FileMaker Server / Cloud / WebDirect
1. Can I use SUNRISE Contacts on a secure web page of my choosing?
Yes you can, and highly desirable where security is a must.
Assuming you typically use a randomised 20 character or longer alphanumeric Admin Console password to securely manage FileMaker Server (1), then all you need is a secure web server using an SSL certificate for serving stuff externally of your office or organisation (2), host the server on your own premises, and run FileMaker Server 16/17/18/19 or higher to access SUNRISE Contacts. This is all you need.
Speaking of SSL certificates, you can use the free Claris default SSL certificate option in FileMaker Server instead of paying for your own SSL certificate. But as many security experts know, Apple never provides high end encryption with this option. It is a poor man's version of an SSL certificate to allow Apple to reverse the weak encryption provided by the certificate and so look at your data coming from FileMaker Server. But if you do get your own proper SSL certificate, Apple will also require after FileMaker Server 17 for you to have a domain name of the web site (no potentially anonymous IP address like https://22.214.171.124/). In this way, Apple can identify who is using its software and track you down if you, by any chance, are not running a properly licensed copy of FileMaker Server.
Getting your own SSL certificate is not cheap. It costs anywhere between US$79 and US$600 per certificate per machine per year. The wide variation in price and determination by those to get everyone to pay continuously for the privilege reveals how many people enjoy the easy money to be made in this area, with some more greedier than others. Thus when you see on the web sites things like purchasing a "managed SSL certificate", this is designed to give the impression that it is worth paying this money all the time because allegedly a human is constantly watching your web site and making sure each request to your web site is secure. But in reality, there is no such thing as human intervention. It is an automatic software script that quietly runs in the background to check its database of people who have paid for their SSL certificates and tells internet users through their browsers that your web site or copy of FileMaker Server is "trusted" and will send back the necessary information needed to tell the users' web browser to show the "https" protocol. In that way, users feel more secure in making online purchases, and hopefully even share their personal details in online forms. Apart from that, an SSL certificate is not cheap. So choose an SSl certificate provider with more reasonable prices. For example, GoDaddy.com has prices that are nicer on the bank balance for what you get. To save money on purchasing multiple SSL certificates for multiple web sites, FileMaker Servers and machines, get a single "wild card" SSL certificate. For a single price that covers all, you can get it as low as US$159.99. Otherwise, don't be surprised to find others asking for around US$600 per year for the privilege. If this is still too much, you can always use free self-signed SSL certificates (there are around 600 companies on the internet that are willing to verify these sorts of certificates for you without asking for a payment). In terms of the quality of the security, self-signed and paid SSL certificates are just as effective. The only difference is that the one you pay usually comes with legal insurance to cover the event of your FileMaker databases and any other information getting hacked using the SSL certificate supplied to you. A kind of incentive to get you to pay other people for the privilege of creating and verifying who you are through their own SSL certificate they issue to you and host your details on their databases. The insurance payment can be as high as a million dollars. Compared this to free self-signed SSLs, which either have no insurance or very limited insurance (usually less than $10,000).
Apart from SSL certificates, if you require slightly more security, there is an additional feature available in FileMaker Server: encryption of database files. In that way, anyone who hacks into your server and steals the database files will be greeted with a jumbled mess. But please note that this option can slightly slow down server performance. (3)
If after all of this, you are not yet deterred in using FileMaker Server, the only other downside to the above approach is that it will cost you a fair bit to buy and set up the software. It isn't just the server machine you will need to consider. You must also look at the licensing costs to run FileMaker Server.
2. How much does it really cost?
The costs to properly run FileMaker Server will cover the following areas:
- FileMaker Server / Cloud: Purchasing the software and get the necessary license file from Apple/Claris.
- A Dedicated Computer: Purchasing a fast enough computer to run FileMaker Server.
- IT Support Specialist: Pay a salary to someone to keep 1 and 2 running smoothly and promptly.
Purchasing FileMaker Server is not cheap for what seems to be a simple task of "publishing" and presenting your data (and layout designs) in a web browser for yourself and anyone else to see. This feature is more a privilege. A kind of, "Are you trying to make a profit from delivering your data to users (i.e., potential customers)? Oh well, we better take a slice of any profits you might be making from your users, or else you must pay heavily to properly own the software outright and use it for as long as you like". This is the attitude Apple presents to the community when selling FileMaker Server (4). This might be fine for medium to large businesses looking to access data through FileMaker Server. For small businesses, individuals (e.g., teachers, sole traders etc.) and families, it can be expensive.
Thus, before you even purchase a machine to act as the hardware server for running FileMaker Server, you are already down $1,000 for buying a permanent "perpetual licensed" copy of FileMaker Server. Even if you go for a monthly subscription to reduce software costs and benefit from yearly updates, this may not seem too bad at first until you realise Apple also wants you to pay a "per user" fee. If the aim of the server is to be accessed by as any people as you can for a web site (the usual aim for a typical server on the internet), it isn't exactly the most cost-effective solution (5) for the average consumer. Only a sizeable businesses making reasonable profits may consider this option and only if there is a guaranteed profit from taking on this "bleed me financially dry" approach by Apple.
