13 Replies Latest reply on Nov 29, 2015 4:49 PM by mardikennedy

    Networking help needed

    BobKerr

      Today I bought and installed two copies (two licenses) of FMP. My wife and I have a small business. We use 7 databases. We have 4 Macs; a desktop and a laptop each. Also an iPad and iPhone each.


      Up to now the databases have been on Bento. With the demise of that product we've been more-or-less forced down the FileMaker route.

       

      Migration was very straightforward with the tool as supplied. So now we have our seven FMP databases, working fine.

       

      We both need access to all of them, but not on a regular basis, maybe we'll open one or two of them for a minute or two each day. However those visits are essential when the need arises.

       

      I'm struggling with networking. All seven databases are on one Mac. I set them all to be shared and accessed from another Mac via 'open remote' in the file menu. But, unless I'm doing something wrong, it looks like Filemaker has to be open on the host Mac all day every day, and furthermore every database file has to be open on that Mac, all day every day, if they are to be shared. That's a real pain if it's the only way.

       

      We don't both need access at the same time. I have tried turning off sharing in the hosted files and can just open them from other Macs on the network and all seems fine. But from what I've read today it appears that if we just connect to these database files across the network (like we've been doing for years and years with Word files, Excel files, Photoshop files, indeed any type of files I can think of) terrible things are going to happen because FM files are 'special' - oh joy.

       

      Please tell me I have this wrong, surely it can't be this difficult?

        • 1. Re: Networking help needed
          Mike_Mitchell

          BobKerr wrote:

           

          I'm struggling with networking. All seven databases are on one Mac. I set them all to be shared and accessed from another Mac via 'open remote' in the file menu. But, unless I'm doing something wrong, it looks like Filemaker has to be open on the host Mac all day every day, and furthermore every database file has to be open on that Mac, all day every day, if they are to be shared. That's a real pain if it's the only way.

           

          We don't both need access at the same time. I have tried turning off sharing in the hosted files and can just open them from other Macs on the network and all seems fine. But from what I've read today it appears that if we just connect to these database files across the network (like we've been doing for years and years with Word files, Excel files, Photoshop files, indeed any type of files I can think of) terrible things are going to happen because FM files are 'special' - oh joy.

           

          Please tell me I have this wrong, surely it can't be this difficult?

           

          It's not difficult. Just leave the database open on the dedicated machine all day. Easy peasy.  

           

          Seriously, FileMaker simply isn't a "file". It's a multi-user database. What you're doing is called "peer-to-peer sharing" or "peer-to-peer hosting". It works like this:

           

          1. The first client opens the database file.
          2. That client becomes the host of the database. All communication between any client and the database file must pass through the host.
          3. Whenever a second client wants access to the file, it must first attach to the host.
          4. All secondary clients must close their connections prior to the host closing his.

           

          Item 2 is really important to understand. It means that all transactions to and from the database are passing through the first workstation that opens it. Let's say, for example, that workstation isn't the one where the database is stored. (For example, if the database is stored on a workgroup share.) That means all open transactions are now passing over the network. What happens if there's an outage of network or power while one of those transactions is underway?

           

          Bad Things. You can corrupt the record in question, or even corrupt the entire database. I've seen it happen many, many times.

           

          May I ask: What is the objection to opening the database on the host machine and leaving it that way?

          • 2. Re: Networking help needed
            taylorsharpe

            Mike Mitchell provided you a great response and explanation of peer-to-peer sharing.  But its vulnerabilities are significant and it was the primary reason why FM databases were so often corrupted in the 1990's when few people were making use of FileMaker Server. 

             

            Let me simply put it... if your data is valuable, you need it on FileMaker server.  Peer-to-peer sharing and having different FMP clients opening the same database leads to many problems from backups, to multiple people accessing the same file, to corruption issues, etc. 

             

            Using FileMaker server means you have a service that is always running and is extremely stable.  In addition to providing much more robust multi-user support, it also provides a backup system that happens on live databases, something you can't do in peer-to-peer sharing.  It also avoids issues of multiple FileMaker Pro clients trying to open the same file and potentially corrupting it.  And since a service is always on, you don't have to worry about making sure a host machine has the FileMaker Pro client running or dealing with the issue of the person hosting the database wanting to shut it down while someone else wants to use it. 

             

            Most people try peer-to-peer sharing to save the cost of purchasing FileMaker server.  While a valid point, I have to point out that there are many cloud hosting companies of FileMaker Server that are very inexpensive often in the $20-30 a month.  That often fits in the budget of those in the peer-to-peer situation and it makes your data much more secure and less vulnerable to corruption. 

             

            Consider getting away from peer-to-peer sharing.  Especially if your data has value. 

            • 3. Re: Networking help needed
              BruceRobertson

              "FM files are 'special' - oh joy."

               

              It may easy to think that way, and perhaps be dismissive. But it turns out that allowing two; or three; or 25 or 100 or 250 - users to connect to your data is VERY much a non-trivial thing. And the FileMaker platform is really excellent at handling this, if you use the right tools, FileMaker Server being the preferred tool. Like so many things, if you look carefully at how things work, and how they HAVE to work, to be reliable, you will find that FileMaker is a robust, well thought out, and highly refined system.

              • 4. Re: Networking help needed
                donhoogkamer

                If you decide to install FileMaker Server it is good to know that your machines that have FileMaker Pro installed do not use up the concurrent connections of FileMaker Server. This means that you can still connect 1 FM Go or FM WebDirect user besides the other machines remaining connected. In your case there is no need to purchase the 5 connection version immediately.

