During the Autodesk Civil 3D webcast today, Rob Todd explained the use of Data Shortcuts in detail. There are three components:
The Data Definition - This is the Object (Alignment, Surface, Profile) that will be made available for referencing into other drawings (convenient in the Civil 3D 2006 project environment).
The Data Shortcut - A link to the original object data definition. We can create a shortcut from the Prospector or by selecting an object and right-clicking. If we are working in the Civil 3D 2006 Project environment this link is "managed" automatically for the user.
The Data Reference - By selecting "Create Reference" from a shortcut we introduce a lightweight, non-editable (read-only) reference to the original object. We can still control the appearance with styles. We can also use the object to create related object such as create a profile from a referenced alignment and a referenced surface.
Rob also detailed the directory structure he uses to store a project.
Securing project data can be handled by locking layers on which important data reside and/or by limiting edit permissions to directories where original data is stored.
The important thing to note is that now many users can have access to this important data without the possibility of modifying the data inadvertently.