As a result of these potentially significant costs, Apple is repositioning Claris, Inc. in 2020 to focus more on enterprise solutions and away from individual and developer solutions as a way of achieving world domination in the big business server market. This means FileMaker databases should only be developed for medium and large business use. Well, that is how Apple is hoping to avoid the extra competition from FileMaker developers in producing CRMs and other apps that are better than Apple's own free apps in macOS, as well as to make bigger profits from selling FileMaker Server and Pro (the latter of which will soon be web-based only to ensure a continuous stream of revenue coming in for the company from subscriptions and licensing compliance). It is all part of the Apple strategy to keep people being "surprised" and hopefully later "delighted" by all these changes once they are hopefully accepted by the public.
Or else you could always wait for German software developers to reverse engineer the FileMaker file format and provide a proper solution to meet the needs of everyone.
If you are going to buy FileMaker Server and you are an individual (e.g., a teacher, sole trader etc.) or small business, try purchasing a perpetual license (i.e,, no further costs by way of subscriptions) for the most number of users you can afford.
Too expensive? That is why we think it is better for you to find a trusted third-party FileMaker Server hosting solution for a minimal monthly charge (it should be no more than AUD$59.95 to host a handful of databases). The license key and license certificate needed for the Server to run and convince Apple that the software is legitimate (i.e., not a pirated copy), having the latest version of the software, as well as a paid SSL certificate, should already be supplied, leaving you the piece of mind of focusing on the data (and/or layouts) and its delivery to your customers. Of course, as security experts say, this will not be the most securest option for protecting your data.
Alternatively, you can buy a second-hand perpetual licensed copy of FileMaker Server from eBay.com. If it is an older version just one year behind don't be surprised if it costs less than US$60 to buy one with 8 concurrent users capacity (as of May 2020). Or, if you wait long enough, you can probably snap up a site license version instead. Eventually, with enough time, WebDirect technology and FileMaker Server in general will be accessible to everyone and sufficiently cheap enough to be used by all.Understandably, this is one of the reasons why Apple prefers that you pay a subscription. The idea of perpetual licenses is not something Apple encourages or would like to see in the future where continuous profits and watching people online are the prime objectives.
As for the costs of setting up a dedicated computer to run FileMaker Server and the people needed to support it, you can save money here by again hosting FileMaker Server / Cloud on the Cloud through a FileMaker hosting company, including Amazon. But keep in mind this is less secure (even with an SSL certificate, mainly because Amazon, world governments, and some hackers can find ways to access your databases), and not all features such as WebDirect will be available if you use FileMaker Cloud as your server solution.
In a nutshell, to do the job properly and with greatest security, you will need FileMaker Server and to serve your data from within your office or organisation on a properly set-up dedicated computer server, and to come to grips with how to use it and what to look for when ensure it is running optimally.
3. Can I use SUNRISE Contacts with Cloud services?
Assuming you are happy to go ahead with purchasing and setting up FileMaker Server and a machine running it, SUNRISE Contacts and the Cloud (6) are a match made in heaven. Our recommendations for good FileMaker Server 18 or higher web hosting are:
Has the latest FileMaker Server software, now version 19. As Carl Horton said: "Our FileMaker 19 Dedicated Database Hosting service starts with a 15 day free trial and can host up to 125 databases.". After the trial period, it costs $59.95 per month. However, starting the trial period is, for some reason, more difficult now. Probably best to send a ticket to this provider to figure out how to do this. .(5)
- Foxtail Technology
Lagging behind slightly with running FileMaker Server 18, it does come with a 30-day trial. Costs US$50.00 per month for shared hosting of 5 FileMaker databases, or US$100.00 per month for 10 FileMaker databases. Check again later for FileMaker Server 19 services.
These web hosting services require no purchase of FileMaker Server and the license certificate from Apple, Inc. Furthermore, the service providers can update FileMaker Server automatically to the latest version as soon as its comes out of Apple on a yearly basis.
But also consider the long-term costs. If you intend to host SUNRISE Contacts within your organisation or at home for a long time, the most cost-effective and secure long-term solution is to buy a perpetual license of FileMaker Server (roughly three times the cost of a yearly subscription if you buy brand new and the latest direct from Claris, Inc.) and purchase a cheap second-hand Mac or cheaper PC of reasonable speed to act as the hardware server for running FileMaker Server and host the databases. Then all you need is some IT support to set it all up, which should be a one time labour fee of around US$150 (7). The only thing is, Apple is still fiddling around with FileMaker Server. This is especially true of WebDirect, which is improving quite significantly to a level that hopefully soon there will be little need to constantly update and you can create a web site entirely in FileMaker if you so choose. So choosing when is the best time to settle on one version might be a little tricky at the moment. Generally, with FileMaker Server, you need to get the latest for the flexibility, accuracy and performance needed of the web page design to match the database layout designs. Hence FileMaker Server 19 is better than FileMaker Server 18 and earlier versions. It is only in the FileMaker Pro and Go apps where the improvements are minimal (mainly two or three new scripting commands and/or functions, and superficial changes such as adding a Dark Mode to the user interface, but nothing spectacular and major that would get you to go out there and constantly upgrade; so do settle on one good FileMaker Pro or Go version of your choice FileMaker Pro 16 to 19 are all essentially the same product with minimal improvements, so make your choice on the one to go for), unless you happen to be a Linux user, in which case the support for this platform has certainly improved in recent times.
