To Vault or Not to Vault...That Is the Question – Part II
Written by: Bill Frederick, Synergis Director of Infrastructure & GIS Technical Services
In the previous article, we had discussed some of the options available to collaborate using
AutoCAD Civil 3D. With use of X-references and Data shortcuts, users can accomplish most of
their everyday tasks.
To follow-up with a more robust data collaboration option, we will look into another option
provided by Autodesk… Autodesk Vault. Vault is a very powerful tool that will allow a majority of
users to work to their fullest capacity sharing data and other Microsoft based products. So what
is what and how can it be used?
Autodesk Vault is an application that has been in existence for several years. Its original
function was to support Autodesk Inventor and support data management within a project.
AutoCAD Civil 3D 2007 introduced Vault into the workflow environment and is in the current
release as its data/project management component.
What is Vault?
Vault is a comprehensive data management system. Think of Vault as a file repository for
drawings, engineering data, and associated files. Vault can keep track of drawings and
documents and keep them in a secured environment. Vault is contains a server component and
a client component to operate. Vault is a tool that can be managed by non IT personnel.
Vault’s server component is where most CAD managers and IT personnel cringe when it is
mentioned. Most of the issues revolve around the idea of having to purchase new hardware and
thousands of dollars for a new server. This is not the case. Vault will run on a standard
workstation, even running Windows XP. Just remember the maximum number of concurrent
users with Windows XP is limited to 10 users.
ADMS – Server Side
Vault has recently been renamed.
Autodesk Data Management Server
(ADMS) as the new alias for Vault
Server. If you break down Vault, it is
a file store and a data store
(database). The two stores work
together to supply data to the users.
The file store houses all data that
has been “checked in” to ADMS.
Data could vary from drawings, Civil 3D objects, image files, Microsoft Office files, etc. The
check in process is done through the client side of the application.
The SQL Database inventories all the transactions relating to the data stored in the file store.
The database also performs checks for users requesting data. The data is managed with user
accounts, checks for versioning, and links to projects.
ADMS is a web service that works with SQL Server (SQL 2005 Express) and the file store. SQL
Express is generally sufficient to run most medium to small offices. There are many flavors of
SQL dependant upon your needs.
Internet Information Services (IIS) is an important component for Vault to install and run properly
on a machine you designate as the Vault (ADMS). If IIS is not found, Autodesk Web Server will
load by default. Be sure to disable any firewall settings blocking port 80. Port 80 is the standard
internet protocol so it is usually open for use.
On the server side you can force a location of a working folder. A working folder is where
drawings are placed when they are “checked out” of the Vault. The working folder can be handle
din two basic ways. One scenario allows the files to be copied to the user’s workstation. This
method often can speed process that could be hinder through network latency. The other
scenario would copy files to a shared network folder. This method is congruent to the way most
Land Desktop users setup their projects.
Once the Vault is configured, there are very few tasks that must be done. Vault can run its own
set of tasks for backups. There may be a need to do some additional housekeeping and data
management over time. You should note if no management is taking place your file store will
grow exponentially over a long haul.
Vault – Client Side
Civil 3D has a built-in client within the Prospector
on the Toolspace. To access the Vault, you must
login to the Vault. A listing of available projects
will be included in the view.
In comparison to the data shortcuts, Vault has the
capability of managing additional data. Vault can
manage drawing files and their dependencies.
Other notables include the ability to stored point
data and survey databases.
On the client side of Vault, we are given an
intuitive interface to work within the SQL
database and the files store. Symbology is very important to the interface. The open circles
located next to points and survey collections are indicators to notify the user of object status. As
data is added to the vault and shared within the project the
other collections will be populated.
The drawings folder is the file organization applied to the
project. This could be compared to the folders used in
Land Desktop with in the DWG folder. The default folder
structure can be applied to all projects upon creation with
the Vault. By default a folder is created on the root of the
c-drive. The default directory is C:\Civil 3D Project
Templates. Within this folder you can create default folder
structures to upload into the project interface. If this default
is used, you will offer consistency between all projects
created and managed within AutoCAD Civil 3D.
Default Project Folder Structure Template
Vault works in a similar fashion as data shortcuts.
There are source drawings which contain object
data. The source drawing must be added to a Vault
project to enable the data referencing functionality.
The interface may seem clumsy to navigate at first,
but it asks all the appropriate questions of which
data to use and where to locate the drawings.
Add Drawing to Project
Adds drawing to Vault Project
Add to Project – Drawing Location
Select proper project and folder location for the
drawing to reside.
The next dialog box confirms if the
drawing has any dependencies. File
dependencies are file that are attached
to the AutoCAD Civil 3D file. Some
examples could include: attached
images, attached drawing file formats
(DWF, DGN), and any x-references.
Dependant files will be copied to the
Vault when the drawing file is “checked
in”. Be careful when adding
dependencies, the file store size will
grow very quickly because these are
saved with the file we are adding and
editing in the Vault.
The next dialog allows the user
to select the object to be shared
in the Vault.
After objects have been
“checked in” to the Vault, user
may access them for data
references. This procedure is
similar to the operation of data
After selecting Finish the
objects will display in the
Prospector in the Projects
Take note of the drawings added to the project and the
surface that is now available for data references within
When a user hovers over the Vault icons in the
Prospector, a notification regarding its state will
show in a tool tip.
In conclusion, we have explored the three main ways to share data amongst a group of users. It
could also be determined that these methods will be used in conjunction with one another to
meet the needs of your organization.
We have the simplest with x-references. We most note that x-references have some ability to
display Civil 3D Labels and have them reactive in the reference drawing. Though we can not
edit the styles directly, we can open the source drawing and make the appropriate changes. A
notification will appear letting a user know the drawing has changed. We must also note the
ability to have Vault manage the dependencies (attached files) within the drawing.
The data shortcut is the easiest way to move towards a data reference based environment. The
ability to share data from a source drawing and display the information as needed in any
reference drawing is priceless. Many users ask about file security with using data shortcuts.
Most IT departments could apply specific user rights to folders to aide in the integrity of the data.
A good example would be to have surveyors have a separate folder labeled survey and apply
rights to a survey organization unit. This process could allow survey to have full control over the
folder and all other user would be granted read-only privileges.
The process of creating a data shortcut is manual, but not a difficult task to accomplish. Users
must heir on the side of caution when creating the XML files, due to overwriting or
compromising the integrity of the original files. A good strategy for file management is a plus.
Last but not least we have Vault. It could be noted that Vault and Data Shortcuts are closely
related in functionality. Vault allows a secure environment to work within. Files are stored out of
site, out of mind. The Vault also controls files with the user rights capabilities built into the
In addition to security, Vault can offer version control for submission or even file tracking.
Versioning can allow users to revert back to previous renditions of files.
Vault can also fill the holes with additional sharing of object data (points and survey).
Vault can manage non-CAD data (Microsoft Office files).
Some other additions include: multi-office support across a WAN, and the ability to back-up the
Vault file store and SQL Server.