A key trend deserving pride of place on your BIM "radar screen” in 2014 is the use of cloud computing, and its ability to influence multiple project and team processes.

A crucial factor for the success of a business is choosing the right location.

One of the biggest challenges for efficient BIM project management has been file size, central storage, and equal and timely access to project files and raw computing power.

Web-based BIM projects (located in the BIM Cloud) provide team members with the advantage of remote access to a centralized location on the Internet. This provides on-demand global team access to the BIM-based project regardless of their geographic location.

Centralized Storage: A web-hosted BIM project site provides scalable, centralized project storage. As the project grows, additional file storage can be purchased when required. Contractually, owners are requesting more documentation to be delivered for Facility Management (FM) and Operations and Maintenance (O&M).

Commissioning documentation can pull data from central storage and contribute to the owners’ documentation request. Logically, if the entire team is storing their project files in one location, then everyone is accessing the most current documentation. As a consequence, delivering complete digital files to the owner at project completion should be faster and easier.

Interoperable Access: Team members can simultaneously access the BIM project with a variety of fixed and\or mobile devices; PCs, laptops, tablets and phones. This means the hosting site will support access from multiple operating systems (Windows, Apple, Droid, etc.) based on the user’s preference.

Secure Team Access: User access is granted by means of a username and password, with well-defined access rights and permissions depending upon the user’s project role(s). Revision control that tracks user activities can also automate the billing process. The system provides automated emailing to the appropriate team members as project file folders for architecture, engineering or construction are updated.

As the team grows or shrinks, the roles can be expanded or eliminated. The entire team member access process is centrally controlled and scalable to the phase of the project.

BIM Software: BIM software licensing costs and access increases as the project grows. Eventually, team members will not be in one central location and may require licenses for multiple types of software.

The BIM Project Cloud is configured for all project software licensing, providing users with on-demand “checking-out” of licenses from the project’s software inventory. When the user completes their editing or viewing software session the software is “returned” to the project’s software inventory. Their username and password will determine the type and level of access they have to the project files.

The BIM software is loaded and runs on remote servers in the BIM project cloud. The device (PC, laptop, tablet, and phone) accesses the software via a local app on the device. The BIM software uses the computing power of the remote servers for running the program – not the device accessing the software.

Let’s consider a few financial and time-saving benefits of cloud-based BIM software:

  1. Users access their BIM software with less expensive “devices” as the computational work is being done by the cloud servers. Their local devices are purchased with fewer upgrades (less RAM, average video cards, smaller hard drives.)
  2. Similar to cloud storage access, the BIM software can be operated by devices with a variety of operating systems (Windows, Apple, Droid, etc.)
  3. Software is scalable to the needs of the project. Software as a Service (SaaS) is purchased by project members only when it’s needed, thus reducing users’ software inventories and overhead costs.
  4. Hardware and software technical support are now included in the project’s webhosting subscription contract. This includes software and driver updates, equipment upgrades, project file backups, license management and virus protection.
  5. The BIM software is tasked with creating and managing large BIM project files with simultaneous user connections. This includes intense computational tasks like creating photorealistic renderings and walkthrough animations, managing lists and schedules, running clash detections, performing structural and energy analysis and creating daylight/shadow studies. These simultaneous tasks harness the computing power of multiple servers and not individual PCs, in a process that has been referred to as “infinite computing.”

Advance 2000 and BIM9 and are considered private clouds. Realizing that clients prefer to “try before they buy,” many cloud service providers will provide clients with trial sites and services to help understand their benefits.