The Simple Way to Remote Access Project Files in the AEC Industry

One of the biggest challenges the Architectural, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry has always faced is file access for workers in the field.

It needs to be fast, secure, and possible with virtually any device.

There are many ways to do this, yet very few of them are convenient, cost effective, or cyber secure.

Fortunately, there’s an answer, and it lies in Microsoft Office 365.

The current solution (and why it doesn’t work)

AEC firms typically rely on VPN connections to access files while out on site. These allow remote workers to access folders contained on servers that are housed within the four walls of the business.

It sounds simple; you simply connect to the internet, open a VPN connection, and then access your ‘P’ drive as you would do normally.

There’s just one big problem – it isn’t particularly convenient for field staff. VPN connections can be slow, unreliable and need a fair amount of bandwidth to transfer what are often pretty large files. They also need special software and a fair amount of tender loving care from the IT team.

With mobile internet speeds so variable, VPN connections simply aren’t reliable enough if you’re working on a complex construction project and need immediate access to vital files.

The answer (it’s much more than an office suite)

The solution to the remote file conundrum comes in the form of Microsoft’s Office 365 suite.

It’s far more than just a word processor and email client; Microsoft 365 Business subscriptions enable employees in the construction industry to work unhindered, no matter where they happen to be.

SharePoint is a perfect example of this. Microsoft’s document management platform comes as standard with a 365 subscription and links brilliantly with their cloud storage solution, OneDrive.

The benefits for people working out on the field are numerous:

          project files are stored securely in the Office 365 cloud;

          files can be accessed from anywhere, even if the internet connection is slow;

          365 apps are available on desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones with virtually no reduction in functionality; and

          when combined with Windows 10 and the ‘selective sync’ feature, workers can ensure they keep local copies of particularly important files fully up to date on their devices.


I’m convinced! How can we move to SharePoint?

The good news? Moving from a VPN solution to Office 365 and SharePoint is relatively straightforward.

You’ll need some technical help to get off the ground, but once up and running, you can start all new projects in SharePoint and decide later whether it’s worth moving existing projects across. Although, given that those existing projects are likely to be sitting safe on the server back at HQ, you can probably leave them there as an archive to save time.

There’s just one point to bear in mind, which is backups. Microsoft do a great deal for you on this front when it comes to disaster recovery, but nothing beats a constant cloud backup solution.

We therefore recommend investing in a cloud backup service at the same time you switch to Office 365 to protect against malicious activity, user error, and any other instance where data could be lost.

Ready to switch?

There aren’t many arguments against Office 365, OneDrive, and SharePoint in the AEC industry. If you’ve been battling with poor, unreliable, or non-existent remote protect file access, it could be your knight in shining armour.

You will need some technical assistance in getting set up, so if you want to make the switch or simply have unanswered questions about Office 365, just get in touch with the helpful Compex IT team today.