FileMaker comes in a bewildering number of flavours – ranging from the basic FileMaker Pro to the high-end FileMaker Server.
FileMaker Pro 5.5 comes with an application called Web Companion, which allows you to dynamically publish databases on the Net, or over an intranet, and which can be accessed and update online. It acts as both the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) and the Web-server application.
FileMaker Unlimited adds a tool called the Web Server Connector, a step-up in complexity and capability from Web Companion. For users of only Mac OS X Server 10.0.3, it takes advantage of the Apache Web server, acting as a middleware solution. It puts FileMaker into competition with proprietary solutions such as ColdFusion and ASP, and open-source solutions like PHP and Perl.
The Web Server Connector is a Java “servlet” – a stand-alone Java application that lives on a server. It can relay the CGI requests from the Web server to the database, either using XML or FileMaker’s own CDML language. It’s a more elegant solution, and can help to ease the load on FileMaker by separating the dynamic-database component and the static parts that make up a Web site. It also means you can take advantage of Apache’s features, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). You can also build scalable solutions, and introduce load balancing, by joining together a number of machines running Unlimited.
If you want to use FileMaker as your database platform, and publish them on the Web – if you’re running OS X Server and Apache – then FileMaker Unlimited is just the ticket. But that’s a lot of ifs.