If maximum security is not critical and you prefer the pay-as-you-go approach (with the advantage of upgrading to a new FileMaker Server software version every 12 months, although the cycle of upgrade/updates is now merging and occurring on a regular basis as part of the push by Apple to confuse customers and make them think staying on a subscription is better just to get the latest improvements or new features rather than any form of a perpetual license, which Apple hates very much) and want to avoid all the IT-related hassles of setting things up and getting the server hardware working all the time by asking an IT specialist either in-house or as a consultant, try FileMaker Cloud. This server software solution is the same as FileMaker Server, except it is dedicated to working with the hardware servers located in the data centers at Amazon.com. And there are some restrictions in using the WebDirect feature. If you choose this option, pay for the yearly (or perhaps monthly, but we do not recommend choosing an hourly) subscription when running FileMaker Cloud. Certainly if you intend to be online for a long time and want to reduce the costs to the lowest, choose the longer subscription periods. And if you want maximum security, full access to WebDirect, and know you will be on FileMaker Server for a long time, then purchase an outright license of FileMaker Server (preferably version 19) and run it yourself on your own hardware server.
4. What is performance like on the server?
Surprisingly good for any FileMaker database solution, with or without good lean design (a process of optimising the solution with the simplest approaches, designs and scripts, setting up the right table relationships and applying the built-in auto sort option to the relationships, and making use of the server to perform tasks on the server side using PSOS technology). If you want to run a solution with thousands of people accessing it, a well-designed FileMaker solution is useful to have.
In an attempt not to get carried away with incredible claims that could backfire and result in mass refunds, Claris, Inc. (a.k.a. Apple, Inc.) has given a conservative recommendation on the maximum number of simultaneous connections: approximately 100. In other words, you can have 100 simultaneous (or concurrent) users accessing a database solution and its data. However, testing has revealed up to 1,000 users can be logged into SUNRISE Contacts (or any other FileMaker solution) without a problem. Performance remains surprisingly good. It is only when you get to these these high user numbers, and you perform certain server/processor intensive functions where the performance will drop. Fortunately there aren't too many functions of this type to worry about. But one of them used by many users is the Sort function. Should you have a million records or more and sorting of the lot is required and done on the client side and the data is hosted on FileMaker Server, the process is very slow. This is mainly because data has to be transferred from the server to the client's machine where sorting is performed. A well-designed FileMaker solution will make use of relationships between tables and the built-in sorting option for the relationships to speed up the process and perform it at the server end. But other than that, no FileMaker database solution can cheat the limitations of the sort function or where there are network bottlenecks. The aim is to make it look like the key areas of the database that needs to be accessible look fast enough. In terms of network issues, if you use Amazon services, the network should be fast and reliable. As for the database solution, choose one that is well-designed or create your own. Otherwise, if you stay within the 100 users limit, performance should be excellent. Or, if you are certain you won't go into the millions of records but, say, 10,000 or even 100,000 records, then performance for all functions (sorting, finding etc.) is good on any mediocre FileMaker solution with up to 100 users. For more users and higher numbers of records, it will come down to your choice of a FileMaker solution. Either build it yourself to be as optimal as you can make it, or choose a quality solution from an experienced FileMaker developer.
If there is any other performance decrease you are likely to experience for fewer numbers of users and less records, it will be in WebDirect. If you have complex layout designs that change regularly across different layouts, then do expect extra time for the server to reproduce the designs in the web browser.
5. What is a good server machine to run FileMaker Server?
Whatever you do with FileMaker Server, it is important to buy the fastest computer to act as the hardware server as you can afford. Generally the more users accessing FileMaker Server on your server machine, the more grunt and power the server will require, as well as a reliable and fast network, so as to make the experience of using a database through FileMaker Server seem fast enough. Maximum speed is achievable with top end quality 32GB or higher RAM, a high performance SSD to store FileMaker Server and the databases (as well as the OS), and a minimum quad-core processor. The processor itself should also be 64-bit for FileMaker Server 19 or higher (there is no 32-bit option here). You can get away with a 32-bit machine for FileMaker Server 18, but we recommend 64-bit machines for greater processing volume and speed. If you use Amazon's server machines to run FileMaker Cloud, a lot of these specifications are taken care of by Amazon. You only have to choose a T2 or T3 server machine. You can survive with T2 machines, but highest speed is achievable with the T3 machines.
In terms of running FileMaker Server in the home or small office environment, a decent high-end Mac computer is okay as a server but is considered the most expensive (8). Windows machines are cheaper even when adding the Microsoft licensing requirements. However, nothing beats a rock-bottom price (a kind of maximum bang for your buck) of a PC machine (get a PC gaming enthusiast / computer nerd to build in a box what he thinks is the fastest and coolest machine on the planet using custom components) running Linux. There are no OS licensing fees to worry about with Linux, and FileMaker Server 19 will run on Linux (finally!). However, if you are paying tech support people who have specialised on Windows or Mac, it may be best to stick to what the guys are good at (as it may be cheaper in the long run in getting things working straightaway and to fix problems during the life of the server and software).
