This month, Angelo Luchi presented on the various ways you can host your FileMaker data. The meeting was sponsored by MSN Media, who provided the pizza and drinks.
He covered many of the usual suspects, including:
• Local hosted server
• Remote hosted server (like his Drooling Dog hosting, Portland’s own ODI Technology)
• Peer to peer (sheer evil – supports up to 10 users, but never ever a good idea IMHO)
• Web hosting, including PHP, Lasso, IWP, and others
• Mobile device, such as iPhone, iPad, Crackberry
• Citrix / Terminal Services
There are may things to think about in all this. Latency is an important factor, not just the raw bandwidth.
Backups are critically important. If you’re not doing an offsite backup, you should. Use Amazon S3 for your data ($.10 per GB per month, which is crazy cheap) 360Works SafetyNet, SugarSync, DropBox, or other solutions like this that move data to the cloud.
Hosted databases should be optimized for speed. Don’t store large files in container fields. Use solutions like SeedCode calendar or fmSearchResults that have very simple TOs, and rely of local processing of data in variables or global fields, and simple portals. The perfect example of what works poorly in a hosted environment is a portal that shows 20,000 rows of data. I think this is bad design no matter how you slice it, again IMHO.
Terminal Services is the Microsoft solution.
Not as well optimized as Citrix in any method, but less expensive. Printing support is poor – really only for populate HP laser printers. Very bad for multi-function inkjet type devices. Mac support is very poor. Graphics look bad – no support for transparencies or gradations. You’ll want to reduce them. Pretty good control of the environment. Terminal services drops connections frequently, so it’s a really good idea to test.
GoGlobal (http://www.graphon.com/) is a similar service. It started life in the Unix world, and now runs on a machine as small as Windows XP running on a Mac mini, supporting 10 sessions. It’s less expensive than TS or Citrix for small sites.
Citrix is great. The engine has been updated much more than Microsoft, so it’s quite a bit more optimized. The licensing, while expensive, is based on concurrent users, and not total users like FileMaker is licensed. To deploy it, you need to know it pretty well. Amazon EC2 has a single user CitrixXenApp tool that you can play with, which is amazing. Angelo said he’d post a link to that. Maybe This?
Citrix supports a wide array of devices and platforms. It supports all major browsers, and now runs basically as a browser plug-in. There are clients for Linux, old and new versions of Mac and Windows, iPhone, Palm. There is even a citrix client for TRS-80. (kidding) Plug-ins run really well, and update beautifully. You can publish an entire Windows desktop or just an app.
The new product that Angelo showed is the ability to run a full Citrix connection that includes a FileMaker client starting at $65 a month per user. This is not licensed for concurrent use, but for each user. It might be perfect for a few users who are on the road to access a complex application, where other users connect to the server directly. This might also be perfect for a developer who travels the country in an RV and wants to do work on client systems, even though the local WiFi is really bad. I wonder who we know like that. Hmm.