14 Replies Latest reply on Aug 19, 2013 6:10 PM by Stephen Huston

    Update to server or server adv?

    akgilligan

      I am working on setting up a database for a hospital. We are thinking that we will need to upgrade to filemaker server because of the way doctors will want to access the program. The procedure that will be recorded in the database is not done often, so a doctor will probably have to access it a maximum of once a week. There are five doctors that will occasionally need access, and about five secretaries that will need access occasionally to input the information for the initial calls. Because the secretaries will only need access a very small part of the database, and only occasionally, it seems ridiculous to have to purchase a full license for their computers. We will set it up so that everyone is using the same login and password, with the understanding that only one person can edit at a time. I was talking to a representative from FM and she was confusing me a little- Because it would be expensive to buy licenses for each of these people and it would be ideal if the access could be provided through the internet (doctors would like to be able to input information from home), we thought it would be a good idea to buy the server. With the server, we had the impression that we could set up the database to be accessed through a VPN and that way we would not have to buy any more licenses for individual computers. However, the representative was saying that we would need server advanced to be able to do this and that there were limitations. Is server advanced really necessary, and if so would you recommend it considering our circumstances?

      Thanks!

        • 1. Re: Update to server or server adv?
          Mike_Mitchell

          There are two variables: Where and how you host the database, and how the users access it. The two decisions are semi-independent.

           

          The FMI rep has recommended a very good configuration, really. Setting up an instance of FileMaker Server is the best way to share a database. It provides a stable platform for sharing the database, automated backups, alerts on something going wrong, and a variety of other very helpful features. For sharing the database, it is the best route.

           

          You could also host the database with a hosting company. Depending on how the hostpital's firewall is set up, you would be able to access the database from any location (if your network staff are willing to open the necessary ports), and you wouldn't have to buy a license of Server. (That's because the hosting company already does that for you.) Of course, you'll want to make sure the hosting company you choose is equipped for the security you require (if this is a hospital, how do they comply with the necessary security protocols? Are you storing any HIPPA data in the database?).

           

          If you do decide to avoid the Server purchase, I strongly advise you be extremely careful about a diligent backup strategy. Here's why: If a user has happened to VPN into the server and has the database open at the same time you try to back up the database, you'll likely get a bad backup, and you may corrupt the actual database in the process. (You should never try to make a copy of an open FileMaker database.) To avoid this, you'll need to do a few things:

           

          1) Set the database to be single user (no sharing).

          2) Publish the backup schedule to all users, notifying them that the database will not be available during X times.

          3) Before attempting the backup, try to open it yourself and see if you get rejected because another user has it open.

           

          Now, as to how to access the database. A VPN would indeed allow everyone to log into the hosted database without needing FileMaker licenses. Of course, there are some complexities associated with setting up the VPN and it would require login procedures that some doctors and other people who may not be computer-centric might find difficult or annoying. I'm not sure what "limitations" the rep was referring to; perhaps you can elaborate. We run a Citrix service here where the client is run on the server. Is that the sort of thing you wanted to do?

           

          There are some other possibilities. One option would be to use iPads and FileMaker Go. That spares you buying Pro licenses. An additional advantage there is it's mobile. Of course, if you don't already have iPads, then the cost of the device is greater than the cost of the license, so you haven't saved anything.

           

          Another option would be to web-publish the database. You can do this either with IWP or CWP. I would strongly recommend the latter for the open Internet, but IWP has been known to work if you're careful about your database design and you secure the server properly. Honestly, if these users only have to do a "few things" in the database, building a few CWP pages and hosting the database up on Server might be the best approach.

           

          As to your question, "Is Server Advanced really required?" - As far as I know, it's required for IWP. I have heard it said on the forum that it's required to support some forms of VPN connections as well; people smarter on that than I will need to weigh in (Taylor Sharpe, Wim DeCorte).

           

          HTH

           

          Mike

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          • 2. Re: Update to server or server adv?
            wimdecorte

            akgilligan wrote:

             

            With the server, we had the impression that we could set up the database to be accessed through a VPN and that way we would not have to buy any more licenses for individual computers

             

            You're confusing technologies here.  VPN only creates a secure tunnel between two networks/locations.  That's all about security and nothing else.  Once you have VPN established your computer becomes part of the remote network that you are VPN-ing into.

