Me & my IT: James Ferrero ICT manager Design Engine
Like hats and gloves, you can never have enough backup
Backup is the thing practices need to take most seriously when it come to their IT.
We back up every 15 minutes across the practice with off-site clones. It’s a complicated system to set up, but I felt we owed the staff because they put so much work in, and the look on someone’s face when you have to say “I’m sorry, you have to start again” really doesn’t give you a good feeling.
If we had to evacuate the building or move into a portable cabin we could be up and running within the hour with our off-site backups.
I feel a bit like Patsy Stone from Ab Fab, when she was interviewed on TV: “You can never have enough hats, gloves and shoes”…or in our case, too much backup.
We have about 30 staff, although it fluctuates with our part I and IIs. As standard, everyone gets an Apple iMac. Having a building full of very shiny looking computers is nice and it makes the staff happy, but on a practical level they’re very reliable and when we do want to sell them on after several years we can reclaim several hundred pounds.
We make sure the end-user software we use is available across platform so if any point we did have to swap we wouldn’t be looking at major outlays in terms of software and training downtime.
Cad-wise we use Vectorworks, but we use it slightly differently from the way it was designed. In 2007 we brought in the services of a cad consultant called Steven Shorter and he introduced a new working protocol into the practice using Uniclass conventions. Coupled with a very intelligent way of referencing files, it has given us much greater control over quality assurance and management and it reduced the risk of data loss because our individual files and drawings were broken down more granularly.
I guess you could say that we are bim level 2 at the moment in that we do maintain separate 2D and 3D packages. Things like the RIBA’s bim overlay have been useful in giving us a deeper understanding of what’s expected of architects over the next few years.
We will probably look at committing to a bim solution in the next 18-24 months. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation whereby your client or contractor has the ability to dictate to you your standards.
When you start working intensively in 3D, having an underpowered computer will cause all kinds of problems. We currently have a life cycle of three to four years on our workstations. But the reality is that once some serious 3D graphic work becomes part of your primary workflow, you’ll be looking at 24-month life cycles. Which is a sobering thought.