BIM Server Best Practices

by GRAPHISOFT and Ed Brown · updated: 03.19.2012

What is a good host machine for a BIM Server?


Plan on adding host machines as your teamwork needs increase. Unlike the requirements of other CAD software the BIM Server does not requires a large upfront investment in hardware. In fact, it is unwise to purchase an expensive machine with the thought that you could expand into it later. You should note that practically any single teamwork project will team together no more than 10-20 users simultaneously and no more than 50 users over its design/documentation cycle. A BIM Server as described below can accommodate the needs of even 100+ story buildings projects with the above stated number of users. So, essentially it is only important to allocate host machines for BIM Servers as a method of balancing project loads. One host machine might handle a handful of large projects while another host machine handles 20 or more small sized architectural projects. Once performance starts to degrade, acquire another host machine. With the exception of using virtualization technology, it is unwise to concentrate all projects in one physical “super” computer hosting a BIM Server. Concentrating all projects in one “super” server makes the setup harder to maintain and more costly. It also adds the risk of a single failure affecting all users. That is, this thinking of over specification is more risky.

Operating System

A server level operating system is unnecessary, make sure that you use a 64-bit operating system.

Memory and number of cores

  • 8GB with 4 core,
  • Or, 16 GB with 8 core

Hard Drives

Since the BIM Server is disk intensive, you will achieve better performance by using two or three disks as opposed to just one disk. Optimally, you should have the installation on a different physical disk than the projects and libraries. You can separate the libraries from the projects too, but the performance gain is less significant.

Other hosted applications

The other applications that run on the host machine can significantly affect the BIM Server’s performance. For instance a BIM Server on an 8GB 4 core host will probably out perform the same BIM Server on a 16GB 8 core host that also is running an exchange server or database application.

Virtual Servers

With a virtual server you can make sure one virtual machine hosts one BIM Server. The bottleneck to avoid is the virtual disk that is used. If the physical disk is shared amongst several virtual machines a long disk write queue could hurt performance of the BIM Server. If physical disks can be assigned to separate virtual machines it is wise to make sure other database applications are not sharing the same physical disk as a BIM Server.

How many BIM Server modules should run on one host computer?

Since each module has its own memory footprint, CPU cycle usage, and open ports, one module is the optimal number. If you are migrating projects, then for a certain time it will be advantageous to have two modules running together. As soon as the migration of projects has completed you will probably want to un-install the lower number module.

When should dormant projects be pulled off the BIM Server? (Should projects be archived on the BIM Server?)

Projects not needed in the near future are best archived as PLNs with their linked libraries, and external references. Once archived in this fashion remove them from the BIM Server.

Although inactive projects do not burden the server, they may end up being backed up with the nightly backup unnecessarily. Inactive projects will take up more disk space as a database file on the host machine of the BIM Server than compressed archives (or even better as DVD images not even stored on the host). Inactive projects unnecessarily populate the list of projects on the BIM Server, and finally, they as legacy teamwork projects are less readily available to be re-shared on later versions.

/!\ For the above reasons the BIM Server is not an appropriate archival resource.

Is it suggested to finish a project in the same BIM Server module (ARCHICAD version) as it was started?

Short answer: No. Always keep your Teamwork projects in actively supported BIM Server modules.

Main points:

  • Performance and stability continue to improve with each new module of the BIM Server.
  • GRAPHISOFT actively supports and regularly issues hotfixes for the current and last year’s module.
  • The observations of when to migrate a Solo ARCHICAD project are not completely applicable to Teamwork

Solo projects often are not migrated, because the time to correctly migrate library elements can be significantly more than the time gained by use of the new version. The advantages of a new version are often broken down into new features, performance and workflow improvements. Projects that have passed the design phase and are well into the document phase often will not greatly benefit by the use of new features of a current version. In general, solo projects are edited by only a few users and thus only impact their time. So, the cost effectiveness of even a large performance improvement between versions would only affect the handful of people using the project. Finally, a workaround needed in an older version only affects a small number of people using the solo project. In summary the advantages of migrating a solo project do not always outweigh the disadvantage in time lost migrating the project.

On the other hand, Teamwork as a tool is used to improve the efficiency of a group. Feature improvements at any stage often result in simpler processes and simpler communication between users, which is a boon to project management. Even small improvements in performance and stability are realized as multiple man hours when the full team’s time is considered. Workflow enhancements make team interaction faster. Often the investment in time of one person to migrate the project to a newer module is realized by the group within the first operating day of the project in the newer module.

Should I retire my ARCHICAD 13 BIM Server before adding ARCHICAD 15?

Yes. You should archive ARCHICAD 13 projects that are not in use. You should migrate active projects to ARCHICAD 15. Consider starting new projects in ARCHICAD 16 to get your team acquainted with its features and workflows. Once your team is familiar with ARCHICAD 16 you can at a leisurely pace start the process of migrating ARCHICAD 15 projects to it.
In the case your company has not used ARCHICAD 15 teamwork, then you will want to keep ARCHICAD 13 BIM Server running until you can migrate your projects to ARCHICAD 16.

/!\ Please note two important reasons for moving away from the ARCHICAD 13 BIM server module:

  • Nightly backups are more complicated with an ARCHICAD 13 BIM Server module
  • Hotfixes are no longer issued for the ARCHICAD 13 BIM Server module

Should I uninstall AC 13 and/or AC 14 module of the BIM Server?

Unless you are in the process of migrating a BIM server, it is best to have only one module on a host machine.

What projects should use ARCHICAD 16?

New projects should be considered as ARCHICAD 16 candidates. Teamwork projects that would benefit directly from new features in ARCHICAD 16 (like the morph tool) should also be considered as migration candidates.
In general, there is no need to rush into migrating your projects, since the ARCHICAD 15 BIM Server module is still actively supported. The time your team is comfortable with ARCHICAD 16, is the time the rest of the projects should be migrated to that module.

How do I backup and restore my entire BIM Server?

Visit: Teamwork/BIMServerBackupScripts

BIM Server OSX 10.7 Lion compatibility

For Lion related compatibility updates see the MacOSXLion article. In case migrating the OS from Snow Leopard to Lion consult this article: Teamwork/BimServerLionMigration.

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