VPN Considerations for IT, Administrators, and Users

Article by Francisco Guzman on Mar 30, 2020

Since the COVID-19 “stay at home” directives, there has been an influx of SOLIDWORKS PDM questions concerning inability to connect PDM servers through a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This article offers some considerations to take when working from home using VPN connections. IT personnel – be sure to read the “VPN considerations for end users and administrators” section! 

VPN considerations for IT

Netbios names

Ensure that your VPN setup allows accessing the PDM servers using host names. If this is not possible, you can update the client’s Windows host file accordingly. Just ensure server IP is static.

ICMP

Turning off ICMP for server hardening is OK. We just ask to inform users or our support team if we are troubleshooting a connection. A ping test is always one of the first things we test for connections and may confound troubleshooting efforts if unaware of ICMP being disabled.

Network appliances and ports

Ensure that the following ports are open in network from a client connected through VPN. I have encountered situations where required ports were not opened in firewall appliances and/or routers used to allow a new VPN setup for PDM. It’s important that ports are open in all applicable network appliances used for a VPN connection.

Server ports

  • Licensing Server: TCP/IP inbound: 25734 and outbound:25735.
  • SOLIDWORKS PDM Archive Server Service: 3030 TCP/IP inbound.
  • Microsoft SQL Server: Typical TCP/IP inbound ports: 1433 (default SQL instance) or 1434 (named SQL instance)
  • For SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard, dynamic ports may be turned on for Microsoft SQL Express. This document demonstrates how to change to static ports prior to making VPN connection available.

RJ45

To optimize connection reliability and PDM performance while using VPN, ensure that the PDM client has a direct connection to their home router. Provide a CAT5e RJ45 cable if possible or instruct the end user to acquire one. Wi-Fi reliability is very dynamic and varies depending on many factors. If end users are working through VPN and Wi-Fi simultaneously, expect issues like the ones described in the “considerations for end user” section of this document.

SOLIDWORKS Corp. Connectivity Tool for PDM

SOLIDWORKS Corp. has created a tool to test for connectivity from a PDM client to the servers. This tool facilitates ping and telnet tests to Microsoft SQL, PDM Archive Service, and Licensing Server. You can download the tool via SOLIDWORKS Customer Portal Knowledge Base article S-069274. An active maintenance subscription is required.

For a limited time, due to the COVID-19 “stay at home” directive from many local and state authorities, GoEngineer provides this tool to anyone that needs it (access to SOLIDWORKS Customer Portal or not). You can access it here

VPN considerations for end users and administrators

Consider this to help performance

First, note that VPN connections will not have the same bandwidth, consistent connection/reliability, and low latency that the local area network (LAN) back at your office has. You will see a slowdown in performance while working through VPN. Keep these things in mind to help improve your work-from-home experience.

  1. Avoid using Wi-Fi
    WiFi is simply not reliable enough for PDM. There are several factors that affect a Wi-Fi connection (that are outside the scope of this blog). If you are mixing VPN and Wi-Fi, expect issues such as licensing issues, incomplete move of files, messages saying “not responding”, PDM Vault View hangs during simple tasks, SOLIDWORKS freezing or closing, etc. PDM is by nature a “chatty” application and is designed around the use of a wired LAN. Therefore, it needs a consistent, low latency, high bandwidth connection to the server. If you have an ethernet cable, and your router is easily accessible, connect straight through and turn off your computer’s Wi-Fi. You will be glad you did.
  2. Avoid large tasks through VPN
    Expanding from above, avoid performing large tasks that require a consistent and reliable connection for a prolonged period of time. For example, refrain from moving large folders or file sets with references, mass check in/out of files, deleting a large file set, etc. If you MUST perform large tasks, do so through a remote connection to a workstation at the office. This way, the task is performed through the LAN. Ask your IT if you need this.

Consider this if VPN is simply not connecting 

  1. Working off-line
    Recall that you can work off-line if you check out your files prior to disconnecting from your company’s local area network. There is a bit of an unmentioned “etiquette” when working off-line to avoid losing work. Learn how to avoid losing work in our article SOLIDWORKS PDM – Avoid Losing Work”.
  2. No sync for PDM
    Do not link your PDM Vault View to just any sync software like s Drop Box, One Drive, etc. SOLIDWORKS PDM is not intended for, nor designed to handle the methods in which sync applications handle cached files. Reported cases that have come through our queues regarding this sync setup include but not limited to:
  • File corruption
  • Broken SOLIDWORKS CAD file references
  • Strange, never-before reported error messages
  • Unable to save work in memory
  • SOLIDWORKS CAD closes unexpectedly

I hope you found this guide to the SOLIDWORKS PDM VPN helpful. For more engineering resources and solutions for working from home, visit our website. 

About Francisco Guzman

Francisco Guzman is the PDM Technical Support Lead at GoEngineer, and is pursuing his degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Utah. In addition to providing guidance and support to SOLIDWORKS and SOLIDWORKS PDM customers, Francisco also provides support for DriveWorks design automation. He won the world-wide DriveWorks reseller CPD contest as the best DriveWorks AE for 2015. For fun, he designs, 3D-Prints, builds and races custom first-person-view (FPV) racing drone frames.

View all posts by Francisco Guzman

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