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A global field will retain whatever value it had when the file was last closed in a non-hosted (local) environment. In order to make the value "stick", you'll need to unhost the file from FileMaker Server, insert your desired value, and then re-host the file.
An alternative would be to create a parallel non-global field and then insert the field's value into the global using a script on file startup.
Thanks, I think that will work. Can I unhost from the server in the master database or do I have to have access to the server?
You need access to the admin console to unhost a file.
BUT; I would still not recommend that you rely on setting the global while in single-user and then host it again. Do as Mike suggest and store the value in a 1-record settings table and load it into a global as part of the OnOpen routine. Much more robust and it will survie if the file gets cloned at some point (globals lose their values when cloning)