In a previous post, I discussed how to use FileMaker Go 13 to access databases on your iPad. Since then, I’ve wanted to dive deeper down into FileMaker Server 13, the server component of the FileMaker 13 family. It enables you to put interactive FileMaker databases on the web and make them accessible to iOS devices running FileMaker Go.
FileMaker Server 13 doesn’t require specialized hardware but still has lots of flexibility. It's available for both Mac and Windows, even thought this particular post just takes a look at the Mac version. Visit the FileMake web site for information about pricing.
Connections and features
FileMaker Server 13 is quite a fully featured server for its price. If you're unfamiliar with server software, I do recommend that you familiarize yourself with how FileMaker Server 13 treats concurrent connections. Users with a paid FileMaker Pro license (Mac/Windows) can connect to a FileMaker Server instance at no additional costs. It’s when you start adding users with web browsers or who want to connect using FileMaker Go that paid connections come into play. The FileMaker Server 13 Purchasing Guide gives an overview of purchasing concurrent connections for your team.
FileMaker Server 13 includes the following features:
- FileMaker WebDirect
- All-new Admin Console
- Database encryption
- Encryption state indicator
- Improved SSL certificate management
- Upload to Server
- Container field improvements
- TCP/IP port consolidation
- Perform Script on Server
- Custom web publishing
- ODBC/JDBC Connectivity
I installed FileMaker Server 13 in a test environment running OS X Mavericks. The installation process hits a novel middle ground for software installations. It’s well-documented and wizard-driven, so you don’t need to be a system administrator ninja to perform it. I could see a power user accomplishing this installation, but not without escaping the upfront analysis and planning that comes with installing server software.
Outside of the installation, my biggest potential qualm about FileMaker Server 13 has to be administrative tasks. Much in the same way, I like the benefits of FileMaker Pro 13 being non-programmatic; I want FileMaker Server 13 to not require a full-time administrator.
When you login to FileMaker Server 13, the Status screen appears similar to Figure A.
Status screen in FileMaker Server 13.
Administrators can also dive into server activity via the Activity screen (Figure B), where they can monitor database access by computer or device. FileMaker makes the right moves on this screen by giving the basic activity details, including IP address, open database, and connect time.
Activity screen in FileMaker Server 13.
Configuration and maintenance
FileMaker Server 13 includes controls to let you manage backup schedules; general settings governing connections, access, and authentication; and database settings. Figure C shows an example of the Schedule screen.
Schedule screen in FileMaker Server 13.
While the configuration and maintenance tools are well laid out and documented, I recommend putting in the time upfront to learn these important settings to ensure that your FileMaker databases are accessible and secure for your mobile and web users.
While the FileMaker Server 13 features hit the sweet spot between simplifying tool complexity without compromising the robustness of the server, the Web publishing features will still require the most work and effort on part of those tasked to administer FileMaker Server 13 for their team.
I recommend FileMaker for mobile apps, and FileMaker Server 13 adds FileMaker WebDirect, which lets you develop and run FileMaker solutions directly on the web without having to write a line of code. Users can access web-enabled FileMaker solutions using just a web browser. FileMaker WebDirect provides desktop-style interactivity, live updates, and automated processes. Figure D shows the Web publishing screen in FileMaker Server 13.
Web publishing screen in FileMaker Server 13.
Even though FileMaker Server 13 makes it easy to get your FileMaker databases on the web and available via a web browser, this is a feature where I recommend taking the time to read the documentation and do some test runs.
Unlike publishing to an iOS device, where FileMaker Go picked up a database almost instantly, you need to configure and test the web tools. As a non-programmer, I found the mobile publishing tools in FileMaker Server 13 to be top notch. These impressions extend to the web publishing options, but I must admit that it brings with it a number of security considerations, especially for teams that want to put a FileMaker solution on the Internet.
FileMaker Server 13 is a server platform that a power user could navigate with minimum IT support, outside of hardware provisioning and network connectivity, which makes it attractive to SMBs and even larger IT-strapped organizations. While FileMaker Server 13 isn’t quite an out-of-the-box setup, it's as close as you're to get to for a server that packs as many features.
I highly recommend FileMaker Server 13 to extend FileMaker solutions to mobile and web users. This isn’t the same FileMaker from back in the day. Now, with FileMaker Server 13, FileMaker can become the non-programmatic tool of choice for teams and SMBs that want to mobilize their workforce or get internal business applications on the web without stressing about budget or taxing developer resources.
Are you using FileMaker Server 13 in your organization? Describe your experience in the discussion thread below.