                • 5. Re: Networking help needed
                  BobKerr

                  Firstly thank you for the time you have taken to provide these valuable responses. As a complete novice this is really helping my understanding of how the solutions work. (It's also making me lament the loss of functionality we used to have with Bento, but that's history so beside the point.)

                   

                  I have to reiterate our circumstances. We are a tiny Marketing agency, just me and my wife. We use the databases very little, just perhaps a few minutes per day. There are seven of them. Any Filemaker solution with the word 'Server' in it is, I am beginning to conclude, going to be off the scale as far as cost goes. I've had a look at what's around as far as cloud hosting goes and there are indeed some low cost options for a single database, however these prices climb steadily when more than one database is to be hosted. We have 7. When you add up the 'real' cost of the cloud solutions that I've seen it's out of our range.

                   

                  So, it's going to have to be peer-to-peer, warts and all. It's all we can afford. We have TimeMachine and a reasonably robust back-up regime; those are just going to have to do.

                   

                  So, with that decided, I have two more questions:

                  1. The workflow I am considering is to have the databases running on a Mac in the house (same network as the office). All open, all day, all with File access via FileMaker Network. When we're both in the office on our Macs we'll access the database using 'Open Remote'. We can also access them when the iPads and iPhones are on the same network. However if we are away (we sometimes work abroad) will it be OK to copy the .fmp12 from the 'home' mac to a laptop and take them away with us? I'm just checking that they are not tied in anyway to the workstation that created them.
                  2. I've set everything up like this this morning. Seems to be working fine. However I have just two licences, one for me and one for my wife. I have a copy of the software on my office Mac and a copy on my laptop, both are using my licence. I have a copy of the software on my wife's office Mac and a copy on the 'home' Mac, both of these are using my wife's license. All four Macs have the software open and everything seems to be working fine in use. I thought that opening the second copy under one license when the first was already open would not be allowed. But it all seems to be OK. Is this behaviour as expected? Are there any little surprises in store for us if we continue in this way?

                   

                  There are occasions when one or both of us are out of the country and we just need read-only access to the databases from iOS. I've already worked out than I can just copy the .fmp12 files onto Dropbox or Google Drive and get to the data that way. Then delete the files later.

                  • 6. Re: Networking help needed
                    Mike_Mitchell

                    BobKerr wrote:

                     

                    So, it's going to have to be peer-to-peer, warts and all. It's all we can afford. We have TimeMachine and a reasonably robust back-up regime; those are just going to have to do.

                     

                     

                    Do not, under any circumstances, come Hell or high water, allow Time Machine to touch the FileMaker databases while they're open. You WILL eventually corrupt them. Shut them down and back them up manually.

                     

                    1. However if we are away (we sometimes work abroad) will it be OK to copy the .fmp12 from the 'home' mac to a laptop and take them away with us? I'm just checking that they are not tied in anyway to the workstation that created them.

                     

                    There are occasions when one or both of us are out of the country and we just need read-only access to the databases from iOS. I've already worked out than I can just copy the .fmp12 files onto Dropbox or Google Drive and get to the data that way. Then delete the files later.

                     

                    This is fine. You won't hurt anything to do that. Just remember that you'll need to copy them back when you get home, or at least import any changed records from your trip.

                     

                    And again, close the files before you copy them. Under no circumstances should you ever touch a FileMaker database at the OS level while it's open.

                     

                    I have to reiterate our circumstances. We are a tiny Marketing agency, just me and my wife. We use the databases very little, just perhaps a few minutes per day. There are seven of them. Any Filemaker solution with the word 'Server' in it is, I am beginning to conclude, going to be off the scale as far as cost goes. I've had a look at what's around as far as cloud hosting goes and there are indeed some low cost options for a single database, however these prices climb steadily when more than one database is to be hosted. We have 7. When you add up the 'real' cost of the cloud solutions that I've seen it's out of our range.

                     

                     

                    Have you considered combining the databases into a single file?

                    • 7. Re: Networking help needed
                      BobKerr

                      Yikes!: TimeMachine. I had no idea, thanks so much for letting me know!

                       

                      Folder now excluded. Who'd have thunk!

                      • 8. Re: Networking help needed
                        BobKerr

                        Had never considered combining the databases. They do very different things. Also had no need to (until now, possibly). I still know practically nothing about FileMaker but will have a look to see if they can be combined when I get a mo.

                        • 9. Re: Networking help needed
                          Mike_Mitchell

                          It's not unusual to have a single database file that carries out vastly different functions. Call it "Bob's Management Database" and put all the necessary tables, layouts, and scripts into a single file, with a menu or dashboard for access.

                           

                          As you build skills in the FileMaker environment, you may find better ways to organize it (maybe 2 files - data and interface, for example), but this will get your file count down and your hosting costs correspondingly so.

                          • 10. Re: Networking help needed
                            Mike_Mitchell

                            Yes, this is another benefit of using Server. It manages all the backups for you in a safe manner (pausing the databases prior to backing up).

                            • 11. Re: Networking help needed
                              BobKerr

                              Thanks Mike. You, and the others on this thread, have been great.

                              • 12. Re: Networking help needed
                                taylorsharpe

                                One advantage of combining things into a single solution is that you only have to manage Security from one solution.  If you want to add a person or change their password, you don't have to do it on each file. 

                                • 13. Re: Networking help needed
                                  mardikennedy

                                  +1.  This is an excellent suggestion and would be a very good, longer term strategy for OP and wife, and various devices.