            But you still need FM Pro on your machine to open a file hosted on FileMaker Server.

             

            Or you use FileMaker Server Advanced and use Instant Web Publishing so that users don't need FM Pro but can use a browser.  IWP has many limiations though so read up on that.

             

            Or you can let the users use an iPad or iPhone/iPod Touch with FM Go to access the hosted file.

             

            Seconding what Mike writes: don't be tempted to skip FileMaker Server.  If this solution is business critical then spend the money.  Better to spend it on FMS and get all the backup capabilities than spending that money (or more) recovering from a bad crash...

            1 of 1 people found this helpful
            • 3. Re: Update to server or server adv?
              akgilligan

              Thank you- in the case of setting up IWP, would we need server advanced or could we set that up with just the regular server?

              • 4. Re: Update to server or server adv?
                Stephen Huston

                Only Server Advanced supports Instant web publishing.

                See this webpage for feature comparison of Server v Server Advanced:

                http://www.filemaker.com/products/compare/fms_vs_fmsa.html

                • 5. Re: Update to server or server adv?
                  akgilligan

                  I read on the website...

                  FileMaker Pro or FileMaker Pro Advanced can host a database(s) via Instant Web Publishing with a limitation of five concurrent users.  FileMaker Server Advanced can also host a database(s) through Instant Web Publishing for up to one hundred.

                  (http://help.filemaker.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/7466/~/publishing-databases-on-the-web-with-filemaker-pro-and-filemaker-server)

                  In this case, it sounds like hosting a database using just filemaker pro would be sufficient- but so many people have told me that we would need server adv, could you please explain?

                  Thank you!!

                  • 6. Re: Update to server or server adv?
                    wimdecorte

                    FileMaker Pro can act as a host, but it is not a server:

                    - it requires FMP to be running and having the file open

                    - FMP is not tuned as an efficient host like FileMaker Server is

                    - whoever is using that machine as a desktop must be aware of that; closing the application or the file will stop it from being hosted

                    - whoever is using that machine will get a performance hit because of the work the connected users are doing

                    - there is no backup functionality built into FMP.  If you don't build your own backup functionality then you risk losing the data if the workstation crashes

                    • 7. Re: Update to server or server adv?
                      akgilligan

                      Would it make sense if we were to use FMP to host the database, and then use the server within the hospital to store it? We were planning on storing it on the hospital server even if we paid for fmserver just to make compliance with patient privacy easier.

                      Sorry totally new at using this program- thanks for your help!

                      • 8. Re: Update to server or server adv?
                        wimdecorte

                        OS-level file sharing and FM sharing do not mix.  So if you want to host with FMP then the FM file needs to be on that workstation and nowhere else (which is why backups are an issue).

                         

                        If you host with FileMaker Server then the files need to be on that filemaker server machine and not on a network share.  But you can use the built-in backup functionality to push backups to another server for safe storage.

                        • 9. Re: Update to server or server adv?
                          akgilligan

                          OS-level file sharing and FM sharing do not mix.  So if you want to host with FMP then the FM file needs to be on that workstation and nowhere else (which is why backups are an issue).

                          could you clarify? To me it still sounds like we could use FMP to host the database and have the database set up to automatically back up to the server within the hospital. Am I correct in saying this?

                          • 10. Re: Update to server or server adv?
                            wimdecorte

                            About the "not mix" of OS-level and FM sharing: FMP and FMS need exclusive lock on the files they are hosting.  Putting those files in a shared folder enables other people and other applications (AV, backup softwares,...) to touch those files.  That should never happen as it is known to corrupt the FM files.

                             

                            When you host FM files with FMP then there is no built in backup process.  And you CAN NOT let another backup software try to create backups of the files while they are open and hosted.  Not even the Windows snapshot service.  This will produce a backup set that invalid and may corrupt your hosted files.

                            This in and by itself is the strongest argument for hosting only with FMS.  FMS has a full-blown backup mechanism that will not interfere with the connected clients and runs completely in the background.  FMP has no such thing so you have to build one using the FM tools available.