When you run FileMaker Server on your server machine located in-house, always turn on email notifications. FileMaker Server will let you know of any issues when it is running. With FileMaker Cloud, this is less of an issue as Amazon staff and some automated AWS scripts will make sure FileMaker Cloud and the hardware server are running.
If you receive a license certificate to activate FileMaker Server for the number of users you are permitted to simultaneously access your databases, FileMaker Server will automatically detect this and load it up if the license certificate is located in the Download folder. Otherwise, manually select the certificate from within FileMaker Server.
Finally, if you do decide to use a Windows Server machine, make sure it is up-to-date. A significant vulnerability has been (finally) detected in the OS as of 20 July 2020. Called the SigRed vulnerability, this nasty bug can allow hackers to access the server machine and with it the data in your FileMaker database solutions. The bug has not been detected for nearly 17 years until only recently. So, God knows how many people have already been exploiting the bug. We can only hope there are no more bugs of this nature to keep business owners worried. But no one will ever really know. Or perhaps Microsoft has been aware of it for some time and has decided to mention it now as part of a strategy to get business users (and later consumers) to upgrade their Windows OS and machines to the latest version. If so, expect Windows 11 to arrive soon. No doubt Microsoft will try hard to tout this as the most secure OS on the planet (as does Apple with macOS). Go to this Microsoft download page to get the security update.
6. How do I upgrade FileMaker Server?
When upgrading, keep in mind the following:
- Grab the copy of the new FileMaker Server installer.
- Stop and close all databases in the old FileMaker Server.
- Keep the latest backup of all databases in the hosted folder, and server side plug-ins, on a separate external drive.
- Install the new FileMaker Server. If the machine is dedicated to FileMaker Server with no other applications or data stored on it, most administrator will simply wipe the disk clean, and do a clean install of the latest or newer compatible OS to better handle the latest FileMaker Server, and install FileMaker Server. Otherwise, it is highly recommended to delete all FileMaker Server components prior to installation of the latest version. Or else you can go straight to an upgrade install over the top and as a replacement of the old FileMaker Server. But if there are any problems, you may have to consider a complete clean install.
- While the databases should remain where they are, you may need to check them, as well as check for plug-in compatibility. Newer versions of FileMaker Server are now requiring plug-ins to be code-signed and may not provide an option to bypass this restriction. Furthermore, getting a new updated "code-signed" plug-in could have some plug-in commands changed with a new function name, and/or additional function parameters. So you will need to check the databases are able to work properly under the new plug-ins environment.
- Check the Server configuration settings. Although the settings should technically migrate smoothly and run in a predictable way, this may not always be the case. Review all settings to ensure they are set correctly (as Apple may decide on your behalf to assume certain settings should be in a certain way).
Hopefully with the new quarterly update cycle from Apple/Claris from FileMaker19 and higher, such complicated upgrades should be unnecessary (unless you have FileMaker Pro 19 in 2020 and Claris has released FileMaker Server 2025 and you want to move to that version). Updates should technically work with an existing FileMaker Server 19 or higher version.
NOTE: Even with an update, you should always close the databases and make a backup of all databases prior to applying the update.
7. Any bugs or issues to report on FileMaker Server?
Fortunately there are not too many, and certainly not too serious if you take the right precautions. What are present are more a case of Apple dropping in a few bugs in one "not so well tested" new function or feature (as customers will be used by Apple as beta testers), such as the Add-Ons of FileMaker Pro 19, or the Startup Restoration feature of FileMaker Server 18. If there is enough complaint from customers, Apple may fix up one or two main problems, and generally wait for the next upgrade to kind of fix some more bugs and then introduce some new ones just to keep people on their toes.
Can you handle this sort of regime from Apple?
Large database upload bug
The PC version of FileMaker Server 16 has a long-standing bug reported by several FileMaker database developers since 2007 that may prevent a large database such as our contacts.fmp12 (even at a tad over 100MB in the original clean version) from uploading via FileMaker Pro (and would not work with the Upload button on the web page supplied by FMPHost) while running a Windows server. It will give a message saying, "Not enough space on the server or destination is no longer available". If you see this message for any of the databases (often the largest file sizes), then it is likely to do with automatic scheduled backups set up by the administrator of FileMaker Server and how the server can lose access to the backup folder. Even if the path to the folder appears correct in the server settings, the solution is apparently to clear the path and re-establish the path to help reset anything else that the server has lost. Please note that by the time we recommended this solution to FMPHost in September 2017, the people there recommended we just upload the database(s) to a DropBox account and let them download it via a shared link (we assume they are not interested in certain databases, but just to host them on their site), or they may not believe the recommended solution we suggested (despite providing the link above). With no further advice on whether the bug will be fixed by FileMaker, Inc., or whether the workaround solution had been applied by FMPHost to see if this will work and so allow further development work, SUNRISE Contacts is now at a level where it can be used in a web browser via WebDirect based on the best available knowledge when it was checked through FMPHost.
