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Cloudy Weather Approaching

Some interesting news:

FileMaker, Inc., has joined the world of cloud hosting. They’re offering a new service called, oddly enough, FileMaker Cloud. We first saw previews of this service at this year’s Developer Conference, and it does look interesting. It’s basically similar to other online hosting services for FileMaker databases, but there are some important differences. Let’s take a look.

The basics: FileMaker has partnered with Amazon Web Services to produce this new offering. Amazon provides the server infrastructure; FileMaker provides the hosting software. They’ve built a version of FileMaker Server that has some of the functionality of the regular Server product, along with a new administration console and the ability to configure the actual server itself. So how does it compare with previously available offerings?

The good: You have a lot of control over your server configuration, and it’s very, very easy to ramp up or down server resources to deal with changing load conditions. It’s a single price for the entire service, so no multiple billing (which can be rather annoying). Configuration and setup are ridiculously easy; you just go on the Amazon Marketplace, make a few selections, and the server spins up, complete with FileMaker Server, ready to host your databases. Backups are automatic, and very fast, since they’ve utilized Amazon’s snapshot backup system. It utilizes FileMaker 15’s functionality to require a password for all accounts having [Full Access] privileges.

The bad: As a first release, FileMaker Cloud is lacking in some features, some of which I consider to be pretty important. You can’t configure your server in a two-machine deployment. Not a huge deal, since you have so much control over server resources, but does mean leaving your web server and databases on the same virtual box (not a preferred configuration for security purposes). You can’t control your backup schedules; you get an every-20-minute backup. Again, not terrible, although it is nicer to control your backup timing. You are require to use encryption at rest in order to upload a database. While this is a prudent security measure for a lot of users, it’s overkill in some deployments.

The ugly: You can’t restore individual database files from backup. You have to take the whole tamale, which can be a time killer if you have lots of databases. You can’t set server-side scripts – which in my mind is huge. True, you can somewhat get around it by using Perform Script on Server, but this is an important feature in a lot of deployments. There’s no support for file list filtering – where users have to authenticate when connecting via Open Remote and the server only shows databases the user has access to. That means you can’t keep other users from being able to see what databases are being hosted on your server. And, probably ugliest of all, there’s no support for external authentication. We can work around it, but it will really hurt the product in corporate IT circles.

Soliant Consulting has a good summary page on their website here. I agree with the overall assessment: basically, FileMaker has made a lot of the decisions about server configuration for you, and you can’t change them. If you need quick startup of a FileMaker Server and can tolerate losing some of the control you have with a standard FileMaker Server installation, then FileMaker Cloud might be a good solution for you. Otherwise, I’d have to recommend using either one of the other commercial hosting services (including those based on BYOL – bring your own license), start up a separate Amazon server instance and install Server on your own, or use your own on-premises server.

Still and all, it’s encouraging to see the FileMaker platform continuing to expand. FileMaker Cloud is a good addition to the platform, and who knows? Version 2.0 might cover its weaknesses. An initial rollout often has limitations, and FileMaker, Inc., has shown a great commitment towards continually improving their offerings.

As always, if we can help you in any way, please contact us. We’re ready, willing, and able to assist!