A READER ASKS: FileMaker Server And The Virtual Machine

From Dwayne Wright - Certified FileMaker 9 Developer
WEB: www.dwaynewright.com
EMAIL: info@dwaynewright.com
TWITTER: dwaynewright

I have a customer that is going to be migrating over from a very complex set of Excel spreadsheet workbooks to FileMaker. They sent me the following questions about FileMaker Server.

1. I read in a book that FileMaker Server needs to run in its own machine, which mean no other services can run on it to prevent data corruption. Is this true?

2. Can I run FileMaker Server on a virtual machine if the VM meets all the hardware requirements?

3. If I go with the VM route and then later down the road I purchase an actual machine, what is the DB migrating process from the VM to the actual new machine?

Oh, I see you have also posted this question on some FileMaker boards. Like many FileMaker Server “should I” questions, you got a mixed bag of feedback. I cannot say I agree or disagree with any of the various opinions.

Well first off, I need to get this out of the way. All the layers of FileMaker advice about FileMaker server are important and should be taken into account in your implementation. On the other hand, FileMaker Server isn’t nearly as fragile as you might gather from this information.

When I worked at Apple, I had a support call about a database that resided on a FileMaker 3 server I had set up years previously. It had been so long and so trouble free, I had forgotten which server room it resided in! It took me a couple hours to track the actual physical machine down because all my maintenance was done remotely with a product called Timbuktu.

Obviously, that was then and this is now and the FileMaker Server products are not remotely the same. However, FileMaker 9 Server is a strong product and particularly when it isn’t pushed that hard. A workgroup of 10 users is likely NOT going to task FileMaker server very strongly.

Is it possible that FileMaker Server can operation side by side with other applications without a problem? Yes!

Is it possible that just one other application running on a FileMaker Server could damage your files and wreak havoc with your service? Yes!

Is it possible that FileMaker Server works fine with another application, that application gets a minor upgrade and then problems start? Yes!

I agree with the book that FileMaker Server should run in its own machine, which mean no other services should run on it to prevent data corruption.

Yes, I believe it can. I haven’t done a production level virtual machine server myself but have tested it for another developer. He is an expert in both server setup and virtual machines and I couldn’t tell the difference myself. He did want me to stress test it because he had some serious reservations of his own. His final verdict was that virtual machines can run FileMaker 9 Server and is doing so for some of his situations.

The real question is should you run FileMaker Server in the virtual machine? I wouldn’t recommend it because I’m not an expert or have a lot of production level experience in Virtual Machines. I tend to err on the side of caution in all my database design and implementation situations.

I wouldn’t ever migrate the FileMaker Server application from one machine to another but obviously you can migrate the database files without a problem. You can do a fresh install of FileMaker server, recreate you backup schedules and finally move your databases over. I would then recommend running all your backup schedules, test the back up files to be sure they are not corrupted and test your connection to the databases from a client machine.

You can experiment with a demo copy of FileMaker 9 Server. Navigate to the product page from the FileMaker site (http://www.filemaker.com/products/fms/index.html?nav=products-server) and download the 30 day trial. The download contains a full copy of the FileMaker Server manual in pdf and is great for answering all sorts of your implementation questions.
More info about the author and FileMaker in general, contact me at info@dwaynewright.com.

© 2008 - Dwayne Wright - dwaynewright.com

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