The Startup Restoration bug of FileMaker Server 18
This is an important bug you should be aware of. It affects FileMaker Server 18, and there appears to be no fixes for it unless you are willing to fork out the costs of upgrading to FileMaker Server 19. Like the Runtime bug in FileMaker Pro 18 not launching in macOS due to a code signature problem just to see how many people mention it and then make the decision to remove the Runtime feature altogether to discourage its use (instead of fixing it and doing a proper job for people who use it), it has taken a similar amount of time for Apple to mention this Server bug and only just prior to the release of FileMaker Pro/Server 19 (which occurred on 20 May 2020) even though people had mentioned it online and notified FileMaker, Inc. about it. To mention the bug at such a late stage by Apple suggests that the company had probably known about the bug for some time (was it intentional?) but had chosen to keep quiet and not provide an update until just before FileMaker Server 19 came out. If that isn't true, then it must be that Apple does not use FileMaker Server for its own work because it never was meant to be a serious piece of software. Only a tool to rake in money from gullible consumers.
There is, of course, a more sinister reason. When you see the seriousness of the bug and the lack of effort to provide a fix for users on FileMaker Server 18, there is a good chance it is designed to undermine the security and reliability of third-party CRM solutions in favour of Apple's preferred free OS apps. Whether this is the case or to encourage people to upgrade, there is a serious bug in FileMaker Server 18 (not FileMaker Cloud 18) where the "startup restroration" feature is turned on by default by Apple on first install. The most common complaints of the feature were the slow performance of the server, unusual numbers of crashes and unexpected quits of the server, and more seriously some FileMaker databases have been damaged by this feature. The latter puts it into a more serious category and should have been addressed with a separate update as soon as Apple heard about it, rather than waiting for people to upgrade to FileMaker 19. It appears to be that this is a new feature introduced into FileMaker Server 18, and as a result there has probably been insufficient testing performed by Apple/Claris developers. Now that the developers are finally aware of the issue, we should see an improvement in FileMaker Server 19 (and, indeed, it is fixed more quickly than the GetNthRecord function bug which still remains a long-standing issue lasting more than a decade despite FileMaker developers telling Apple/Claris to fix it, including the latest FileMaker Pro 18 and 19 versions). For those sticking to Server 18, you should turn off this feature immediately (it is defaulted to "On" when installed first time):
- Look for /Library/FileMaker Server folder. Get Info on the FileMaker Server folder and make sure the folder and its included files and folders have permissions that allow for "Read and Write".
- Open Terminal.app in the Utilities folder inside the Applications folder.
- Type the following: fmsadmin set serverprefs startuprestorationenabled=false
- Press Return key and type in the administrator password to accept the changes.
With the Startup Restoration feature set to "false", it means the feature will not run on the server. One less buggy feature to worry about.
For licensed users of SUNRISE Contacts benefiting from additional new features and functions beyond the free "you can use forever" version we offer, we have added an essential FileMaker Server Admin tools in SUNRISE Contacts under the File menu. There you will find the option to disable the little "restoration" critter.
Why can't I enable Web Publishing and WebDirect on FileMaker Server 18?
Have you noticed something? FileMaker Server does not quite work straight out-of-the-box. A pity.
There has been a quiet change in the way the FileMaker Server 18 installer writes and puts all the relevant resources it needs on your computer. It has to do with Java. Apparently considered an essential piece of technology needed by the Apple software to perform its serving, in previous versions there was no problem in installing Java. Not anymore. Oracle has decided the time has come to monetise its Java technology, which means Apple/Claris can no longer distribute Java freely with its FileMaker Server installer file, starting with version 18. You will have to download from the Oracle web site a file called Oracle JRE 8 Update 251 for macOS or Windows (both x64 versions), depending on the computer platform you want to run your server. In so doing, you are effectively being asked to establish an account for Oracle to know who you are before it decides to ask you to pay a licensing fee to use its Java technology on your server at some later date, as well as sell any other products it has to you.
If you stick with Oracle, you will have to go for JRE 8 (Java Runtime Environment). Don't try to be a smart alec thinking bugs will be fixed and security will be better by downloading the latest Java version 14 or higher . It won't work. FileMaker Server is fussy about its preferred Java version and has no clue how to handle the latest Java (and certainly has not been updated by Apple/Claris in this aspect despite the numerous Oracle updates that have taken place with Java). Stick to version 8. In FileMaker Server, you will tell it where this Java installer is located.
However, due to the fact that you may be required to pay licensing fees to Oracle at some point in the future, certain people from the original Sun Microsystems that developed Java before the organisation was acquired by Oracle have decided it is better to create their own open source JDK solution. Now that the work is complete and available just in time, you can download it right now. If you choose this option, keep in mind for newbies to FileMaker Server that you may find this option harder to get working and requires manual copying of files and folders from the Java package and paste into the right locations within the FileMaker Server folder. And even then, FileMaker Server has a knack of still struggling to recognise the files (probably because it requires a very specific Java version).
But wait! There is an alternative solution. Not mentioned by Apple on its Claris web site or within FileMaker Server (either because the company is not aware of it or is discouraging users from trying it out as part of some agreement with Oracle to force users to use Oracle's preferred version), you can use another open source JDK solution. This time from Amazon. Here, the company has been using some of its massive profits to pay top-notch programming professionals to create its own dedicated open source JDK that works on all platforms. Known as Amazon Corretto, this reliable and stable solution is a no-cost, multi-platform, production-ready distribution of OpenJDK that anyone can use. There are no licensing issues here to worry about, and FileMaker Server can handle this version perfectly fine. To learn more and download the file, visit this page. If you use this option, download Amazon Corretto 8, run the installer, go into FileMaker Server, and in the web publishing section, select "Use Oracle JRE". It will automatically choose the OpenJDK solution from Amazon (if the Oracle version is not available). You will see this in the Task Manager under the name of "OpenJDK Platform binary".
