamPlatform provides (performance, simplicity, and saving money), I want to talk about this more in the section on Viewing. Powerful file tools allowed me to store different versions, track downloads, navigate assemblies of CAD structures, show additional properties that can be customized (like part numbers, material details, and volumes), and personalize labels.

I want to pause here to talk a bit about a particular differentiator of TeamPlatform, its ability to create Pages for Write Together, Pack Files, and Publish to Outsiders. These are unique, powerful authoring tools to aggregate files, memos, images and videos, notes, links, and data. They can be used to define project trajectories, provide reference material, record meeting notes, and summarize major milestones. As if all this were not enough, Pages can be embedded with content from Web and other workspaces, publish each page to outsiders with various access permissions (e-mail unique URL without sharing the entire workspace) and track visits.

Sharing Documents with Autodesk 360

Autodesk 360 supports two kinds of sharing: private and public. Most documents can be shared using one of them. For example, as the document owner, I want to use private sharing to control which people, or connections, can access my items, as well as specify their level of access (such as only users with an Autodesk Account).

Access levels determine what connections can do with privately shared items. There are four levels: view only, download, upload a new version, and share with others. The exception is the Full access level which has no restrictions (see figure 5).

When sharing documents publicly, they can be accessed by anyone with the URL; it is not, however, discoverable by search engines. No Autodesk account is needed to view a public document. While viewers of public documents cannot see activities or other data, in the same way owners of the public documents have no knowledge of who has viewed them. To provide links to public documents, I can copy a URL from the clipboard, send an email with the link, or embed HTML code on a Web page.

Figure 5: Autodesk 360 sharing documents
Sharing Documents with TeamPlatform

In TeamPlatform, everything is so connected that I find it difficult to describe some functions separately without commenting on related items. This is the case for sharing documentation: several of the previous paragraphs touched the subject. Now, I will address this issue with greater depth.

Employing the concept I’ll call "right files to the right people," I can share workspaces, files, pages, and discussion topics based on user accounts (see figure 6). In any project management software, as administrator I determine the sharing of files. What happens, however, when I want to share some data from a large set of documentation? For this, TeamPlatform provides a fast way to search for the right files easily because it indexes all custom properties stored by files.

Naturally, I can add or remove members; in addition, I can organize members and guests into groups (entire departments, groups, or teams) to generate invitations faster to workspaces or discussion posts. People shared in workspaces have full access to the workspace (download, upload, edit, and so on) but if I as administrator want to restrict some of them from editing the workspace, then I set it as read-only. This is a one directional workspace for guests, which allows them to search, view comments (but not make them), and download (but not upload) files. A restriction of read-only workspaces keeps guests from seeing other guests in the workspace. They get an invitation email in their inbox with a link that takes them directly to the read-only workspace. To stop sharing a workspace, I just need to remove a person's name from the People list.

If the administrator(s) want to share Published Page just needs to select the "Public on the web" share option and anyone on the Internet can find and access to them with no sign-in required. To stop its access can be disabled public access, change its password or directly delete the page.

Figure 6: Example of Public Page sharing in TeamPlatform

Continuing my research into the variety of ways of sharing pages, I found an interesting one named "Anyone with the link." This provides no sign-on access via a link, with options of imposing a expiry time (in days) and password protection.

Finally, if I set the status to "Private," then the Page is not shared, and it can be accessed only through a workspace.

Well, at this stage of the review you are probably thinking that the range of sharing possibilities in TeamPlatform has no limits. So it seems, but there is one more: share discussions with selected persons.

next page: Workspaces Comparison Conclusion, Pricing

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About the Author

Daniel Dobrzynski is a expert in the CAD/CAM industry with over 27 years' experience as enterprise consultant. He has worked as a designer (mainly in automotive & aerospace areas of big companies), CAM programmer, post processor generator, advance machine builder for CAM simulation, PLM administrator, methodology and procedures creator. He has more than 20 years as a CAD/CAM/CAE certified trainer. More...

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