This week we feature Mike Duncan’s – Soliant Consulting – Amazon Web Services (AWS) are a collection of cost effective, scalable and reliable services that are used by some of the biggest names in tech to deliver enterprise applications. One of those services, called Elastic Cloud Compute (or EC2) allows one to create virtual servers that can be well suited for hosting a FileMaker Server for as little as free! You can’t beat that!
You can have a FileMaker Server available in just minutes by following along with our step by step guide. We will cover the use cases, associated costs, and where to go next after the guide. For now, let us start with the steps.
AWS can be intimidating for new users. You can get bogged down learning the alphabet soup of acronyms for all the various services and understanding what they are and how to use them. For now, you can forget all that and dive right in!
Quick Start Guide
Information up to date as of January 2016.
- Log into your AWS account and go to EC2 from the Services menu. If you don’t have an account, you can create one first.
- Create a new EC2 instance by clicking the Launch Instance button.
- From the list of Amazon Machine Images (AMI) select Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Base.
- For this guide, we will select the t2.medium (2 core, 4 GB memory) type. The minimum requirements for FileMaker Server recommend 2 core for processors and at least 4GB of memory. Click Review and Launch.
- Adjust security group settings. Add RDP as well as HTTP and HTTPS if you intend on using WebDirect. Add a Custom Rule for Port 5003 to allow FileMaker Pro/Go traffic.
- Create key pair, name it and download the key pair. Store this in a safe place. We’ll need this in just a little bit, and hopefully won’t need to access it again.
- Click Launch Instance.
- Click Connect at the top of the list. Using the pem file you created, you can get the default password for your running instance. This is where you get the connection information needed to access your server. Make note of the settings so you can configure Remote Desktop.
- Connect with Remote Desktop. If using OS X, download Microsoft Remote Desktop from the App Store if you have not already. Once you open it, click the “New” button and enter the information noted from the previous step.
- Install FileMaker Server and configure your server. Remember to allow inbound FM traffic as needed (port 5003) in the Windows Firewall settings.
Now from your desktop, launch FileMaker Pro and connect to your new FileMaker Server. From here you should be in familiar territory, and be able to host files on your new server and connect to them like you normally would.
Add Elastic IP and associate it with the FileMaker Server instance. You can also add a DNS record, if you have a domain name service, to associate a domain name to the IP. This makes it easy to access your new server instead of getting a new IP Address every time you start your instance.
For example, if you have a domain name with GoDaddy, just add an “A” record to your DNS and give it a name like “filemaker” and enter the elastic IP you were given. Now you can get to your server by going to something like “filemaker.your-domain-name.com” instead of typing the IP address.
The Use Case for Cloud Hosted Server
There are several points to consider when making the decision of buying and configuring your own server to host your software vs. virtualization in the cloud. Cost saving can be substantial, and there many costs to consider that might not be apparent at first. These include but are not limited to:
- Cost of hardware
- Cost of server operating system and applications
- Cost to administer
- Cost of internet bandwidth
We will look at some associated costs in a little bit. Every project is different and there is no “One size fits all” when it comes to provisioning servers. There are good reasons for hosting a server yourself, just as there are compelling reasons to look at setting up a server in the cloud.
There are also several reputable hosting companies that offer FileMaker hosting. Depending on your needs they can be a good option. To get the most out of the FileMaker platform, a dedicated FileMaker Server is a tremendous asset. Selling points for FileMaker Server include running your own backups, use “Perform Script On Server”, scheduled scripts, plugins, server side user accounts, etc…
For this guide, we selected an instance based on the minimum requirements, the t2.medium instance running Windows. This particular instance is billed out at $0.072 per Hour. That amounts to around $50 a month if run continually… and these can be much lower if you opt to pay some up front. For example, if you pay all up front for a year for this instance (Windows, t2.medium), you make a one time payment of $455 for a constantly running server for 12 months. That works out to $.0519 per hour. See http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/pricing/ for more details.
That is about a 7 cents per hour to have a dedicated server on demand! If you only need it 8 hours a day, you only pay about 58 cents a day to run your server.
If not running server 24/7, stop the instance to save on costs. The option to set up an Elastic IP costs $0.005 an hour, and is only billed if your instance is stopped. That is about $3.60 a month. http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/pricing/#Elastic_IP_Addresses
For those costs, it is even a good option for developers to have available, and an incredible option for storing different configurations to have available in different versions. You only pay for what you use, so if you have a instance that is stopped, there is no cost for it.
FileMaker Server for FREE
We mentioned that costs can be as little as nothing, or free. If you have a paid subscription to FileMaker Community, you have access to a Development License for FileMaker Server. AWS also offers a free tier (http://aws.amazon.com/free/) that includes certain configurations of EC2 instances, including on running Windows Server. The free tier configuration may not be recommended for deploying a production server, but you can certainly install your Development License FileMaker Server on it for testing and some development.
There you have a FileMaker Server, hosted in the cloud and accessible on the internet for free!
Other Considerations and Next Steps
In this guide, we show how to quickly provision and deploy FileMaker Server with a standard image. Once configured you could also save this image of a pre-configured server to reuse again and again to make deployment even faster.
There are also a lot of other considerations if you are looking to host a production server. Here are just a few:
- Provision the correct configuration appropriate to the project.
- Where to host our server. There are many zones available all around the globe.
- Choosing and configuring hard drives for optimal performance. (For example: One for OS, one for application, and one for backups.)
- Backup strategies
- Security settings
- SSL Certificates
- Monitoring performance, FileMaker Server as well as CPU, hard drive, and network.
- Utilizing Directory Services
- Virtual Private Cloud and VPN configuration
Finally, there is a lot of room for creativity with these tools. For example, it is possible to set up a load balanced endpoint that directs incoming FileMaker connections to separate EC2 instances all running FileMaker Server, which can be configured to connect to a single backend, cloud hosted database like Oracle, MS SQL server or MySQL.
Hopefully this quick start guide will get you on your way to exploring the options available with cloud hosted services and see for yourself if they are a good fit for your next project.
Soliant’s New FileMaker Hosting Service
In April 2017, our team launched a new FileMaker hosting service, Soliant.cloud. We found that our clients sought assistance during the setup process and through maintenance. Our team also realized we had a unique opportunity to make FileMaker hosting cost-effective.
Soliant.cloud provides a robust FileMaker hosting environment with dedicated support from certified consultants and developers. The service starts with a streamlined server setup, migration, and configuration process, handling all details from SSL installation to licensing best practices. Our clients then benefit from monthly server monitoring, maintenance, automatic backups, and security improvements, going far beyond other hosting companies to deliver an optimal FileMaker experience.
Learn more about Soliant.cloud here.