“Can I setup remote CAD design stations for remote employees?” I have been getting this question from some of our 3Shape Dental System customers. Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not a simple yes or no. While installing a Client/Server setup on a local network is quite easy, there a few more variables that come into play when trying to setup remote design sites. The major issues you will face are internet speed/bandwidth at the lab and remote site, local software installations vs. remote desktop software vs satellite labs, CAD software licensing, and remote PC performance.
Internet connection capabilities
The first issue to consider is the internet connection capabilities at both the lab and the remote site. Let’s examine and compare the speeds of a local area connection (LAN) vs. common internet speeds from common internet service providers (ISP). A typical client/server setup for 3Shapewill be setup on your lab’s LAN. If you have a relatively up-to-date router and computers, your connection between them over a wired LAN will be 1.0 Gbps (gigabit per second). This is the recommended connection speed for an optimal client/server setup. If one or more of the computers is connecting via Wi-Fi, the speeds and performance will vary depending on wireless chipset capabilities, but will usually be worse than a wired connection. On the other hand, connection speeds over the internet are typically much slower than your internal LAN connection. For instance, common residential connection speeds in my area are around 100 Mbps (megabits per second) download speed and 10 Mbps upload. This is far slower than LAN speeds, especially on the upload side. While these connections are fine for streaming HD content and playing games, those scenarios rely more on the download speeds. When considering setting up a remote client/server setup, both the lab and remote site would need connections speeds closer to that of a LAN connection on both the up and down sides. Connection speeds like these are not commonly available, especially for remote residential sites, which would cause your designer to experience constant productivity issues. If the connection speeds do exist in your area, they will be priced at a point which often makes them cost prohibitive for the average dental lab.
The next issue to address is that of licensing costs to setup a remote site. In the case of 3Shape, each additional design seat beyond the first must be purchased and increases your yearly renewal fee. For the first two scenarios, the additional design seats for the remote designers can be added to the lab’s dongle. For the satellite lab scenario, an additional dongle with the full Dental System license is needed. Depending on reseller pricing, the cost would be roughly two to three thousand more than just adding another design seat to an existing dongle.
PC performance of the remote site
Lastly, there is the issue of the PC performance of the remote site. In every scenario except using remote access software, you will need to consider the performance of the remote PC. This will mean that you will probably have to invest in a moderately powerful PC for the remote site. The average computer user’s personal PC will not have the necessary hardware to run dental CAD software reliably. In addition, many dental CAD software packages have recommended brand-specific hardware components which may not be what is in the remote users PC. The average cost to get a PC that meets 3Shape’s recommend specs is roughly $1,200-$1,400. You can spend more to get even better performance, but anything less will usually cause problems down the road, especially with a lot of complex cases.
In summary, it is possible to setup 3Shape remote design stations, but - depending on which path you choose - can become expensive, difficult to setup, or both. Keep in mind that you should evaluate the cost of each scenario against the cost of hiring someone who can work in the lab, before making any financial investment in a remote design setup.