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
  • Sharing
  • Custom web publishing
  • ODBC/JDBC Connectivity

Installation

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.

Administration

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.

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. 

Figure B

 

 

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.

Figure C

 

 

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.

Web publishing

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.

Figure D

 

 

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. 

Conclusion

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.