By Craig Saunders, 11 July 2017
If you’re dialed in to FileMaker Inc for the Asia Pacific region you’ve probably heard that “FileMaker Cloud” is now available — Wahoo! Here's one now:
But what is it exactly? What does it mean for you if you’re a business owner?
Quite simply FM Cloud is a service where your databases are hosted in a data centre (a big warehouse full of computers) for you, and you're billed monthly based on how many connections you want and how much you use the service.
“Cloud” does not mean it’s on the web. There’s a bit of confusion in the world — actually there’s a lot of confusion in the world…. but lets stick to FileMaker:
The term “Cloud” in this case simply refers to the data and application being hosted in a cluster of computers that are managed for you.
In this case the “cloud” is Amazon Web Services (AWS), one of the leading providers of such cloud infrastructure globally, which means they’re extremely good at providing a robust yet flexible service. We’ve been hosting FileMaker solutions on AWS for several years now so we know a lot about how it works and just how easy and reliable it is.
FM Cloud is a bundled service that includes both the computer power you need for hosting, plus the FM Server software, backup and administration tools. You still connect to it using FileMaker Pro on your desktop/laptop computer, or through WebDirect (if your app has been designed for it), or FileMaker Go.
Hosting solutions in the cloud has some major advantages over hosting on your own server on your premises. It really simplifies deployment and management and lets us all concentrate on the business end of the solution:
(* While that's what we've been told, we're picking someone must know where the servers are...)
The only real drawback is that you might see a performance reduction if you currently run a server in-house simply because data has to travel a lot further when the server is not in your office. Performance will depend a bit on how far you are from the data centre and what type of internet connection you have. FM Cloud for our region is hosted in Sydney which pretty much means you’ll get good to great performance from anywhere in Australia or New Zealand that has broadband.
Essentially FileMaker Cloud is fairly similar to the service we’ve been providing our customers who host with AWS, but there are a few technical differences and these affect whether or not FM Cloud is going to be right for you.
FM Cloud uses FileMaker Server 15
We don’t see that as a big disadvantage but there are performance gains to be had with 16, and of course new features like PDF printing and the new data API. This also explains why the icon is pink/purple vs the blue/purple FileMaker now sports.
We have no doubt that FM Cloud will be updated to use FileMaker Server v16 at some point in the near future. Even with the server being 15 you can still use FileMaker Go or FileMaker Pro 16 to connect to it to get most of the advantages of the latest FileMaker version.
FM Cloud does not support Custom Web Publishing (PHP and XML)
If your database has a web site attached using PHP then it won’t be able to be hosted with FM Cloud.
Server-side Plugins May Not Be Compatible
FM Cloud runs on a Linux operating system so you need to have special versions of any plugins on the server in order to be able to use them. Many of the solutions we’ve built use our Xero plugin, BaseElements and Sendmail: we don’t have versions of these plugins suitable for FM Cloud at this time.
No Scheduled Scripts
Scripts that automatically run at predetermined times on the server can't be setup or used in FM Cloud — in most cases re-thinking how those operations are carried out should be doable.
For a more thorough and direct comparison FileMaker have produced a very useful table that shows how FileMaker Server compares with FileMaker Cloud — bear in mind they compare FM Cloud to FM Server on premise, but there is also a third and very popular choice which gives the best of both worlds, i.e. a custom configured cloud server with FileMaker Server installed.
Despite some limitations FM Cloud is a superb product and we’d be more than happy to talk to you about whether or not it might make sense to move your solution onto this platform.
And if the turn-key FM Cloud service doesn’t work for you we can essentially provide you with a very similar service, using AWS to configure a FileMaker 16 Cloud-based server running on Windows.