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Fear factor

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With CAD now universally adopted, DocumentFlow has addressed fears about security when sharing files

Have you ever wondered why some people always embrace new technology with zest (often called 'early adopters') while others are slow to adopt and, in some extreme cases, completely reject the mere notion of a new software tool? Which group do you fall into? Why would you say you naturally gravitate towards your particular group?

I have given this some thought and my conclusion is that the technology is rarely the prohibiter for adoption. I believe that initially it is the prospect of change that leads to temporary decision paralysis, and in the longer term it is not knowing how to manage the change to mitigate the risk of down time. But what is it that lures early adopters to go the other way and embrace change rapidly? I would guess it is the prospect of fixing a current problem, removing friction from an existing interface or process, or enabling someone to do something that they have longed to do but never had the tools to make possible.

A prime technological example of this point is CAD. When the ability to draw on a computer first hit our shores, a few wealthy practices bought into the idea as early adopters.

Others stood by and watched, and some just dipped a toe in the water. It has taken a long time for the CAD wave to wash over the entire industry.

While a few still prefer the drawing board, the majority of practices now use CAD to produce drawings.

The change to CAD was a mixture of a skills-based challenge - 'can I still draw as quickly as before?' - and a psychological challenge 'will my drawings be safe inside the computer?' Both issues are easily answered by early-adopter case studies and by the test of time, something only the hesitant can benefit from at the potential expense of the early adopters.

This wholesale change has taken some time but has been driven in part by both peer pressure and support;

the latter manifesting itself through application choice and familiarisation and the former through the demand to reuse data created by other consultants, thus reducing duplication.However, this new openness through CAD-data sharing has brought its own problems, including fear of one consultant's data being altered by a third party and passed off as the work of its creator, leading to conflict and on-site errors.

While the process of referencing one consultant's CAD file into another as a transparent overlay should help avoid the likelihood of data being accidentally moved or deleted, it does not prevent one consultant maliciously changing the data of another. This is why some consultants have resisted the change in process to sharing their files with other consultants. Thankfully, a company called DocumentFlow has come up with a suite of cracking new tools that can remove all fear of the wrong person editing your data, either by mistake or desire. The suite includes CADSafe, CADSign and FileSign.

CADSafe is a plug-in tool to AutoCAD that enables you to select and lock entities within a DWG file and protect the access to the locked entities with a password. Locking the entities within a file removes the need for a password needed to open the file or attach it as an Xref to another file.

This means that the security level is not lost once the file has been opened.

However, once opened, all the graphics are visible to the user, even though the protected entities cannot be edited, moved or copied without the user entering the correct password to first unlock the data.

Naturally every silver lining is wrapped in cloud, and the disadvantage of CADSafe is the need for licences at both ends of the process if you are in possession of the password and wish to edit some locked data - although I would imagine only using it to protect data shared outside your work place, and I would therefore not worry about 'the other licence'.

CADSign is a tool that enables hierarchical signatures of CAD files based upon the entity content within, which makes it far more reliable than the signature tools delivered for many other CAD tools. FileSign is an external tool that enables you to sign many files at once. However, you will need the FileSign application to hand to review the signatures.

A change in process can certainly cause what the marketing men love to refer to as FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).We can all remove the fear by clarifying what is uncertain and underpinning our doubts with proven case studies. However, sometimes it is the FUD about a current process that acts as a catalyst for people to embrace change when another option comes along - a motivational factor that may prove to be key to the rapid adoption of the CADSign tool.

The entry costs are relatively modest too, with CADSign starting at £495 for the first seat and £195 for each extra licence, and a full site licence with up to 250 licences is a meagre £9,995.

For further information visit www. documentflow. com. Joe Croser can be contacted at joe@croser. net

PROS: Secure your data with certainty before sharing it with a wider audience.

CONS: You need a software licence to enter a password for editing, unlike with PDF for example.

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