User Access in PCB Project Management with Altium Concord Pro

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: March 24, 2020
User Access in PCB Project Management with Altium Concord Pro

When I work with my team and talk with clients, we spend a lot of time sending files back-and-forth or making sure design data is updated in a client’s FTP site. Now that we use Altium Concord Pro, we have a secure cloud collaboration tool for PCB design, revision tracking, and PCB project management. The challenge in this environment is regulating user access to sensitive projects. Customers don’t always want to see their designs exposed to everyone with access to a cloud platform, and some designs will require regulated access (e.g., in defense and aerospace).

If you’re working in this type of environment, where PCB design data needs to be shared and tracked in a secure platform, then you need to regulate access to your client's data. With the user management features in Altium Concord Pro, you can easily regulate who can access which projects, and the level of permissions for each user. Here’s how this works in Altium Concord Pro, and the level of access users can see in a secure cloud collaboration environment.

ALTIUM CONCORD PRO®

A PCB project management and data management platform that integrates with Altium Designer® and popular mechanical design tools.

Cloud collaboration makes many important communication and design tasks very convenient, but it creates some understandable security concerns. Clients don’t always want their designs and intellectual property exposed to designers who aren’t working on a project. Similarly, designers need to have different access levels (view vs. edit) for different projects, and specific team members need to have varying levels of access to different projects.

Managing all these points of access while simultaneously tracking revisions and project commentary is extremely difficult without a dedicated, PCB project management platform. For PCB design management and collaboration, your user access and data management systems need to integrate with your design tools. You can use Altium Concord Pro to create a secure cloud collaboration platform and regulate who can view and edit your design data. You’ll have the tools you need to regulate user access, track revisions, manage your design data, and much more.

Getting Started with User Access Regulation in the Cloud

Once you create your Concord workspace, design creators can create projects and back them up to the Concord instance. They can then invite other members of a design team to collaborate on the projects they’ve created. As revisions are added to these projects, they will be tracked at the user level, allowing project managers to see who applied which revisions to a project.

This type of functionality is extremely valuable, but access needs to be regulated in a number of ways. Clients may have sensitive data that should only be exposed to specific designers. In some cases, such as in defense electronics projects, specific designers are listed in contract agreements, and project managers need to regulate who can view or edit specific projects.

Here are some of the important tasks project managers need to take to ensure they create a secure cloud collaboration environment and workflow:

  • Grant and revoke access: Managers don’t need to edit design data directly, but they often need to grant and revoke access at various points during a project.
  • View vs. edit access for engineers: Designers should only be allowed to edit the projects they’ve created or are tasked with working on directly.
  • User and role-based access: Access to specific functions within your secure cloud collaboration platform needs to be granted to specific user groups and individual users who undertake specific tasks in a project.

Here’s how you can implement these three PCB project management tasks in Altium Concord Pro.

Role-based Access and User Access in Altium Concord Pro

When you’re in your Concord web instance, you can easily create user groups from your Admin panel on the left side of the workspace. Only users in the “Administrators” role can modify member privileges and assign different team members to different roles. After inviting a new member to a workspace, the member can be assigned to multiple user roles by an Administrator.

Access to specific projects can be assigned at role level and at the user level. Note that role-level access will override user-level access. In other words, if you provide access to an entire role, everyone in that role will be able to access the project for viewing or editing; each user with that role does not need to be added individually.

Screenshot showing user access control in Altium Concord Pro

Assigning user-based and role-based to specific projects in Altium Concord Pro.

Once a role is provided access to a project in Altium Concord Pro, all members with that role will be able to access the project in Altium Designer. Note that Administrators are given top-level access, so only critical staff should be added as Administrators. The highest level of administration is given to the user with the Owner role. This user can grant and revoke access to anyone on your team, including Administrators.

Controlling View and Edit Access

These permissions can be applied to specific projects and files in your Concord workspace. This is done in the Projects window in the Concord workspace. The example below shows how privileges can be regulated at the role level and the user level. Here, the user Team NWES is a member of the “Engineers” role. Both the role and user have been given view access to the Kame_PDB project. In this example, if the “Engineers” role is removed from the sharing list, then user Team NWES will still have access to the Kame_PDB project.

Screenshot showing new electronic components management in Altium Concord Pro

Controlling edit and viewing privileges in the Altium Concord Pro web instance.

Just as was the case above, mixed access levels will default to the higher access level. In other words, if I give the Engineers role the ability to edit this project, then the user Team NWES will have the ability to edit the project, even their specific access level is listed as “Can View”. This is because “Can Edit” is a higher level of access, and because Team NWES is a member of the “Engineers” role. Since I’ve limited Team NWES access to a specific set of projects, this user will see a limited list of projects when they log into the Concord workspace. This is shown in the image below.

Screenshot showing limited project access in Altium Concord Pro

A user with limited privileges will only see the projects to which they have access in the Altium Concord Pro web instance.

Regulating File Access

All the access controls shown above are accessible by simply clicking the Share button at the top of the Projects window in the Concord web instance. Access privileges can also be controlled for any other files you’ve added to the Uploads window. This gives you an easy way to control access for all PCB project files and track revisions in a single location.

Screenshot showing rules violation checking in Altium Concord Pro

Checking design rule violations in the Altium Concord Pro web instance.

Beyond Cloud-Based PCB Project Management

So far, we’ve shown an example where you can regulate project access in a cloud environment. However, if you’re working in an environment where enhanced compliance is a primary concern, you can deploy Altium Concord Pro on a local server. You can then implement the same access controls shown here across your design teams.

Manage Your Design Data with Altium Concord Pro

Altium Concord Pro provides much more than user-based and role-based access control features. For electrical design, all design data in Altium Concord Pro can be provided to select Altium Designer users instantly and securely. Altium Concord Pro provides the same integration with mechanical design tools, giving a secure solution for all aspects of product design.

When you unify your design team with Altium Concord Pro, you’ll have access to a secure environment where you have full control over data access and revisions. Instead of separating these important features into separate platforms or forcing you to incorporate 3rd party applications, you’ll have access to a complete set of PCB project management features in a single platform. If you’re ready to reinvent your PCB design and management processes, it’s time to try Altium Concord Pro.

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 1000+ technical blogs on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, and the American Physical Society, and he currently serves on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee.

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