Why structural engineers should move to the cloud

Jon Lawson

For structural engineers, cloud software allows them to work on projects remotely and flexibly. Sam Carigliano looks at the benefits of cloud computing for engineers in this sector

When the first laptops were created in the 1980s as a portable alternative to home computers, original models such as the Osborne 1 were bulky, heavy and largely impractical — a far cry from the convenient models of today.

Similarly, cloud computing has developed significantly in the past decade to allow structural engineers to work on projects with complete flexibility.

Cloud computing allows users to customise applications and access remotely stored data and services from any device with an internet connection.

Those working in a data-intensive, project based industry can benefit from using shared computing processing resources like the cloud to shape and bring their ideas to life.

This is particularly true for structural engineering, which has until recently experienced disparities between modern ways of working and more traditional approaches to software.

As concepts such as remote working and collaborative projects become increasingly common in the industry, the limitations of traditional structural engineering software present challenges to engineers.

The core challenge for engineers is that projects carried out within this sector involve collaboration between various people, often spread out across various locations, using a variety of different systems.

With project times varying from a few months to several years, not all companies or freelance engineers have the upfront capital expenditure to pay for software ahead of a project.

The costs for licensing software can be price out many small businesses and freelancers. This is mostly because, when an updated version of the software is released, engineers are required to purchase the software again with each new update.

Not purchasing new versions of software as a way of saving costs leaves your system vulnerable to cyber attacks, as seen with the WannaCry ransomware attack in May this year.

With the cloud, software updates are automated so that you are using the latest version as soon as it is fully functional and rolled out by the software provider. Requiring no installation or plug-ins that often slow systems down, updates to the cloud are completed without interruption or downtime.

Cloud software is a monthly subscription service that can be tailored to include the applications needed for your business, which is a model not conventionally used in structural engineering.

Fortunately, structural engineering software providers such as SkyCiv are adopting this model to improve the effectiveness of software without pricing out growing businesses and project freelancers.

SkyCiv offers tools like the beam, truss, frame and shaft calculators, as well as design check software which can be included in the subscription. This is with the added value of not having to commit vast sums of money to obtain the software or pay installation and ongoing maintenance costs.

In addition to having the choice of a monthly plan for a fraction of the price of software licensing, companies can scale up and down their system depending on its computing needs. This eliminates the need for large investments in infrastructure that may only be needed on a temporary basis.

While structural engineering relies on knowledge of applied mechanics, materials science and applied mathematics, SkyCiv’s structural engineering software offers businesses convenience and a platform to integrate its networks.

Although the Osborne 1 was the first portable device that could bundle several software applications together, the weight of the device made it impractical.

Just as technological developments have allowed laptops to now become a valuable ally to many workers, the development of cloud-based software can help structural engineers bring greater ease and flexibility to their design concepts.

Sam Carigliano is, CEO of structural engineering software specialist SkyCiv