11 Replies Latest reply on Aug 1, 2016 12:51 PM by wimdecorte

    Filemaker Server and the Automatically Start Database Server checkbox

    ender

      Historically--for the last 15+ years--our server was always set to reserve upon reboot, and this was considered acceptable by the previous administrator.  I've continued that practice, and I don't have any evidence that it's caused a problem, although if I am here when it crashes (rarely—once or twice a year) I re-serve a backup from just before the crash. (Backups run every 15 minutes or so. Mission-critical database.)

       

      I'm wondering if I should uncheck that box at the server, and insist that a backup always be served--even if I'm not here to do it. This will not go over well with users/management after years with the "just reboot" approach and no evidence of corruption from this practice. (We have an outside service contracted for emergencies when I am not here. Never had to use them. I have no one in-house with real aptitude or interest.)

       

      I’m posting this now because a crash occurred a month or so ago when I was out. Someone simply rebooted. According to the log, it appears the server actually shut down and restarted OK.

       

      1) If there is a problem, and the post-reboot log shows no inconsistency checks or recovery attempts, is the database OK to serve?

       

      2) Or is the risk great enough that I should fight the battle to uncheck the "Automatically Start Database Server" box... and possibly reawaken "corporate" to again question why we're using software without their I.T. guys in charge? And on a Mac, yet! (We "fought" them --and their antivirus and external backup systems--off years ago. Close call.)

       

      But I also don't want to face creeping corruption obscurely introduced because we re-served a database after a problem.

       

      Details: Large multi-file built-over-time legacy database since 1990s. Currently running FMS13 on OS 10.9.5. 20+ clients (Pro and Advanced, Mac and PC). No mobile users. Battery backup system with delay/shutdown in place.

       

      Thank you.

        • 1. Re: Filemaker Server and the Automatically Start Database Server checkbox
          jormond

          There are definitely varied extremes on both end of this discussion.

           

          Some are very set on never using a file that has crashed. Some have never worried about it. Some auto-serve the files because of the nature of the scenario and environment. And the rest of us are left wondering.

           

          The nature of the crash is definitely a big factor. For me it depends on the crash happened during a heavy load and what the server was doing when FMS went down. My current feeling ( don't you love that word in an IT environment lol )...is that I let it come back up on it's own. And then plan to migrate the data to a fresh problem free clone as soon as I can outside of normal operation. At least, where and when that is possible.

          • 2. Re: Filemaker Server and the Automatically Start Database Server checkbox
            wimdecorte

            ender wrote:

             

            2) Or is the risk great enough that I should fight the battle to uncheck the "Automatically Start Database Server" box... and possibly reawaken "corporate" to again question why we're using software without their I.T. guys in charge? And on a Mac, yet! (We "fought" them --and their antivirus and external backup systems--off years ago. Close call.)

            Thank you.

             

            Definitely!  No question about it.

             

            You need to have the chance to inspect the circumstance of any outage so that you can make a decision whether to go to a backup.

             

            It doesn't make sense to go against best practices just to hide things from IT.  That's a recipe for disaster.

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            • 3. Re: Filemaker Server and the Automatically Start Database Server checkbox
              ender

              Joshua, thank you for continuing the discussion. (I wish I could be at DevCon with everyone else.)

               

              Your thinking, then, is that if there is corruption introduced, that it would be in the structure, not the data?

               

              By "let it come back up on its own", are you saying you do have the Automatically Start box checked?

               

              Although we create clones with each backup, importing data into nearly 20 separate files--some with multiple tables--sounds a little labor-intensive... especially since time "outside of normal operation" tends to be limited here.

               

              It's interesting how difficult it apparently is to pin down whether one is actually taking a risk with the "Automatically Start Server" checkbox.

              • 4. Re: Filemaker Server and the Automatically Start Database Server checkbox
                jormond

                I completely agree with wimdecorte. It's definitely dangerous for the data also. I should have worded it that way. Education of IT is much better than hiding it. If they understand it better...they become a better partner. And to clarify, the danger is to structure and data.

                 

                There is also the other side of the issue...the time to get everyone back up and running. Clones aren't the only option. you can restore back to a pre-crash file...and then fish out the new records from the crashed files.

                 

                One eye-opening thing for me as I got rolling with FM ( and databases in general ), is that the damage may not be seen for a while. And can grow over time. Where one day you find a symptom. Investigate and pinpoint the data that is busted. Go back through all your backups to find that the data has been corrupted for years.

                 

                There are a lot of variables that say, 'go to a backup' or 'the file should be fine'. So it's hard in this venue to say it's safe or not. But the info is there. Hope it helps.