Once installed, you will be amazed by how easy it is to start up Web Publishing and WebDirect. Yay!
Why can't I edit and save data in my fields published on WebDirect/Web Publishing?
Have you been scratching your head over this issue? Have you been checking the accounts of each database you are hosting and making sure they have read and write privileges and that FileMaker WebDirect has been turned on in the Sharing menu command under File, and still can't figure out why fields are locking you out with a message that says you cannot modify their contents? It is a common problem and not one that Apple/Claris can fix with a single button within FileMaker Server despite how many years the product has been around. The solution has all to do with file/folder permissions. Yep, that dreaded old permissions thing has cropped up. Nothing in FileMaker Server can tell you the reason for this and what to do.
Well, what you have to do is close all the databases from being served in FileMaker Server, go to the Database folder that hosts your databases, Get Info on it, and in the Permissions section where it says "fmsadmin", you need to change the privilege to "Read & Write". Apply this permission across all database files and folders within the Database folder. Now on re-opening the database files in the Server and accessing them online, you will discover the joys of editing data in the fields of your databases. Truly astonishing!
In case you are wondering where this Database folder is located, it is hidden pretty well inside /Library/FileMaker Server/Data/Databases/
Why is FileMaker Server struggling to connect to an IP address for accessing its services (such as WebDirect)when previously it was fine?
Good question. This is a slightly more mysterious issue to keep people wondering from time-to-time, and Apple/Claris seems unable or unwilling to give much information to the user about what is going on. Why the failure (or is it a delay) in connecting? Certainly it is not an uncommon scenario to experience with this product. After a while of use, the Server can suddenly keep showing a "can't connect to IP address a.b.c.d" no matter how long you wait. For Web Publishing and WebDirect, it can potentially take up to 10 minutes to get going despite around 90 per cent of the time its starts up in under 10 seconds. However, there are moments when it won't matter how long you wait. The server cannot get the services running even after 24 hours of waiting. You can see it with your eyes that WPE and WebDirect are turned on. You have restarted the computer several times and still it fails to connect to the IP address (the same one that worked before many times).
The problem is not something Apple/Claris can advise on what to do. Well, here is our advice. Firstly, we strongly recommend applying the latest update to FileMaker Server (make sure you turn off the Server when you do this). This could fix up some teething problems. Secondly, make sure essential ports needed to be accessed by FileMaker Server are open and available. And thirdly, make sure you don't have OSX/Apache Server running at the same time and is the first service to load up and using ports 80 and 443. In order for FileMaker Server to deliver WebDirect web pages, it needs access to those ports. Therefore, you have to choose which server to use and for you to stick to it. You may have been lucky before to get FileMaker Server to connect to a web page because FileMaker Server has launched straightaway. But at other times, it may be unusually slow to get going, allowing time for the Apache server to kick in and take over the serving tasks.
To properly solve this problem, permanently stop the Apache server. Unfortunately there is no easy option in FileMaker Server to switch off the Apache server or any other servers that might be running despite the relative sophistication of the OS to know what is going on.
The process of starting the Apache server on macOS is as follows:
sudo apachectl start
sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.apache.httpd.plist
Drop the -w if you do not want this to persist after a system restart.
However, to stop the Apache server on OS X:
sudo apachectl stop
sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.apache.httpd.plist
In the worse case scenario, you may have to reinstall FileMaker Server. This is the only definitive way of getting the services to work again.
Services to open with a Firewall
To run FileMaker Server behind a Firewall, it is important to open up specific services to incoming and outgoing connections. The following services are important:
To add these services to your Firewall, you can locate them in /Library/FileMaker Server/Database Server/bin/, except for mscwpc. which is in /Library/FileMaker Server/Web Publishing/publishing-engine/cwpc/bin/.
Why does FileMaker Server stop working after about 15 minutes when I am trying to access the databases online?
There is one more thing you have to do prior to turning your computer into a server. As you may have noticed, in macOS Mohave and higher versions, there is a default timer setting put there by Apple as a factory setting that causes the OS to go to sleep after a period of inactivity on the computer itself even though FileMaker Server could be doing something (i.e., serving the information). Or even if it isn't, it should always be on standby and straightaway be able to serve data to users. However, the sleep timer in macOS is unaware of this. If this sleep feature is turned on, the OS will apply its own rules. If you wake it up, give it about 30 seconds to restore connections to FileMaker Server.
To avoid this situation happening again:
- Go to the System Preferences.
- Open Energy Saver preference pane.
- Push the slider for Computer Sleep to the right until it is set to "Never"
- To preserve the screen, you can reduce the timer here to say 10 minutes.
- Close the preference pane to save the settings.
FileMaker Server should now work continuously and without interruption.
8. Does FileMaker Server try to connect to Apple servers when it is run?
Yes it does. It will connect to Apple servers for no good reason other than to let the company know you are online, and check out a few things. For example, the company likes to see that you have a legitimate copy of FileMaker Server running. But there could quite easily be other things Apple could do, such as quietly grabbing a copy of your databases and analyse in its own time.
