On September 27 2016 FileMaker, Inc. released the newest product to the FileMaker Platform, FileMaker Cloud. Now that the dust has settled, we wanted to evaluate what this means for FileMaker and what it could mean for your FileMaker solutions.
The first thing to do is look at how FileMaker Cloud fits in with the rest of the products FileMaker offers. Broadly speaking, FileMaker offers 3 products that allow you to access and use native FileMaker layouts and data: FileMaker Pro or Pro Advanced for desktop, FileMaker Go for iOS devices, and FileMaker WebDirect for web browser access. However to take full advantage of FileMaker’s products you need to have your files hosted on FileMaker’s other product, FileMaker Server.
Previously, there were only two ways of doing this. The first was to hire a third party hosting service and let them host your files for you. This means that you don’t have to worry about managing the physical hardware or software of the server. It also means that you are putting the integrity and accessibility of your database in someone else’s hands, something that might not be attractive to certain companies. As a result, many companies prefer to install and maintain their own physical server and their own FileMaker Server software. This keeps your database files in your hands. To do this you would have to purchase a physical server that meets the requirements for FileMaker Server, create a secure location for that server, setup and install a FileMaker recommended operating system, then install FileMaker server, and finally have staff available to maintain the server. Yikes! That’s a lot of overhead, especially if you don’t have the IT staff to handle it.
FileMaker Cloud offers a third way to host your database solutions by allowing users to create a virtual server using Amazon’s cloud infrastructure, Amazon Web Services (AWS). By creating a virtual server in AWS, you can forgo the cost of maintaining a physical server. In addition to that, FileMaker Cloud and AWS work together to handle all server updates and maintenance, so it’s more manageable. Furthermore, using the management interface of AWS puts you in control of the virtual equipment your virtual server has access to; in other words, you have more control over how your databases are stored and what resources they have access to. Something you might not get with a third party hosting company. And it’s all done on one of the most well known and trusted cloud infrastructures, Amazon Web Services. The bottom line: FileMaker Cloud offers a happy medium between the two previous options for hosting your FileMaker solutions.
In terms of technical performance, the whole installation process of a Cloud Server is extremely fast and easy. FileMaker even boasts on their webpage that you can create an instance of FileMaker Cloud and have your FileMaker files up and running within 20 minutes, which from what we’ve experienced is absolutely realistic. The rapid deployment coupled with a new way to purchase FileMaker licenses that allows you to add and remove licenses on the fly for your FileMaker Cloud instance now make FileMaker a legitimate option for cost conscious seasonal users, like tradeshows or conferences. This means that FileMaker can now be implemented in more ways by more businesses.
However, since FileMaker Cloud is still new on the scene, not all features in other FileMaker products work with it. Support for PHP and XML are not quite there, meaning that you can not use FileMaker Custom Web Publishing with FileMaker Cloud. Furthermore, external authentication via Active Directory is not supported with the Cloud; meaning users have to use local FileMaker accounts to access the files. The lack of support for these, as well as some other services, might mean that FileMaker Cloud is not right for you.. yet.
In summary, FileMaker Cloud offers people a new method of hosting their FileMaker files that is cost effective and still gives them security and control over their files. Included in this is a new pricing model that has the potential to open up FileMaker to new clients and new uses. While it may lack in some features, the overall youth of the FileMaker Cloud product indicates that this will not always be the case and that many of these features might be added in the future. We are very optimistic about this new product and the potential it can bring to the overall FileMaker platform. Welcome to the team FileMaker Cloud!