8 Replies Latest reply on Sep 12, 2012 7:03 AM by GordonShewach

    Why does FM recommend a dedicated server machine?

    LawrenceCamp

      In the "General Hardware Considerations For FileMaker Server" the first suggestion is: "Use a dedicated machine / system for FileMaker Server: FileMaker Server should be installed and run on a dedicated machine whose sole purpose is to be used as a database server. There are many reasons why you should consider dedicating a system to FileMaker Server."

       

      The paper gives lots of good information on server requirements, but it doesn't say what these many reasons are for using a dedicated machine. Performance and stability seem obvious, but if the database has only a few users, is it really necessary?

       

      Thanks for your idea,

      Lawrence

        • 1. Re: Why does FM recommend a dedicated server machine?
          mdiehr

          In my opinion, this was more of a "CYA" recommendation  - it's absolutely not necessary in this modern day and age of fast SSDs and multiple core CPUs.  I've been running multiple FM servers that also are apache web servers and file sharing servers w/o issue.

          • 2. Re: Why does FM recommend a dedicated server machine?
            Stephen Huston

            FileMaker recommends a dedicated server, but does not require it.

             

            However, the  worst case scenario is if someone actually uses the server machine as a workstation. This is a no-no, as it will definitely put a hit on the processor which will affect the serving of files, and it allows a human being to mess with the machine while it is in use, which risks all kinds of things -- pretty much as bad as peer-to-peer hosting.

             

            The other issues, if this server is performing other Server functions, is that, even if the FM user load is light, the other services may have larger hits on the server performance and these will affect the quality of FM Server performance even for the small number of users.

             

            Multiple servers on a mchine also can create port conflicts, reduced available bandwidth of the FM connection to that machine, and thus to the FM network of users.

             

            If you encounter problems with FM Server on a non-dedicated machine, troubleshooting and tech support are probably going to require  turning off the other services as part of the process to identify the source of the problem. You get fewer potential problems on a dedicated machine, and fewer variables to control or eliminate if you have to troubleshoot it.

             

            So, you can probably get away with a shared server, but you are reducing the quality of FM Server performance if you do, along with risking a wider range of problems and conflicts. That's some of the reasons why a dedicated FM Server is recommended.

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            • 3. Re: Why does FM recommend a dedicated server machine?
              BobGossom

              Lawrence,

               

              There are lots of good reasons to have a dedicated machine, particularly when FMP is critical to daily function. As you mention, performance is a big one; other services compete with FMP for the CPU and disk. But beyond that, every additional service run on an FMP Server is another opportunity for a poorly FMPS enabled individual to screw things up. It's so easy, and tempting, to install OS updates and do a restart - without properly closing the DBs. I don't think I've ever found a non FMP IT person who understood, or could even be properly trained in, the care and feeding of an FMPS server. It's not in the foreground so they just muck with it and update Java before it's time, or whatever. The best I've been able to do is train them never to touch the dedicated FMPS Server without checking with me first. It usually only takes one diasterous shutdown/recovery cycle to get them to take me seriously. I can pretty much guarantee you that if a client runs FMPS on a non-dedicated machine, you'll eventually be getting a call that neither you nor your client will enjoy. On the other hand, our dedicated servers just run and run and run, some for years without a restart (not recommending this however).

               

              Bob Gossom

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              • 4. Re: Why does FM recommend a dedicated server machine?
                mdiehr

                Bob makes great points, and I would hasten to add that #1 priority of mine as a filemaker consultant is to *get*control*of*the*filemaker*server*.

                 

                That being said, once it's properly maintained, I think there's nothing fundamentally wrong with running a few services on it, if it's sufficiently provisioned and under your control.

                • 5. Re: Why does FM recommend a dedicated server machine?
                  wimdecorte

                  mdiehr wrote:

                   

                  In my opinion, this was more of a "CYA" recommendation  - it's absolutely not necessary in this modern day and age of fast SSDs and multiple core CPUs.  I've been running multiple FM servers that also are apache web servers and file sharing servers w/o issue.

                   

                  That's a too narrow performance point of view.  The real reason to dedicate a machine is risk management.  If your FM solution does anything remotely business critical then y ou need to make sure you can do with it what you want when you want it when it comes to maintenance and troubleshooting.  That you get to decide what updates to install when and not have to worry about incurring downtime for any other tasks.  Or the opposite: incur costly downtime in FM because of other tasks.

                  • 6. Re: Why does FM recommend a dedicated server machine?
                    LyndsayHowarth

                    I have my FMS FTN license installed on an iMac that is used pretty regularly as a workstation. None of the user activity interferes with its performance.

                    My son just set it up to media-serve to his PS3 and whenever it is used for this purpose, the Web Engine stops working. Essentially this is only file sharing.

                     

                    Sent from my iPad

                    Lyndsay Howarth

                    11th Hour Group Pty Ltd

                    • 7. Re: Why does FM recommend a dedicated server machine?
                      Mike_Mitchell

                      To generally agree with Bob, I think the critical issue is to make sure the person administering the server understands FileMaker. There are several reasons:

                       

                      1) As Bob points out, bumping (restarting) the server without stopping the databases is dangerous, even disastrous.

                       

                      2) Installing other services or patches that affect FileMaker (like Java) without properly preparing can really screw things up.

                       

                      3) Having someone who's ignorant of FileMaker setting, say, virus scanning to go after your live databases is a risk you really don't want.

                       

                      And, of course, Wim is right about risk management. Running other stuff that can conflict with FileMaker (either during normal operation or during patching) can really create a problem for you. That's why you really need someone (whether that's you or a provider) who understands how to administer a FileMaker server properly.

                       

                      Just my $0.02.

                       

                      Mike

                      • 8. Re: Why does FM recommend a dedicated server machine?
                        GordonShewach

                        Lots and lots of good advice above, Lawrence, about risk management. There are many ways to create trouble for a FileMaker Server.

                         

                        It's also important to consider *cost* management. The difference between a dedicated machine and a non-dedicated machine might be thousands of dollars. I have clients with just a few users that I've started out on non-dedicated servers where it's worked just fine for years. I also have clients with just a few users who started with a non-dedicated machine and had regular issues. They had to move to dedicated.

                         

                        Assess the situation and make recommendations accordingly. Probably the most important factor for me is: who else will access this non-dedicated box and for what purpose? How much do you trust their abilities?

                         

                        Most important of all, a robust backup strategy gives you a safety net for any disaster. Local backups every day, every hour, or every 15 minutes (depending on how active the database is). And keep LOTS of these backups around for weeks or months, so you're prepared when a client calls and fesses up to doing something stupid like deleting a ton of customers ... 8 months ago. Add to that regular cloud backup (I like CrashPlan; many other good ones), ensures that you can always recover from catastrophe.

                         

                        Gordon Shewach

                        Desktop Services

                        Ann Arbor, MI