Follow-up to the recent ‘FileMaker Training Series: FileMaker Server’ Web Seminar

On Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 I delivered two web seminars for FileMaker Inc. to complete their three-part series on the FileMaker Training Series for FileMaker 12. This post is my follow-up to that event, and includes links to resources I mentioned during that event, as well as a few relevant Questions & Answers I fielded via email afterwards. If YOU have any questions that did not get answered during the presentation, please don’t hesitate to contact me at your convenience. Resources

  • The recording of the presentation can be found here.
  • The slides from my presentation can be found here.
  • The ‘FileMaker Server 12 Getting Started Guide’, an invaluable read before you start installing FileMaker Server, can be found here.
  • My ‘How To’ article on replicating an External Authentication environment (useful when studying for the FileMaker Certification test) can be found here. Please note: this item requires a free login to the FileMaker Developer Community.
  • Another ‘How To’ article, this one from Chad Novotny, The Support Group, Inc., describing how you can offload time-consuming processes to FileMaker Server and leverage Server Side Scripts, can be found here. Please note: this item requires a free login to the FileMaker Developer Community.
  • The recently released “FileMaker Security How To Guide – The Key to Securing Your Apps” can be found here. Please note: this item requires a free login to the FileMaker Developer Community.
  • The excellent “FileMaker Server 12 Narratives” from Wim Decorte and Steven Blackwell can be found here.

Questions & Answers Q: Instant Web Publishing Requirements: can you verify, that Filemaker Pro Server can run this, but the database needs to be hosted on a workstation separate from Filemaker Pro Server and it can support a max of 5 users? A: You really need FileMaker Server Advanced for the true Instant Web Publishing experience, but you can test it out, in a limited fashion, using FileMaker Pro or FileMaker Pro Advanced, peer-to-peer, for up to 5 connected web clients.

Q: Is the user restricted to database access during a backup? A: Somewhat. Depending on the size of the database, and whether or not you enable Verification during the backup process, a user may or may not notice a brief suspension of their ability to edit database content. If configured properly, database backups are generally pretty quick, and users never know they took place.

Q: I’m new to Filemaker and still learning. Does the 250 user limit mean my database is limited to 250? Or could I have a database of 500 that grows at 40 per year but only ~100 students would ever use it at the same time. A: This refers to the number of concurrently connected users, i.e. the number of people running FileMaker Pro or FileMaker Go and actively logged into the database at any given moment. The number of records or accounts in the file is unaffected by this limit.

Q: What are the macro steps and how hard to take an existing Filemaker complex DB and move to server A: I’d recommend the Getting Started Guide I mention above, or contacting a qualified developer (like Skeleton Key) to help plan or execute the initial deployment. It’s not FileMaker Server that makes we write this, but your ‘complex DB’. 🙂

Q: Is FMS fully compatible with Mac OSX 10.8? A: Yes. For current requirements, see the FileMaker Server ‘Tech Specs’, here and here.

Q: Is there a method with Server advanced to extend the 60 minute time frame. A: I’m assuming you’re referring to the timeout limit for Instant Web Publishing? If so, no. The limit of 60 minutes is firm.

Q: How do I use the “restore” button on the progessive backup settings? A: Unfortunately, this button simple undoes any unsaved changes you made to the folder path. It does not restore the backup for you, but that would be very nice if it could. 🙂

Q: Can FileMaker 9 clients access a FileMaker 12 server database – with reduced functionality expected? A: No. FileMaker 12 ushered in a new file format for FileMaker files and thus requires a FileMaker Pro 12 or FileMaker Go 12 client.

Q: With Server Advanced 12 (64-bit) can I use an ODBC driver 32 bit (import to FM USING ODBC)? A: The answer is a bit complicated:

  • If you’re using ESS, then FMS will require a 64-bit driver and DSN.
  • If you’re using a scheduled script importing from an (non-ESS) ODBC data source, you’ll have to use a 32-bit driver and DSN (because server-side scripting is still 32 bit, due to some limitations I believe are imposed by the import libraries).

Q: I need to tap into our ERP via Oracle to pull data from and write data back to. Do I need Server 12 or 12 Advanced? A: Based on your description, you only need FileMaker Server in order to use the External SQL Sources (ESS) feature to tap into the Oracle database (and thus your ERP) in order to push or pull the data you need.

Q: Can a server side script import data from a SQL table into a FM table? A: Yes. Supported SQL databases can be found here.