                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                • 5. Re: Filemaker Server and the Automatically Start Database Server checkbox
                  wimdecorte

                  ender wrote:

                   

                  It's interesting how difficult it apparently is to pin down whether one is actually taking a risk with the "Automatically Start Server" checkbox.

                   

                  It really isn't.  Everyone will agree that it is a risk.  Whether the risk materializes is something else, but it is a risk.

                   

                  Some people will say: "I've been doing it like this forever and never had an issue".  And that's fine, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

                  Those of use who make a living off auditing and rectifying FMS deployments have seen many horror stories.

                   

                  If you want to leave the setting on:

                  - acknowledge and document the risk: make it clear that you explicitly left that setting on.  In case of a 3rd party audit of your deployment

                  - mitigate the risk by having a very stringent backup strategy by answering these two questions:  what is acceptable for these two things

                  -- how much data are you willing to lose?

                  -- how long to bring the system back up?

                  - make sure to test your backups periodically

                  - have a business contingency strategy: what if the users don't have the system for a prolonged time; how will they do their business

                  - coupled with a very good notification system that will let you know when the FMS box goes down

                  2 of 2 people found this helpful
                  • 6. Re: Filemaker Server and the Automatically Start Database Server checkbox
                    ender

                    Ah, just saw your reply, wimdecorte, after I responded to Joshua.

                     

                    In a way, "hiding things from I.T." may have been a recipe for avoiding disaster so far... I simply do not trust a high-turnover, low-pay, PC-biased, off-site corporate I.T. to keep their virus protection, backup systems and updates away from our server. I'd hate to suddenly discover that new hire Jimmy discovered the "nonstandard" server and added it to their standard routines. Not to mention that every so often someone has the great idea of importing everything into the "generic" corporate Oracle system and eliminating Filemaker. Call me protective, but I like to stay under the radar as much as possible.

                     

                    But that's neither here nor there... Can you give an example of what you mean by "inspect the circumstance of any outage"? For example, if I am here after I crash, I look at the log and I don't recall ever seeing any recovery attempts or consistency checks. What else might I consider?

                     

                    ... Just saw the second replies from both of you.

                     

                    I absolutely agree with the nightmare scenario of discovering corruption far after it has occurred and compounded. When I am here, I host a backup and let users know they may have lost up to 1/2 hour of work. (As I noted, we have frequent backups.) 

                     

                    If there is definitely a risk despite the "clean" post-crash log and our historical luck, I'll have to make the case to stop doing what we have been and that one of my coworkers (however unwilling) will have to be trained on hosting a backup. I really don't see our I.T. as a good partner in this situation.

                    • 7. Re: Filemaker Server and the Automatically Start Database Server checkbox
                      greatgrey

                      Would doing a monthly reboot reduce or prevent the crashing?

                      • 8. Re: Filemaker Server and the Automatically Start Database Server checkbox
                        wimdecorte

                        ender wrote:

                        Can you give an example of what you mean by "inspect the circumstance of any outage"? For example, if I am here after I crash, I look at the log and I don't recall ever seeing any recovery attempts or consistency checks. What else might I consider?

                         

                        .

                         

                        There are a zillion reasons why either FMS itself or the machine (OS and/or hardware) could crash.  Your best friends are all the logs.  The FMS event.log, the FMS stats.log (you do have it turned on, right?)

                        The Windows application, system and security logs.  The logs available in the Windows Event Viewer that deal with diagnostics and hardware events...

                         

                        It can be hard to find but there usually is a clue somewhere and that clue can point the way to remedial action.

                        • 9. Re: Filemaker Server and the Automatically Start Database Server checkbox
                          wimdecorte

                          greatgrey wrote:

                           

                          Would doing a monthly reboot reduce or prevent the crashing?

                           

                          Kinda depends on the nature of the crash.

                          A monthly reboot is a good thing to do regardless of whether the deployment is currently stable or shaky.

                          2 of 2 people found this helpful
                          • 10. Re: Filemaker Server and the Automatically Start Database Server checkbox
                            ender

                            We started doing monthly reboots after upgrading from FMS11 to FMS13. We had trouble with the browser-based console (freezing, crashing) and started the proactive reboots. I also reboot prior to heading off on vacation...

                             

                            We have the the events and stats logs, although I have difficulty understanding the stats log. Our server is on the Mac platform, so we don't have the Windows-specific logs.

                            • 11. Re: Filemaker Server and the Automatically Start Database Server checkbox
                              wimdecorte

                              ender wrote:

                               

                               

                              We have the the events and stats logs, although I have difficulty understanding the stats log.

                               

                              Feel free to ask questions about that and we can help you interpret those logs.