In Australia, for example, FileMaker Server will attempt to call back to Apple on an IP address such as 126.96.36.199. A check of this IP address on search engines will reveal the server is owned by Apple. Not happy with this extra strain on the server to deal with Apple's requirements and constant need to be checking what you are doing? If you like, you can block this IP address and any other on the 17.253.x.x on your firewall. And keep a close eye out for other dubious IP addresses that suddenly crop up for no good reason when running FileMaker Server, especially from Apple. In 99 per cent of cases the surreptitious connection being attempted will have no reason to take place other than to give someone else information about what you are doing and where you are located. In these circumstances, you can block the connection. Blocking them will not cause any issues when it comes to accessing databases in WebDirect or other services.
9. The check box designed to not show a database in WebDirect home page is not working . I still see the database. Why?
This is a case of don't believe what you see from Apple. Be prepared to switch off more things to ensure the job is done properly as we have discovered with FileMaker Server. Thus, going into the configuration for WebDirect in the Sharing submenu and removing the tick in the check box that says "Don't display in FileMaker WebDirect launch center" and opening the database again in FileMaker Server will not respect your choice. The icon still shows the database, and it can be opened. The only two definitive ways of removing the icon is (i) restart FileMaker Server; or (ii) Make sure you set the configuration to "No Users". However, if other databases need access to this database, you may have no choice but to restart the server.
10. Why can't I open the database in FileMaker Server?
A common complaint of FileMaker Server is the difficulty in getting things to work. Apart from checking the file permission of a database and making sure FileMaker Server has Read and Write privileges, the accounts you set up in the database are just as important. If you have only one account and it provides full access, FileMaker Server will not open it. Unfortunately, from the way FileMaker Server has been designed in the user interface, there is no easy messaging to explain why until you eventually stumble on a "bell" icon representing a notification center. Then you might be given a basic message along the lines of "SECURITY: Database "[name]" cannot be opened because it does not have the required password protection". Well, the required password protection that it doesn't tell you is that it expects another account to be established in the database file, and this account must have reduced access privileges, but with the necessary extended privileges enabled to permit FileMaker Server to run its services.
Go to File-->Manage-->Security. Create a new account. Set the account to "Data Entry Only:. Put on a password. If you hate typing passwords, use File-->File Option and set the username and password of the account you want opened automatically.
Once you have the account done, click OK. In FileMaker Server, close the database and drag and drop the new database with the extra account to the hosting folder. Open the database in FileMaker Server. Viola! The database file is finally opened.
11. Can I adjust the RAM cache of FileMaker Server to help make better use of the available RAM to improve its performance?
Previous versions of FileMaker Server prior to 18 did allow a simple field box in the Admin Console to set a cache amount in megabytes (MB). For the life of many FileMaker developers, for some reason Claris has decided to remove it despite being the second most important feature to have on a server after backups. Does this mean everything is now automatic and requires no further adjustments? Perhaps. But some developers prefer to make finer adjustments. Apple may disagree mainly on the grounds that some inexperienced people may set the cache too high and potentially affect the OS in the background in getting the performance it needs to do essential things. The assumption Apple makes here is that all FileMaker developers are not smart enough to make reasonable decisions. Instead, Apple prefers everyone to accept its wisdom on the matter.
Despite this strange decision from the company, there is a way to adjust the cache size. But before we mention how to do this, it is a good idea to understand what is a reasonable cache level to set for FileMaker Server without causing problems to the OS.
The general rule of thumb when setting the cache size is to give enough RAM resources to both the OS and FileMaker Server to do their jobs. If the total RAM is 16GB, for example, you should subtract 1GB as the absolute minimum to give to the OS. Then what remains left should be divided by 2. That means you are giving the OS and FileMaker Server around 7.5GB of RAM to do their thing. This is a reasonable guide. But if you want to increase the cache for FileMaker Server to a slightly higher amount, you can do this through Terminal on a Mac, or use the Administrator Windows Powershell on PCs. Type the command:
fmsadmin set serverconfig cachesize=7500
The number 7500 means 7500MB, or 7.5GB. If you want more, say 9GB, change the number to 9000. This should not cause problems for the OS, but sometimes macOS can be a bit temperamental about not having enough RAM. Mind you, it should not matter as SSDs are essentially an extension of the RAM. If you use a high-speed SSD, the performance of the OS should still be very good. No reason for an OS to really complain about anything these days with modern-day technologies.
After pressing the Enter key, you will be asked for your Administrator password. Type this in for the new cache size to be applied. No need to restart FileMaker Server as the benefit from this setting should be immediate.
12. Should I enable backup in FileMaker Server?
Whether to enable backups or not, this is totally up to you. However, there are some important things you should remember.
Claris currently provides within FileMaker Server an option for you to backup your databases or not. You can decide whether or not to enable this feature. An unusual decision from the company to give users choice on this feature. However, whether you should backup your data will depend on how valuable the database and its data is to you and those users accessing it. The more valuable the data and the database file holding the data (and you don't have this file and data on another machine), the more we recommend that you backup the file and its data. For companies that are running mission-critical stuff on the databases, this is a no-brainer: always backup the files. No choice here.
