Investing in cloud versus on-premise technology saves more than just hardware costs

So you’re looking for the best value in CAD technology for your product/design startup or team of seasoned engineers. You may have people SolidWorks experience, but what are the most viable alternatives? With the power now available with cloud-based solutions, and if a CAD + PDM solution is most optimal for your business, we recommend comparing Onshape to SolidWorks.

But what are the main considerations when assessing the cost between the two? It’s easy to compare licensing or software costs, but what will you spend on the necessary hardware and the IT expertise to support it? Our experts at Hudson Street Solutions did a deep dive to unearth the hidden costs when comparing CAD systems.


Identifying hidden costs when comparing Onshape and SolidWorks

In our analysis, we assumed a 5-seat SolidWorks Professional CAD + PDM on-premise implementation versus an Onshape Professional implementation (includes both CAD and PDM modules as standard). We determined costs for the following areas:

  • Software (Upfront licenses + annual subscriptions)
  • Hardware (Workstations + servers + server infrastructure licenses)
  • IT Costs (Upgrades + administration)
  • Implementation & Training (User + admin)

As hardware is most commonly depreciated over three years, we’ve based our analysis on a 3-year ROI period.


Software costs

This is the easiest part of the comparison. It stacks up like this for our 5-seat scenario:

Software Licensing Costs Year 1

Onshape v SolidWorks Software Costs Year 1

Software Licensing Annual Costs Years 2 & 3

Onshape v SolidWorks Software Costs Years 2 and 3


Hardware costs

This cost area is where we start to see a significant divergence when comparing on-premise and cloud solutions. For our hardware numbers, we’ve assumed that the SolidWorks implementation requires high-specification workstations and an in-house server environment.

Although Onshape can be accessed from most device types already in use, we’ve assumed that midlevel-performing workstations would be purchased. The hardware numbers below assume a 3-year depreciation schedule:

Hardware/IT Environment Costs per Year (Years 1 & 2)

Onshape v SolidWorks Hardware Costs Years 1 and 2

The reality of hardware is that upgrades are inevitable. In our analysis, we’ve assumed that the high-spec workstations and server will require updates in year 3:

Hardware/IT Environment Costs per Year (Year 3)

Cloud v On-premise Hardware costs year 3


IT support costs

Calculating IT support costs for a 5-seat CAD environment is somewhat subjective. Actual costs can be affected by location, in-house expertise and/or bandwidth, outsourcing rates, and more. Here, we’ve assumed the PDM administration and backup functions would require 5 hours per week. Also included are the software upgrades 6 times per year (for SolidWorks) that typically take an average of one hour per workstation. All costing is based on an hourly rate of $125.

IT Support Costs per Year

Cloud v On-Premise IT Support Costs per Year


Implementation & training costs

You might assume that you don’t have any implementation costs because you already have in-house expertise for the system selected. While your in-house experts may be able to tackle system deployment tasks during idle time, you will need to factor in the effort to gather, process, and transfer legacy data, regardless of which system you migrate to. The costing below assumes this requires 5 days of effort for both systems at $125 per hour.

Determining training costs is typically based on the vendor or reseller you work with. Here, we’ve used the Hudson Street Solutions standard Onshape Professional training program. For SolidWorks, training costs are based on their current online program costs per participant.

 Implementation & Training Costs Year 1

Cloud v On-premise CAD Implementation and Training Costs


Comparing Onshape and SolidWorks 3-year costs

We’ve highlighted in this post that comparing system costs goes beyond licensing or subscription charges. When assessing the four key cost areas included in our analysis, it was clear that an on-premise solution such as SolidWorks has hidden costs that are not always identified when determining CAD technology ROI.

With this in mind, what did our Onshape versus SolidWorks analysis for a 5-seat installation uncover? Surprisingly, SolidWorks costs a whopping $230,794 over 3-years! The all-up 3-year cost of $51,499 for Onshape pales in comparison. Here’s how the annual costs between the two systems stack up:

Annual All-Up Costs for Onshape and SolidWorks Over 3 Years

Onshape v SolidWorks ROI

Looking at the cost savings over 3 years you would enjoy by implementing Onshape, imagine the additional hires or CAPEX spend you could justify with a total savings of over $179,000:

Onshape Cost Savings Over 3 Years


One last ROI thought

It’s clear from this analysis that implementing Onshape will reduce your technology spend when compared to an on-premise platform. But additionally, what value would you put on eliminating hardware failures, software crashes, or the time and increased risk of having to create and send files in order to share project information? The cloud architecture of Onshape and its collaborative, real-time capability makes those time and productivity wasting problems a thing of the past. And a more productive team not only reduces costs, it increases your company’s potential for revenue generation.

Hudson Street Solutions has developed the skills and the right tools to help our customers reduce costs and increase revenue to compete at the top-tier level. Contact us to learn more about how we can get your team to the next level.