FileMaker Server 8
For those unfamiliar with it, FileMaker Server takes standard FileMaker clients to the level of true client/server database interaction. Server 8 can serve a choice of up to 125 databases or 250 individual clients at a time, with the choice of databases filtered by user privileges. For the security conscious, users can connect via SSL, and you can perform automated, unattended backups, even on live databases.
The upgrade process has been simplified, with tools provided for saving the settings, uninstalling, and restoring the settings of server 7.If you use plug-ins, the auto-update feature can download new plug-ins to client machines. You can configure and maintain servers remotely, keeping tabs with an audit log that identifies which admin did what, and which user downloaded which plug-in. You can even change server settings without restarting the machine. With this latest version, it looks as though FileMaker was aiming for a low-excitement, low-interest experience. (Note: for server admins, as for Chinese philosophers, this is no bad thing.)
There is great improvement here. The new features list is short but focused on what database admins want. It’s faster in operation, (our own search and record manipulation tests show a 30-55 per cent improvement), ODBC and JDBC connection support has been improved, previously unopened files are given a consistency check before opening, and event log entries are now tab delimited and include both event IDs and severity indicators (Error, Warning, or Information). Server 8 Advanced adds a custom home page for Instant Web Published (IWP) databases, and includes a forms-based login for ensuring the right users see the right databases.
Most impressively, FileMaker seems to be tacitly admitting that while it says it’s a full point upgrade on the box, version 8’s feature set doesn’t necessarily warrant a full-price upgrade cost. So although a new installation will cost you roughly what it did for version 7, the upgrade cost is much less than from Server 6 to 7.
Why upgrade to Server 8 then? If you’re using the client version of 8, you need to be running the server version of 8 in order to benefit from those 8-only client features: custom menus, pop-up calendar controls, auto-completing fields, script variables, tabbed layouts, and improved search functions. This is true for both the standard, and Advanced version. Server 8 Advanced will happily render tabbed layouts for any databases that you make available via IWP, and any scripts that use new Pro 8 features will need to run on an Advanced server.
If you’re sharing FileMaker databases without Server, then for sanity’s sake get a copy. For Server users, thanks to some realism in the pricing structure, this really is an upgrade to grab. For intranet sites, Server 8 Advanced is great, but if you want to server your databases on the web, and don’t want to host them yourself, find an alternative.