In fact, you should get into a habit of always backing up the files no matter what you do, who you are, or how great and powerful your business is.
In terms of whether the file should be replaced with the last backup copy version at time FileMaker Server or the server machine has crashed or lost power, this is highly dependent on the verification system available to check the files and perform any necessary rebuilds.
If all we had was a copy of FileMaker Pro, we know that it can verify and rebuild a database file after a crash using the Recover command. It is a reasonably reliable technology. If verification has found no errors and the file was re-built, you can re-use the recovered file perfectly fine. Any data that was in the process of being entered in fields will be the only thing to be lost during the crash. However, if the app decides to rebuild the database file in the rare event the file could have been damaged, 99 per cent of the time this rebuild is performed will produce a perfectly stable file that you can use. A message will show if the rebuild was successful. So, it is not absolutely necessary to grab a backup copy. But to be absolutely safe, we highly recommend that you do get a cloned copy of your database that has been backed up elsewhere and use it to import all the records from the recovered file into the cloned file (or as many records as possible if the file has been found to be partially corrupted and is unrepairable by FileMaker Pro's rebuild process). Then use this cloned and fully imported file in FileMaker Pro or Server. Alternativel;y, use the Database Design Report to look for differences in the recovered database file with a cloned file. If there are no changes to the structure of your recovered database, and files and layout elements appear to be intact and identical to the cloned version, the recovered file should be fine other than the slightest possibility you may have lost some records.
However, FileMaker Server is not FileMaker Pro. Strangely, FileMaker Server does not have a proper verification and rebuild technology built-in (huh?). You would think Apple would have included it to give your databases the maximum chance of being recovered and getting back as much data as possible in the event of a crash (as well as give you a detailed log file to explain if there had been any errors). Apparently not. So when it crashes, you could face a rare event that the file may become corrupt and you may not know it. Even if you run the database, you may not know it is corrupted because it seems to be okay (i.e., opens up as usual). Should there be repeated crashes, the corruption can get magnified until eventually the file may stop working altogether. Then you are in serious strife. As a result of this slightest possibility of corruption, Apple has essentially designed FileMaker Server to force you to always get into a habit of backing up your files and using those files to replace files that could be corrupted. And that means you must tell FileMaker Server after a power failure or crash to always grab a copy of the last backup file made. To ensure the backup files are reasonably up-to-date, set the backup interval to every 24 hours or every hour (but don't reduce the interval too short or the Server performance will degrade dramatically). How short the interval should be will greatly depend on how valuable the data is to you and your organisation. If you can survive the loss of data over a certain interval period since the last backup was made, then always set the interval for backups to that time frame accordingly.
It you have more critical data that you cannot afford to lose during the backup interval time, shortening the interval may not help as this could impact on server performance. We recommend that you develop a scheduled script to run in FileMaker Server to not only grab a copy of the last backup file, but also move the current "potentially corrupted" file to another folder. Then, when a client or user asks whether the data can be recovered, you can check the original file. Use FileMaker Pro to verify and rebuild the file locally. If it claims to be okay, export the last modified records during the backup interval period and have them imported into the currently hosted and corruption-free file. Fortunately, this sort of situation should be extremely rare.
Good backups should be done regularly and sent to another location away from your office and organisation. And always use backups to work hand-in-hand with any recovery you may need to perform on a potentially corrupted database file. The default backups FileMaker Server performs will be to copy the databases to a folder on the same machine. For business critical stuff, you should modify this default backup option. Have it set up to back up the databases to a separate machine, preferably outside your organisation. Here, the Cloud can be useful. This is particularly true in the event that your office experiences a hurricane, flood, bushfires, or a disgruntled employee decides to deletes all files on the office server, or some other catastrophic event. Having backups put to a remote location (and should be encrypted and locked except for the IT administrator and/or business owner) is highly unlikely to be affected (unless a big enough asteroid destroys the Earth). Also, consider where the files are stored. Dropbox, for example, can backup your database files and millions of associated externally referenced documents link to the databases, but it will also perform additional checks on every file to ensure they are free of viruses. For millions of files, that could take up too much time between backups. In this circumstance, script the backups to compress and zip up the databases and documents. This will turn into a single file and Dropbox can handle this more efficiently.
Finally, governments, the CIA and other clandestine organisations, and employees of the data center that stores the backups can read your database files. This is the reason why Apple, governments and other people love the Cloud because many people who store things do not encrypt the information. If you want to be truly secure, consider having the backup files encrypted.
13. How do I restart FileMaker Server?
The best way to protect your database files from corruption is to use FileMaker Server to close all hosted databases. Don't use Windows Administrator to do the restarting and handling of FileMaker Server activities. The former will have its own rules of how to restart a server machine and FileMaker Server, and this can affect how long it actually takes to close databases. Mainly users have to be told to log off, and there could be a delay before everyone actually does so. Windows may not know exactly how long to wait, so it might do its own thing and force a shutdown of FileMaker Server before the databases are closed. It is better to work from FileMaker Server first to tell your users to log off and eventually close all databases. When all databases are closed, you can use the Windows Administrator to restart your server machine, or tell FileMaker Server to restart.