A typical construction project for a small and medium size construction could have anywhere from 100 megabytes to several gigabytes of data. One of the largest and most shared files between employees, contractors and consultants are drawings, that are generally saved as PDF files. With a maximum file attachment size limit of 20 MB for Outlook and 25 MB for Gmail, it is a daunting task to share drawings with the on-site crew without using a construction management software. Even Construction Management Software have limits on the size of file to be transferred and the mobile data speed determines the transfer time over mobile networks.

Cloud Based Construction Management Software makes it easier to share files using the cloud storage and mobile app. Even if one could share the drawings, their large size makes it difficult to download the files on smartphones or other mobile devices as it could take several minutes to even hours depending upon the download speed. Cloud server data speed also impacts the download time and any network data interruption will halt the download leading to restart of download. Users are always looking for innovative and reliable solutions.

In this blog we will discuss some of the techniques and tools to share large files on mobile devices. Microsoft, Google, and AWS are the three big and most popular cloud providers. They all offer cloud storage that can be accessed from desktop and from mobile devices seamlessly. We use the example of Microsoft OneDrive cloud to describe a solution for sharing big files. This will also work for other cloud services such as Google Cloud and AWS.

Microsoft OneDrive to share large construction files

One must get a Microsoft OneDrive account that costs a couple dollars per month for 100 GB of storage (OneDrive basic is free but only provides 5 GB of storage space) or one can opt for Microsoft 365 suite that offers complete suite of Microsoft’s cloud applications. This includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Teams, Notes and OneDrive. Each account comes with 1TB of storage and costs about $6 USD per month. In addition to storage and Microsoft’s popular applications, Office 365 also facilitates team collaboration by providing real time sharing of documents. When a team member makes an edit, the changes will be visible to other members of the team using the same document. OneDrive also offers the version control to retract any previous changes if needed.

As a first step in sharing drawings, it is recommended that, if possible, the size of large files should be reduced using easy steps and available tools:

  1. Create a version of the file for sharing by removing the unwanted data from the file using PDF editor or other software already used by the team such as Bluebeam. Keep only the data that is needed by your team on the site. This will reduce the file size and speed up access many folds.
  2. Compress the PDF drawings. Depending on the data in a file, a PDF file can be reduced up to 80% in size in many cases making the transfer five times faster. There are many PDF compressions tools available in the market and some are free of charge.
  3. For large drawings, slice the PDF file into smaller files as everyone does not need the complete document. This will need a bit of time, but it will save time many folds for the team members in accessing file on site.

Once the Microsoft account is created, users can login to the account and access the OneDrive. This can be done from a desktop, laptop or a tablet. Accessing OneDrive is similar to accessing the local drive on a computer. This includes the creation of directory structure and adding files to the folders. A user will move the files that need to be shared with the team by dragging and dropping them from the desktop to the desired OneDrive folder.

Team members in the field will download a mobile app for OneDrive that is specific to their device (e.g., iOS or Android) and log into the OneDrive using the OneDrive or Office 365 credentials. They will then be able to access all the files in the OneDrive on site.

There are few Constructions Management Software that allows complete access to data and system features in the field using tablet such as MS Surface pro with mobile data access. This eliminates the need for a file transfer as user can open files anywhere with mobile data access. Mostly files can be also downloaded on the hard drive from the construction management system with fast Wi-Fi link prior to leaving for a site and access newly modified files on site. 123worx is one such system that offers this and many other features to make project management seamless.

Author – As a Vice President at 123worx, Construction Management Platform, Bharat Rudra has worked with hundreds of business executives searching for best-suited software for their construction business with a wide array of requirements. Bharat takes pride in helping construction businesses solve their business and project management challenges with innovative solutions and many times using the existing applications. Feel free to reach Bharat if you have any questions. You can find him on LinkedIn or reach him at brudra@123worx.com.