FileMaker Cloud - What does it do and is it right for me?

FileMaker Cloud - What does it do and is it right for me?

FileMaker Cloud has been around for just over a year now, since late 2016. It was created by FileMaker Inc as an alternative to running a FileMaker Server (on a Mac or PC) on your premises.


 

What is it exactly?

FileMaker Cloud is really a UNIX machine running in Amazon’s data centres that is dedicated to hosting your databases. It runs a version of FileMaker Server for UNIX that has been especially written for FileMaker Cloud. You don’t have to worry about the machine that it runs on, you just know that it is dedicated to your organisation, and no-one else will have access to the data.

You are provided with a web-based admin console, so you can make changes to the configuration, see who is connected, and check that the machine is running well and coping with the workload you have given to it.

When you first buy your FileMaker Cloud server, you choose what speed and specification of machine you would like. They have technical names, such as t2.medium and t2.large (a t2.large has more RAM (8GB) than a t2.medium (4GB) ). There are many other larger and more powerful options too.

The initial setup process is something that we recommend an expert, such as KRCS, handle on your behalf. It is not for the faint-hearted, but once it is setup anyone who can use a browser can administer it.

Backup is handled automatically, and snapshots are taken regularly of your data so that you can go back to earlier versions if you have a problem.

Security is rock solid, with an SSL certificate provided free for 90 days, which can be extended (for a fee) after that. You must extend the SSL certificate, as it won’t function without it. Again, KRCS can handle all this for you.


 

So who should consider FileMaker Cloud?

Firstly, any organisation who has previously used an on-premise FileMaker Server, or is thinking of getting one, should consider FileMaker Cloud.

Here are the key differences between hosting FileMaker server on your premises versus using FileMaker Cloud.


 


Cost comparison

There is a cost to both methods of hosting your FileMaker databases, here are typical examples for a small- to medium-sized business.


 

Traditional FileMaker Server

Buying a well configured Mac mini, with 8GB RAM and fast 512GB SSD Hard Drive, with a screen, keyboard and mouse, will cost around £1,100 + VAT

Plus, there are the costs of maintaining it, providing an un-interruptible power supply, backing it up and having the IT resource to look after it.

You would look to replace this machine every 3 years to keep it current and compatible with the latest FileMaker releases.


 

FileMaker Cloud

Subscribing to FileMaker Cloud for three years with a t2.medium spec will cost around £1,500 + VAT. The ongoing admin and maintenance costs are negligible, but you should connect to the admin console once a week to check for any service messages.

So the cost is fairly similar across a 3 year period for the two approaches.


 


Accessibility comparison

You may want to access your FileMaker database’s when you are out of the office, in fact who doesn’t want that? Sometimes it’s good to check up on what’s happening when you’re out and about.


 

Traditional FileMaker Server

If you have a traditional FileMaker Server in your organisation, then it’s usually only visible to you when you are on your organisation’s network.

You might have a VPN configured to give you secure access to your network when you are out of the office (at home, or in a coffee shop, for instance), but this is a complex setup and requires IT knowledge and resources to accomplish.


 

FileMaker Cloud

FileMaker Cloud is visible wherever you are, so long as you have an internet connection. So whether you are in, or out of the office, you can access your databases without any hassle.

This is a big advantage of FileMaker Cloud and is the reason many organisations choose it.


 


Security Comparison

You want to be sure that no-one, except your authorised users, have access to your databases. In the UK, this is especially important with the advent of the new GDPR regulations (from May 2018).


 

Traditional FileMaker Server

A FileMaker Server hosted on a Mac or PC in your offices is only visible to the users who are on your office network. Therefore you can be fairly sure that no unauthorised users can access your server.

You may give some trusted employees access to your network from outside of your buildings using VPN, and this is a very secure system.

For some organisations, this makes a traditional FileMaker Server the right choice.

You can, and should, install an SSL certificate on that server, to ensure that the data moving to and from your staff is encrypted, so that no-one, even those on your network, can ‘sniff’ the data as it moves around and see what is being added to the database.


 

FileMaker Cloud

When your database is hosted in the cloud, then of course the whole world can potentially see your server.

But FileMaker Cloud is very secure, by design. When KRCS configure FileMaker Cloud, we ensure the settings are made so that only people who have access to the databases can see what files are hosted there. Secondly, we can configure your databases so that the passwords for each user are extra-secure, and virtually impossible to guess.

Plus every FileMaker Cloud server is protected by an SSL certificate, again to prevent ‘sniffing’ of data, whilst in transit.

So long as your users maintain strong passwords, there is no reason to think that FileMaker Cloud put’s your data at risk in any way.


 


Performance Comparison

If you have large databases, or have complex calculations, then you will be aware of the need for good performance. It is very important to consider this when deciding what type of server is right for you.

It’s not all about the server and network though, as a badly designed FileMaker database can hamper the speed that the users see, even on the fastest server. If your database seems unreasonably slow, and you can’t understand why, then contact KRCS for expert advice and we can help fix this.

Whatever type of server you choose, the highest speeds can be achieved with a number of technical measures :-

  • Connecting user’s machines with ethernet rather than WiFi gives the best performance
  • Having a fast server machine connected with a very fast network connection, to your network switch
  • Making sure your user’s machines have sufficient RAM and, are running a modern processor and operating system


 

Traditional FileMaker Server

When your server is on the same local network as your users, then you have the potential to have the best performance. The data only has to travel to and fro across your office network, and is not affected by the speed of your internet connection, at all.

There are various configuration options within FileMaker Server that can make a difference here. KRCS are experienced in surveying your network, and machines, to ensure it is as fast as it can be.

If performance is the biggest issue for you, then you may be better off keeping your FileMaker Server in-house.


 

FileMaker Cloud

FileMaker Cloud is hosted on high-performance cloud server, and it is optimised to make the best use of the connection speed that you have.

If your organisation has fibre broadband, then you should be just fine. If you still have copper-based broadband, then you may want to look at upgrading that first, before considering FileMaker Cloud.

We’ve seen many big, complex databases running really well on FileMaker Cloud, and often it is the skill of the FileMaker developer, when they originally created the database, that makes all the difference here.


 


Conclusion

You can see that there are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether to host your FileMaker Server on your premises, or to use FileMaker Cloud.

KRCS have deployed both types of server many times, and we’d be very happy to help you decide which way is best for your organisation. Please give us a call on 0115 9851797 for personalised advice.


 

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