14 Replies Latest reply on Jul 3, 2014 2:09 PM by Mike_Mitchell

    How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?

    intex

      Hi at all,

       

      We were thinking of offering webdirect only solutions (i.e. the customer doesn´t get the FileMaker file, only the hosted solution, SAAS made with FileMaker).

       

      But updating such solutions seems to be the biggest problem:

       

      - we update/change every and each database file. May be possible with small updates and little numbers of customers, but it´s a NoGo for a large update and more than 10 customers

      - we update/change one file and when we are ready, we exchange the hosted files. Then we would have to import the customer's data into their new files. Although we could script this and by this automate this very much, it will be a very big effort with larger numbers of customers.

      - we thought of putting all customers into one database for easier maintenance, but with a maximum of 50 clients or so you can never generate a bigger business. And only god knows how a database with 50 simultaneous clients would perform.

       

       

      To us it seems, that FileMaker is running into big problems here, because it doesn´t offer the separation of data and programming und can´t add fields etc. via script.

       

      Are there any solutions to this problem we didn´t think of ?

       

       

      Martin

        • 1. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
          Mike_Mitchell

          You may be able to alleviate some of your issues by using a data separation model. This architecture white paper may be of some assistance.

           

          https://fmdev.filemaker.com/docs/DOC-3151

           

          Discussion of the data separation model begins on page 13. There are several different potential options. Nevertheless, you will still likely need to perform some automated updates to migrate clients' data between major upgrades. I suggest you think in terms of "releases" and only perform periodic updates. As you suggest, automation can be quite successful here.

           

          HTH

           

          Mike

          • 2. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
            intex

            Thanks Mike.

             

            Till now we never used the separation model, maybe we should look into that.

             

            It probably will double or at least increase very much the cost of hosting which is already high enough to prohibit any low cost offerings. Lowest price so far we found with WebDirect included is FMPHost with 19,95 Dollars for one database, it would be 39,95 for two/three database files. This kills very much any attempt to make a competetive offering.

            • 3. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
              mikebeargie

              Ditto on data separation model, it's the easiest development change you can make for multi-client distributed files.

               

              I'd add to this by saying it might be easier to roll your own user/password system as well. Or using something like this to alleviate the user management portion of the database:

              http://www.modularfilemaker.org/2013/12/accounts-modular-user-account-management/

               

              You could expand on this to allow for clients to increase/decrease their own user count, and bill them on a scale according to their usage. That would give you more flexibility in the hosting needs on your end.

              • 4. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
                intex

                Hi Mike,

                 

                You could expand on this to allow for clients to increase/decrease their own user count, and bill them on a scale according to their usage. That would give you more flexibility in the hosting needs on your end.

                 

                yes, that´s possible and technically easy to achieve, but I believe very much that people a) prefer simple pricing plans and b) are used to simple plans for SAAS rather than complicated price lists. I would therefor prefer to say there is one price for one database solution with max five users simultaneously.

                • 5. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
                  mikebeargie

                  There are people out there that appreciate resource billing more than “max level” billing, which is why I suggested it. Normally it’s IT department folks who know that cloud computing now is almost always billed by resource usage. If you have your server hosted in the cloud (e.g. AWS or Rackspace), then it’s easy to spool up more resources towards your server with spikes in usage.

                  • 6. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
                    Tom_Droz

                    Hi Martin

                     

                    I have a similar issue in updating files (vertical solution with each user having his own database).  The problem with seperation model for me is

                     

                    1) learning curve to redesign data

                    2) I add new fields, and it is my understanding the separation model updating would be a problem there as well.

                     

                    When I do an update, I send it to my server.  I call it Master.  I close the hosted file and open it unhosted.  It runs a script on start up that saves a copy to a location, then saves itself to a 'updater" file.  I then click a button in the master file, and it imports the data, checks it and if it is good, saves the updated file and overwrites the original on the server with the new updated file.  Total time per file to update is around 2 minutes.

                     

                    Tom

                    • 7. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
                      mikebeargie

                      One way to handle schema updates (to the “data” side of separation) would be to always have a file-to-file transfer script. Essentially during a scheduled update window, you close your client’s data file, import the data (scripted) into the new file, host the new file.

                       

                      Assuming you keep a development copy of your “data” file on hand, you should be able to perform the “data” and “interface” file updates at the same time, and fairly quickly for each of your clients.

                       

                      The learning curve is how you can minimize the number of these “data” file updates as possible. Usually that means a LOT of testing before you make your product public. Or a LOT of weekends in a row of planning to need to run updates.

                       

                      I recommend planning some updates and the time to rollout updates in whatever support contract or ongoing SaaS fee you are charging. That way when you exponentially grow your client base, you have the resources (money) to hire (or contract) additional admins to help with your rollouts.

                      • 8. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
                        Tom_Droz

                        Mike

                        I agree each solution has its own issues.

                         

                        Last year I updated layout and scheme around 20+ times....

                         

                        My current model has worked fairly well or me

                        • 9. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
                          intex

                          Mike Beargie schrieb:

                           

                          One way to handle schema updates (to the “data” side of separation) would be to always have a file-to-file transfer script. Essentially during a scheduled update window, you close your client’s data file, import the data (scripted) into the new file, host the new file.

                           

                           

                          I don´t fear so much the time and work for importing. Since we only have text data, imports should go quickly. And with a script doing the work, that´s not so much the problem.

                           

                          But uploading the files via FTP for each user to the server will take enormous amounts of time - we only have DSL 16000 here and uploads are relatively slow.

                          • 10. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
                            mikebeargie

                            Can you not upload the empty data and interface file to the server, then perform the import actions on the server? That would certainly cut down on file size for the transfer.

                            • 11. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
                              intex

                              At least with FMPHost I have no full FTP. I can only upload, delete and close files, write backups and download these. For your suggestion I would have to rename files after import, if the user should have the same URL for the database after the update, right ? Which hoster gives me full FTP access ?

                              • 12. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
                                intex

                                 

                                2) I add new fields, and it is my understanding the separation model updating would be a problem there as well.

                                 

                                 

                                this is, why we never switched to the separation model so far. Every bigger update comes with extra fields.

                                • 13. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
                                  mikebeargie

                                  You would have to look into a dedicated virtual server. We utilize AWS (amazon) for us. It would also require you having your own copy of FMS13 and FMP13 (to run the import on the server) for installation on the VPS.

                                   

                                  FM Hosting that’s via a control panel is a bit kludgy, but I do know that in the past Triple8 has had FTP access for uploading a file to a directory directly.

                                  • 14. Re: How to update webdirect only solution regularly ?
                                    Mike_Mitchell

                                    Triple8 still has FTP upload / download.