Q: Do I have to completely uninstall FMS 11 before I install/upgrade to FMS 12? A: Yes. There should be a knowledgebase article (or two) at FileMaker’s site re: how to fully uninstall 11, and I believe the installation guide for FMS12 covers this as well.

Q: Any gotchas to watch for when upgrading from 11 to 12? A: A bunch, probably 🙂 My general recommendation is that you try to not just upgrade in place, but install FMS12 and convert and test your databases there, first, before you migrate your primary FMS from 11 to 12. Look before you leap, as the saying goes 🙂

Q: I like to keep the live databases in a non-default folder. Is Server 12 still particular about permissions/ownership on the folder containing the databases? A: Yes, but mostly on OSX. I’d suggest uploading the converted files through the Admin Console to be certain that the permissions on the files are properly managed. I also note that additional folders often need to be set to permit the fmserver user to read and write to them, so that’s worth checking as well.

Q: Is a Mac Mini Server (running OS X Server w/ 7200rpm drives) considered to be an adequate machine for FMS? A maximum of 5 or 6 FMP clients access the databases at once. No web publishing. A: Your mileage will wary, depending a lot on the size of your databases, as well as what else that server might be doing. As I said in the webinar, a dedicated box for FMS is our recommended best practice.

Q: Which are the best settings in hardware (SSD, SAS, amount of RAM, database located in separate volumes) and configuration (cache size, …) for WAN speed performance? A: In my humble opinion there’s only so much that hardware can do in terms of WAN performance. It can certainly make a difference, especially if it’s underpowered, but nothing you wrote gives me an impression that lack of technical resources is the problem. More likely the issue is how and when you’re moving data around, which is a database design and workflow issue more than a hardware issue. This leaves you with two choices:

  • Consider alternate methods for serving data to your WAN users, such as 2X, Citrix or Terminal Services. This would be a ‘mechanical’ solution which leverages application publishing technology to mitigate the problem.
  • Learn how FileMaker moves data, and then apply that knowledge to changes in your database design and deployment. There are a number of resources for this, including my past few DevCon sessions on performance, articles and thread in the FileMaker Community, a few blogs, groups on LinkedIn and training classes related to this very same topic (i.e., FileMaker WAN Performance).

Q: What features of SuperContainer can be replaced by the use of the FileMaker Server Advanced 12 Remote Container? Q: What is the path to migrate the use of SuperContainer over to the FileMaker Server Advanced 12 Remote Container feature? A: It depends a lot on how you’re using SuperContainer, what you’re storing ‘in’ it, and how you see development and deployment of your solution continuing in the future. For simple solutions I can see starting with native Container fields. For an existing solution, or one where you want the greatest amount of flexibility (i.e., in terms of where you store what you store and what you can do with it once it’s stored there), I still think SuperContainer has an edge. Here at Skeleton Key we use both 🙂 I have a few links I’d recommend you review as you consider switching from SuperContainer to Enhanced Containers. Some of these are in the FileMaker Developer Community, which is a free resource I highly recommend.

  • Container Field: Under the Hood – A DevCon 2012 Preview Web Seminar (May 2012) available here.
  • A ‘How To’ article titled “Using Container Fields in FileMaker 12” can be found here.
  • A fair and balanced article from 360Works (the makers of SuperContainer) titled “FileMaker 12 and SuperContainer: A comparison” can be found here.
  • The same FileMaker Server Narratives’ resource I mention at the top of this post also contains an article about Remote Containers.
  • The recordings from the FileMaker Developer Conference 2012 include one for session “COR006 – A World with Enhanced Container Fields”. I can’t say for sure, but I believe these may only be available to attendees.

Finally, I’d suggest you contact 360Works directly. I’m friends with the owner and I’m confident that he and his team will give you fair and balanced advice on not just if you should move, but how you would go about it. Mark Richman is an Owner, the President, a FileMaker Certified Developer and a FileMaker Authorized Trainer at Skeleton Key. About Skeleton Key Skeleton Key is an accomplished team of technology consultants who solve business problems. We specialize in the rapid development of custom applications, integrating Macs and PCs in the professional workplace, and providing personalized training. Despite our end-to-end technical skills, we are consultant first and technologist second. We know that you don’t just need technology. You need to know that the technology you choose to deploy will provide the results you desire. Skeleton Key is a Platinum Level FileMaker Business Alliance company, an Authorized FileMaker Trainer, a member of the Apple Consultants Network and a Microsoft Registered Partner.