Friday, November 26, 2010

Secure File Transfer with your own Personal Cloud... Pogoplug

A vital aspect of CAD contracting services is to provide clients with a secure transfer of files.  Over the years this process, along with the tools available has developed progressively.  Today the doorway is well open with emphasis on file storage and sharing on the cloud.  However convenient this method may be, the cloud brings with it viable concerns over control, security, and protection of data.   These concerns are uniquely addressed with Pogoplug, a product having first arrived on the scene in 2009 that provides secure file sharing by essentially creating your own personal cloud!

(C) Cloud Engines, Inc.
Developed by Daniel Putterman and his company Cloud Engines, Pogoplug enables easy and secure web access to personal external hard drives, including a wifi option, that puts you in control of your own personal cloud.  With Standard, Pro, and Biz models available, Pogoplug comes with no fees, and no limits on its use.

For a CAD contractor, the notable advantage of Pogoplug is the ability to grant and share full file access to specific folders that you create and control, thereby eliminating the need for FTP sites. In addition, your personal cloud is accessible anywhere there is web access, including mobile devices.

Highlighted on, Cloud Engines sprang up as a small business startup with an innovative product to address a recognized need, and early on garnered the development support of those who know a good thing when they see it.  It is clearly evident that Pogoplug has great potential for CAD business owners and contractors in providing reliable and secure file sharing services.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

SolidWorks Workgroup PDM - Perhaps the fastest ROI one might ever see!

Avoiding additional license and support costs, SolidWorks Workgroup PDM might just provide the fastest CAD file management 'Return On Investment' (ROI) that one might ever see!

To be certain, Workgroup PDM is not for every company. Rather it seems to be ideally suited for smaller-sized engineering departments (1-15) that could truly benefit from a CAD vault system, but who do not require a full-blown PDM system. Of course, committing to any CAD vault system is an investment, therefore there are a few questions one should consider. The answers will build confidence in the decision making process, while gaining important 'buy-in' from those directly affected with the decision.

What are the Costs?
Since Workgroup PDM is included with each seat of the Professional and Premium license, the upfront monetary investment is $0. The only intrinsic costs to consider are simply time for setup and providing a server.
Please note that one could also choose to simply use an existing computer that could function as the 'vault server', however many CAD Administrators have preferred to assign an actual server that is separate from any of the users computers.

How easy is it to Implement?
Anticipate that a reasonable amount of time will need to be allocated for preparations, setup, testing, implementing, and training. These aspects will initially affect the CAD Administrator and in-house IT, but is quite easily fit into the schedule, per se. Bear in mind that the benefits will far outweigh the time expended.

How easy is it to Use?
Because this is a SolidWorks Add-In, most will find it is very intuitive. Access to the Vault is conveniently provided through either the SolidWorks Main Menu / Task Pane or through SolidWorks Explorer. The usability is very straightforward and basic. Albeit limited, there are a number of capable features that make this a very practical means to manage and control files. Typically, SolidWorks users who previously had no PDM system to manage their CAD files will quickly embrace Workgroup PDM as a significant contributor to improved performance.

What Support can be expected?
SolidWorks has openly acknowledged that for the foreseeable future they will continue providing and supporting Workgroup PDM. They have also stated explicitly that there will be no further development of the Add-In.

That being said, it then becomes a personal decision as to whether to commit to a PDM system that in all probability will eventually be phased out. Does the effort to establish a temporary PDM system outweigh the alternative of not having one. Probably so, as the benefits become instantaneous.  It also places one in a better position to migrate organized CAD files to another PDM system in the future, should the need arise.

Friday, July 30, 2010

SolidWorks... Leading the Job Trend

The past decade has seen tremendous effort put forth by the major 3D CAD platform developers.  This has not only involved significant refinements in software and user interfaces, but also the manner by which these developments address genuine user needs.  Complementing these aspects, we find marketing and consumer education have also been integral in establishing SolidWorks as the 3D CAD of choice among many.

Providing the numbers to confirm the growing trend in SolidWorks use, data indicates a notable distinction among 3D CAD job opportunities, with SolidWorks as the evident leader.  Please note that this chart is directly linked and thus may show variation and trend different from the time of this article submission.