                            • 11. Re: Update to server or server adv?
                              Mike_Mitchell

                              No, that's not what Wim is saying. He's talking about using FileMaker Server to host the database, run a backup to its normal directory, and then use another backup tool to copy that backup to another share.

                               

                              Jumping back in on this comment:

                               

                              "Would it make sense if we were to use FMP to host the database, and then use the server within the hospital to store it? We were planning on storing it on the hospital server even if we paid for fmserver just to make compliance with patient privacy easier."

                               

                              This is a bad idea. No, a Bad Idea. A Really Bad Idea. Ever see this dialog?

                               

                               

                              dialog.png

                               

                              It means you're trying to share a file located on a remote drive from the local computer. What Wim mentioned is that you shouldn't do this. What he didn't explain is why, so I will.

                               

                              Whenever you open a database for sharing using FileMaker Pro, that computer becomes the host of that database. In effect, it acts like a little mini-server, although far less robust than an actual server. Whenever a guest wants to attach to that database, it first must attach to the computer running FileMaker. In other words, that computer is like the "central hub" for all communications between the database file and the client computers.

                               

                              Now, every transaction that happens - every record commit, every cache refresh, every passing of data - must pass through that hosting computer. And that computer has to communicate back to the database to update it. So why is that a big deal? Well, depending on your network speed, you're going to have a significant performance slowdown compared with that computer holding the database on its local hard drive. And that's not the worst thing that can happen.

                               

                              If there is any sort of network or power glitch between that remote server and the hosting computer, any transaction that's pending will be lost. Any unwritten record changes on any client will not be saved. Worse even than that, if the glitch occurs in the middle of an operation, you can suffer corruption of the database. I see it all the time here, where people think that putting a FileMaker database on a network share is no different than posting a Word document. It's a lot different.

                               

                              You are putting your data at great risk by using the configuration you're suggesting. You cannot use an automated backup software to back up the database while it's being shared from a remote FileMaker client. The best thing that can happen is that the backup software will see that the file is opened, under a hard OS lock (which is what happens when that host grabs it), and will skip the backup. The worst thing that can happen is that the backup software will corrupt the database trying to access it at the same time the client has it open. The only way you can get a healthy backup using FileMaker Pro to host a database is to close the database and back it up while nobody's using it. (Even FileMaker Server pauses the database, holding all pending transactions, while it performs the backups.)

                               

                              I have a lot of experience with the kind of setup you're suggesting ... and it's all bad. Wim has a lot of experience as well, and he's way smarter than I am on server operations. I don't think I can recommend to you strongly enough that you avoid trying to host this database from a remote drive using Pro. You're inviting trouble. And trouble is a funny thing; it's very accommodating. Always accepts the invitation.

                               

                              HTH

                               

                              Mike

                              • 12. Re: Update to server or server adv?
                                akgilligan

                                Ok good to know- thanks for all the info! So basically, you are saying that we need to buy filemaker server adv, right? and when we do, would it be a bad idea to also back up on the hospital server just as a precaution? Or would this have potential to cause problems?

                                • 13. Re: Update to server or server adv?
                                  wimdecorte

                                  If you want to use IWP then you need FileMaker Server Advanced. Regular FMS does not offer IWP.

                                   

                                  As to backups: a good backup strategy always involves making sure that copies are stored in multiple places.  Pay some attention to the physical security of where you keep backups since it sounds like there is highly confidential information in there.

                                   

                                  When it comes to backups, follow the 3-2-1 rule:

                                  - take a minimum of 3 backups

                                  - on at least 2 different mediums (hard disk, tape, DVD,...)

                                  - with at least 1 copy off-site

                                  • 14. Re: Update to server or server adv?
                                    Stephen Huston

                                    and never let any backup software touch the FMServer databases directory. FMSA should run its own backups, not some OS-level backup software. There are some scripting alternatives, depending on the FMSA OS, which can be used to backup the FM backup directory to another machine/server.

                                     

                                    There have been discussion threads on backup routines on this forum which can be searched for details.