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Introduction to Synergis Adept Engineering Document Management System, Pt 1

By Rande Robinson, September 4, 2012

Document management software can strike terror in the hearts of CAD system administrators, as well as regular users. For administrators, document management software tends to be difficult to install and maintain, while to most users the software seems to get in the way of doing their work. Overall, the introduction of such software results in a less than satisfactory experience for everyone involved. When you throw in the special needs of the engineering and CAD world, the experience can become worse, and so selecting EDMS (engineering document management system) is something taken lightly by no organization.

(A word of advice. If you don’t have good document workflow already in place before looking for EMDS software, then it won’t matter what you use. Automating a mess creates a computerized mess.)

There are generally two sides to implementing and using document management software: the administrative side, and the user side. This review is of Adept EDMS software from Synergis Software, and I'm going to concentrate on the user side of things. To test the software, I’m using a virtual environment provided by the company.

Quick Overview

Synergis Software began 18 years ago after one of their clients made the costly mistake of losing important data. This incident led to the creation of Network File Manager, the system from which the Adept software was developed. According to Synergis Software director of solutions engineering Chris Fabri, the original development staff is still with the company for which he works. This may not seem like a big thing, but it can be a significant asset on the support side to both the company and its customers. An administrator at an engineering firm I talked to said that Synergis support is the number one thing he likes about the product.

Adept handles all of the major CAD packages available today, including AutoCAD, Inventor, SolidWorks, and MicroStation. In addition to CAD files, Adept can manage literally any Windows document, including Microsoft Office and PDFs to text and image files. Adept not only allows you to manage your files but also to view, print, mark them up and even compare versions of 2D or 3D drawings to each other to see the differences. This added capability is courtesy of the integrated Oracle AutoVue 3D Professional software that is included with all Adept products. The viewer supports hundreds of formats, and the complete list can be found at http://www.synergissoftware.com/resource_center/. Whereas most engineering document management solutions tend to be geared towards a specific software package, Adept seems to handle all the products it supports equally well.

Most organizations have an established network folder structure for storing their files, even when they don’t use a document management system. I like that Adept does not force me to use a specific folder structure.

Hardware and Software Requirements

When I was first approached about writing this review, my biggest initial concern was the hardware and software I might need to run the software. As it turns out, I didn’t need much because Synergis set up a virtual machine into which I could log in across the Internet. Initially, I was skeptical about the setup, but it worked surprising well. So well in fact that it might be a very interesting way to deploy the system in some production environments.

What do you need to host and run Adept? Firstly, a server computer is a must. Synergis recommends the following minimum requirements:

Basically, this describes just about the specs of any general server out there. I would recommend erring on the high side of the specs, especially considering the low cost of memory and disk space these days.

Turning to the software, you will need the following (in addition to Adept Server):

Adept FTS Monitor For Adept Full Text Search – must run on supported Windows Server operating systems
AFS Hub and Satellite Server Software Optional; however, required for AFS Vaults and Replication – may be installed on any supported Windows desktop or server operating system.
Microsoft Indexing Service (requires IIS) Required for Adept Full Text Search
Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0 Required; will be installed by Adept installer
SQL Database Engine Required; the following database engines are supported in Adept, and may be installed on any operating system allowed by the manufacturer:
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 32bit & 64bit, 2005 and 2000
  • MS SQL Express
  • Oracle Database 9i, 10g, 11g
 
SQL ODBC Driver Required; the following ODBC drivers are supported and must be installed on the same hardware as the Adept Server software. For a 32-bit server, install 32-bit ODBC, and similarly for 64-bit:
  • MySQL ODBC driver 3.5.1 or greater for Windows
  • Oracle Database with current ODBC driver for Windows (note that the Oracle ODBC driver provided by Microsoft is incompatible with Adept)
  • Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server Native Client 10.0
 
 
FTP Server Software Optional; however, required for FTP vaults. May be installed on any operating system allowed by the manufacturer:
  • Microsoft IIS/FTP services
  • Other qualified FTP server software
 

In the latest requirements document, I noticed that MySQL will not be supported in versions released after March 31, 2013, so be sure to take this into consideration. I think this is a shame, because MySQL was an inexpensive database engine until Oracle took it over.

On the client side of things, Adept runs on just about anything that also runs a modern browser. The official list of client hardware and software recommendations is as follows:

Processor  
Viewing workstation Pentium III 300 MHz or greater
2D CAD workstation CAD software manufacturer’s minimum requirements apply
3D CAD workstation CAD software manufacturer’s minimum requirements apply
Supported Operating Systems Microsoft Windows XP (Professional or Home Edition, SP2), including the 64-bit edition, Microsoft Windows Vista including the 64-bit edition, Windows 7 including the 64-bit edition
Windows Internet Explorer 6/SP 2, or greater or Firefox Required with latest service packs and hot fixes installed
Microsoft Installer 3.1 (*) Required. (*)Microsoft Installer 3.1 can be installed manually if needed.
Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0 Required; .NET Framework 4.0 is provided with the Adept distribution and must be installed manually if needed.
Memory  
Viewing workstation 256MB or greater
2D CAD workstation CAD software manufacturer’s minimum requirements apply
3D CAD workstation CAD software manufacturer’s minimum requirements apply
Storage 1.5GB free disk space for installation (installed product is under 1.0GB)
Display 1024 x 768 True Color display and a graphics card that supports Open GL 1.1 or greater
The Cost

Here is the standard price list for Adept. The maintenance contract is purchased at the same time as the desktop license, and includes both updates and unlimited support.

Adept Desktop License    $1,850 per concurrent license
Adept Desktop Maintenance Contract    $495 per concurrent license per year
Total initial package price would be $2,345 per seat.
Adept Web Client Explorer License    $995 per concurrent license
Adept Web Client Explorer Maintenance Contract    $275 per concurrent license per year (Adept maintenance contract is purchased at the same time as the explorer license)
Total initial package price would be $1,270 per seat.
Adept Web Client Reviewer License    $1,295 per concurrent license
Adept Web Client Reviewer Maintenance Contract     $350 per concurrent license per year (Adept maintenance contract is purchased at the same time as the explorer reviewer license).
Total initial package price would be $1,645 per seat.

Adept’s concurrent licensing means you only need to purchase the number of licenses equal to the maximum number of active users at any given time. This allows companies the flexibility (and savings) of not having to buy a license for every user in the organization. Martha Lubow of Synergis provided me the following explanation of Adept’s concurrent licensing scheme:

A concurrent or floating license is one that is not fixed to a single person or workstation. It’s based on a model that allows customers to purchase a number of licenses equivalent to the largest number of users likely to be active at a given time, rather than the total number of users in the environment. So, depending on how many people will be using Adept at the same time, that’s the number of licenses the company purchases.

We have customers who have 50 concurrent licenses that they use in North America during the day. When the work day is done, those licenses are used by designers, engineers, shop floor, and procurement people in different time zones.

Enough of the preliminary stuff; in Part 2, we'll take a look at a sample session with the Adept client software.

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About the Author

Rande Robinson has over 24 years of experience in IT, construction, bridge and roadway engineering with 2 state departments of transportation and several community colleges. He trains and supports users with engineering and design applications. Rande holds a civil engineering degree and has written several articles on the use of IT in engineering. More...

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