Of course, the details behind this trend are multi-faceted and beyond the scope of this article, but this data should be most reassuring. As the scene of this world continues to change and economies remain uncertain, having apprecication that SolidWorks is growing as the major 3D CAD platform of choice among employers provides added confidence in the potential toward rewarding opportunities for the SolidWorks CAD entrepreneur.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Simplify Your CAD Business Tax Season

For some, the least appealing aspects of managing a CAD business is with regards to bookkeeping and taxes.  But as an older gentlemen who had imigrated years ago to the United States once said, 'I am very happy to pay taxes, because in my old country I could not even earn enough to have to pay them.  But now I can.'  So with appreciation that earnings in your CAD business also neccesitates governmental obligation, let's look at how we can simplify routine bookkeeping, and what typical small business tax deductions might apply.  Of course, please do not construe the following as representative of legal advice.  As always, it is recommended that one become familiar with the specific legal requirements unique to the business location, thereby determining what methods may be best for personal business needs.

Bookkeeping Basics
A very simple, yet functional spreadsheet should contain the following columns to account for business profit and loss:
  • Date - calendar date
  • Item - brief description of the item being documented
  • Income - payments received
  • Advertising - business cards, promotions, etc.
  • Travel (miles) - travel expended for interviewing with clients, business promotions, etc.
  • Commuting (miles) - travel to and from contracted work sites
  • Office expenses - computers, software, etc.
  • Supplies - paper, printer ink, etc.
  • Taxes & Licenses - annual business license, periodic tax payments, etc
  • Travel, Meals, & Entertainment - airfare, cab, eating out of town, etc.
  • Loss - any unreceived money toward invoiced accounts

You may be pleasantly surprised to know that with this simplified spreadsheet layout, one might only need to spend 3-4 minutes each week keeping records up to date!  Yes, having a good routine makes updating business records that much easier.  For example, if you routinely submit invoices for your work on, say... a Friday afternoon, then use that opportunity as a prompt to document the weeks activities.  Also, you may choose to use this time to store any of the weeks business receipts in a designated envelope.

Maintaining these records will ensure the information is readily available with little extra effort required, when preparing periodic or annual tax forms.

Common Tax Deductions
Typical small business tax deductions are nothing new or secretive, but it can be helpful to have these items highlighted for any who simply have never needed to give thought to such.  Some of these topics will be similar, if not the same as the columns we discussed earlier regarding Bookkeping, so again we can see the intrinsic value of good record keeping.  For example, State and Federal laws may allow for deducting business expenses related to:
  • Vehicle
  • Commuting mileage
  • Home office
  • Office supplies
  • Computer / Software
  • Telephone / Internet
  • Education / Training
  • Travel / Meals / Entertainment
  • Advertising / Promotions
Again, these are just some of the topics that are typical to a small home-based CAD business, and therefore you too can benefit from these tax related deductions.

In summary therefore, we find that a little routine maintenance in bookkeeping can make for a much less complicated or harried tax season.  Additionally, it affords one to hold a clean conscience in legally availing yourself of any tax advantages ascribed by law.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

CAD Contracting... the growing trend

It is apparent that many larger companies recognize the value of hiring contractors for a multitude of services.  Bringing both monetary and intrinsic benefits to an employer, hiring contractors is an increasingly appealing option across the spectrum for what companies are looking for.  Without delving into the macro or micro-economics involved, the trend toward hiring contractors is evident in the numbers.

If you are already positioned to provide contracted CAD services, then you have a unique option for remaining active in the ever changing landscape of employment opportunities.  If you are one who is contemplating whether creating a CAD business is worth the time and effort, then it might be shrewd to listen to those who are paid to study economic trends.
  • reports in an article entitled The Rise of Freelance Nation, "Don't wait for the company to push you. Start thinking like an entrepreneur now".  In addition to identifying that independent contractors will increase from the present 30% of the U.S. job market in 2009 to 40% in 2019, the article adds that 'the trend is expected to spread to professions such as accounting, engineering, health care, law, and sales'.
  • MSN Money also stated in a December 2009 report of CEOs interviewed for PricewaterhouseCoopers' Private Company Trendsetter Barometer survey, that "among the 35 percent of leading private companies that believe they will have to fill in some skills gaps... 22 percent plan to use contractors as means to fill skills gaps at their companies."
Yes, as the numbers indicate, more and more companies are realizing the benefits that independent contractors can add to the dynamics of a workforce.  That being said, having ones own business to provide CAD services allows for an added and significant measure of hiring advantage in these times of changing economics.