Working Offline in SolidWorks Enterprise PDM

What happens when you are working with an Enterprise PDM vault and planned or unplanned, you are no longer connected to the server?  For instance, you may want to (or have to) work on documents that are checked into the vault but do so remotely, such as from home, to prepare for an important meeting.  You may not have the ability to remotely access your workstation that is in the office.  Or you are in the office, but the connection to the server is down.

Enterprise PDM has an off-line mode that allows you to browse and work with files and folders that are already cached in the file vault view while disconnected from the servers hosting the file vault.  The files and folders remain in the exact same locations as they do in the “live” file vault, so there is no need to move or copy files in order to work with them when offline.

How do I know when I’m working offline?

I’m logged into my Default vault as John and see the “normal” vault view with green folders and my speaker_frame part that I have checked out:
SolidWorks EPDM Default Vault View file name highlighted

Now the server connection goes down.  It may not be immediately obvious this has occurred.  In fact, when John edits the file he has checked out, for example by adding a Vendor, and then saves and goes to check in his changes, everything looks fine until he gets the following after clicking OK on the check-in dialog:
SolidWorks EPDM could not connect to the Archive Server

… and when John tries to Get Latest Version on a file that he does not have locally:
SolidWorks EPDM archive serve on the File Vault Compuer has not been started

Now John logs out and attempts to log back in:
SolidWorks EPDM Could not connect to the archive server for the vault default

There is a “Work Offline” button below the “Log In” button.  Here is what happens when John clicks “Work Offline”:
SolidWorks EPDM Work Offline Window View

He is able to have limited access to the file vault.  Notice that the vault folders are now blue, not all files that were displayed before are available, there are fewer/different columns, missing buttons, fewer menu selections, and nothing is shown when any of the tabs are selected.  Nevertheless John can still access the files he had cached locally and has write access to anything he had checked out (shown in the Writeable column).  If he opens a document that is shown as Writeable = Yes, it will allow him to make changes and save them.  If the document is Writeable = No, it will open the document read-only.

Also, John can add content even while offline.  Here he is able to add a new document and save:
SolidWorks EPDM work offline add new document

He can try to check in the new file via the right-click command menu but the server must be back up before that is successful:
SolidWorks EPDM work offline check in document
SolidWorks EPDM Could not connect to the archive server for the vault default

Finally IT reports the server back on-line.  Now John is able to complete the check-in.  First he gets the login dialog again, and then after logging in sees the following message:
SolidWorks EPDM work offline the selection does not contain any checked out items

To complete this process, John re-establishes the live vault connection using Tools > Work On-line:
SolidWorks EPDM Tools Menu Work on-line menu option

Next he sees the new file as a <local file> and adds it to the vault via the right-click command menu and then checks it in.
SolidWorks EPDM right click add to file vault
SolidWorks EPDM This is a test document view
SolidWorks EPDM document versions

In the other typical scenario, the servers are on-line and functioning normally but the user is planning to work on a remote client with no server access.  Here it is helpful to understand what is available and not available while working offline.

Functionality available while offline (subset of standard EPDM functionality):

On-line Off-line
Preview files Yes No
Access files in local cache Yes Yes
Access files not in local cache Yes No
EPDM Search Yes No
Windows Search of cached files Yes Yes
Document History Yes No
Get earlier versions of files Yes No
Edit files you have checked out Yes Yes
Update fields in data card Yes No
Add new folders to the vault Yes Yes
Add new files to the vault Yes Yes
Change state (workflow) Yes No
See BOM and Contains/Where Used Yes No
Add-ins functionality Yes No
Vault administration Yes No

With this understanding, John decides to check out the files he needs to update and does a ‘Get Latest Version’ on files that he needs to access.

TIP: If using Toolbox integrated into the vault, and you need to access the toolbox parts while offline, make sure to get latest version on the toolbox folder before going offline. SolidWorks will use the local toolbox while offline but can access the cached files in the vault view. Then once server connection is re-established, any changes will be merged with the server copy.

Now John uses the Tools menu to go into Off-Line mode, packs up his laptop and goes home to prepare for his meeting …
SolidWorks EPDM tools menu work off-line

… and does not feel blue about the blue folders, since he can still update his assembly:
SolidWorks EPDM screenshot
SolidWorks linear actuator
SolidWorks EPDM linear actuator history

IT Considerations to Minimize Impact of Server Downtime

Deployments of Enterprise PDM that utilize multiple servers can help minimize the impact of having a server down.  For the archive server, if there are multiple sites with replication enabled, clients access their files through their local archive server.  If one site is down, other sites will still be able to log in and access any files that have already been replicated to the local server.  It is also possible to re-direct clients to point to a different archive server through the local group policy setting.
SolidWorks EPDM local group policy editor login manager

This is often done when someone needs to travel between sites and wants to access their files from the local archive server for performance.  If used as an alternative access to the vault, keep in mind that performance may be an issue due to latency and bandwidth considerations.  However, it may be a short term fix until the local server is back up.

For the SQL Server database, fail-safe clustering has been deployed at a number of customers to allow for redundancy.

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