Networking a FileMaker database is very easy to do, but if done improperly can lead to a damaged file, data loss, or even losing the entire application. I will go over the different options you can use.
There are three options for networking a FileMaker Pro database:
- FileMaker Server
- P2P Networking
- File Sharing (Not Recommended)
FileMaker Server Networking
In a production environment, this is the only way to network FileMaker Pro databases. FileMaker Server Networking carries four advantages over the other networking options:
- Automated Backups
- Preventing Data Loss / Corruption
- Reliable Sharing
- Scalable up to 999 users
The biggest advantage of using a FileMaker server is automated backups, helping keep your data safe from corruption or loss. Proper backup schedules can very easily be set up in the FileMaker Server console. In FileMaker Server 10, backups are even easier because they allow multiple copies to be stored in a single folder. We recommend going one step further and backing up your backups online with a service like Mozy or iBackups.
FileMaker Server is very reliable and should be installed on a dedicated machine that has an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) installed and is not used by an end user. This way, you can be assured that your databases will always be available, won’t experience crashes or outages, and not be exposed to possible data loss and database corruption.
FileMaker Server is scalable up to 250 or 999 users with FileMaker Server Advanced.
For information about allowing remote connections to your FileMaker Server read the DB Services’ article Setting Up FileMaker Remote Connections with DynDNS
P2P (Peer to Peer) Networking
While P2P Networking has evolved greatly, it is not meant to be used in a production environment.
In FileMaker Pro 9 or greater, you can network via peer to peer (P2P) for up to 9 simultaneous users. The advantage to P2P is that you can share a database on your local network very fast. All that’s required is each user must have FileMaker Pro installed and boom! You are sharing your application and records.
However, the disadvantages to P2P are there are no automated backups, file corruption can occur during computer crashes or power loss, and any time you want to connect to the database, the host must have both FileMaker Pro open and the database you wish to connect to open as well.
File Sharing (Windows or Network Attached Storage)
Don’t do it. Why? Because only one person at a time can access the database. This is not the way FileMaker networking was designed to be used.
FileMaker networking uses port 5003 and does not rely on the traditional way of File Sharing. Contrary to the traditional way of file sharing, you should never share the folder where your FileMaker databases reside and never connect to the database on a shared folder. You will be limiting yourself and the power of FileMaker database sharing to only one user at a time. This is not a good solution at all.