IT Considerations for ACE businesses

When businesses that use large drawings and images want to use cloud-based applications and remote collaboration, they often require specialized IT expertise. Architecture, construction and engineering businesses (ACE) work out of offices but also work at remote job sites. Activities such as planning and ordering of materials are usually carried out at the offices while implementation of the plan and the use of the materials takes place on site when the project is being built.

Sharing drawings, images and specifications between the office and the job site and collaborating in real time reduces costs and makes project work more efficient. But special features are required for the IT systems to handle large graphics files. Security is important to protect intellectual property (IP) and systems allowing for remote but verified signatures may be required for professional approvals. When ACE businesses do not have the required IT expertise, it makes sense to use a managed IT services provider to set up and run the special IT infrastructure.

High Performance Network Infrastructure Increases Operational Efficiency

Displaying graphics such as building design documents or layouts requires powerful graphic rendering capabilities. You may need to support Building Information Modeling (BIM) and BIM platforms such as AutoDesk BIM360. Computers and workstations must be powerful with large, high-resolutions screens. While the aim is always to perform most tasks digitally, occasionally drawings will have to be printed on large format printers or plotters. These local systems must also be networked with fast, high-bandwidth infrastructure to be able to send, process and store the large graphics files.

For remote interactions between the office and job sites, high-speed Internet is a must. For the office connection, optical fiber right into the office network is probably the best solution. Running fiber into a temporary facility at a job site may be more difficult, but the key is to find a solution that can meet the high data transfer rates. Different job sites will have different possibilities and it helps to be familiar with all the alternatives.

The architects and engineers working for ACE businesses may have professional licenses that require them to sign drawings and specifications. Depending on your jurisdiction, digital signatures are often acceptable. Digital signatures systems should include a way of verifying the identity of the professional who has signed the document. Such remote signing capability becomes important if job site changes made to drawings require professional approval.

Effective Security Policies Protect ACE Businesses

ACE businesses face the same security risks as other businesses, but there are additional threats from their extensive use of external contractors. Risks from malware such as ransomware and viruses are common and there are accepted methods of dealing with them. More difficult are threats from insiders who have temporary access to company networks due to their status as subcontractors.

In many projects, subcontractors and professional partners need to be able to access internal guidelines, project drawings and specifications. Some of this material may be proprietary and some may include private customer information. The concern is two-fold. Temporary insiders who have access may make unauthorized copies of privileged information and they may try to leverage their limited access to penetrate the company’s private network.

To mitigate such threats requires extensive experience with IT security. You can implement security strategies such as layered protection where subcontractors only have access to the outer layers. Sensitive company data remains protected inside several inner layers. You can put in place data-centric security where sensitive files are encrypted. Changing passwords frequently, for example every 90 days, will help secure your network. A comprehensive security strategy will keep your data and IP safe while protecting your internal networks from attacks.

Need Help with IT Services?

A managed IT services provider can help you set up IT infrastructure that delivers the performance needed by ACE businesses while retaining a secure network configuration. As a leading provider of Bay Area IT services, GSDSolutions can help you meet the challenges of putting in place an efficient ACE IT solution.

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