Scaling FileMaker – Part 1

FileMaker is a powerful rapid application development platform capable of quick starts and expedited value delivery. It can also quickly grow and adapt to the business it supports. That is both a blessing and a curse, as expansion can strain the initial platform architecture.

Our FileMaker consulting team at Soliant has navigated this predicament many times with clients. An initial implementation that has worked for many years. Until it doesn’t. The platform has been stretched to the max under its original architecture with organic additions in both load and functionality, and our client isn’t sure it can grow.

In this blog series, we’re sharing how a business gets to this point and how we’ve helped them adapt to each situation. We’ll look at real-world challenges and ways to prepare your FileMaker application to scale under similar circumstances.

Topics we’ll cover include:

Expanding FileMaker Capabilities with WebDirect

When companies expand geographically or adapt to new remote-work realities and run into network latency issues, one of the first solutions they turn to is WebDirect. A shift to WebDirect improves performance and the user experience, minimizes network latency, and significantly enriches performance overall. Implementing WebDirect securely with well-architected worker machine scaling capabilities can make a real improvement in the end-user experience.

Implementing SSO and Load Balancing

We all know that FileMaker can quickly evolve to support mission-critical, data-intensive activities of users across a large security-minded organization. But can it also comply with their most stringent IT security standards?

We’ll share our experience helping this IT organization architect the set-up of a WPE cluster within a DMZ, in which all traffic passes through a load balancer, and all authentication is managed through Azure Active Directory OAuth SSO. Though your IT requirements might be less stringent, or you may use a different identity provider, let this experience spark ideas for future hardening of your network architecture.

FileMaker Migration to the Cloud

Cloud hosting technology increases possibilities for delivering secure, reliable, and scalable FileMaker applications. Lifting your solution from an on-premise server to the cloud can simplify FileMaker Server management and maintenance while adding options for remote access and load balancing. Additionally,  cloud hosting enables extensibility with access to hundreds of cloud services through integrations that are ready to be leveraged.

FileMaker Server Bottlenecks

Another way to increase performance for a FileMaker application is to identify and eliminate server and deployment bottlenecks. Sometimes, finding and resolving the problem is easy, but sometimes, you end up on a hunt for a needle in a haystack. We’ve found issues rooted in obscure scripts embedded within a FileMaker application’s foundational architecture that create these bottlenecks. In some cases, just a script replacement is required, while other systems require an entire rewrite.

Our team has developed a unique analysis process and toolset to help our clients uncover their FileMaker Server bottlenecks and resolve them quickly. We’ll walk through a few tips and tricks as well as a real-world example of a few client challenges.

Navigating Around Early Poor Architectural Decisions

Think back to when you first built your FileMaker application and the decisions you made – were all of them made with long-term implications in mind, or were you just trying to solve the problem in front of you? Most likely, the latter. And even if you attempted to think long-term, there have surely been twists and turns along the way – both in your business and on the platform – that you couldn’t have anticipated.

Now consider that many FileMaker applications start as homegrown solutions to a specific problem and are built by budding developers. This is especially common for small businesses. As these organizations grow, they can run into issues due to uninformed development decisions. Undoing these decisions can be expensive.

These architectural decisions made early on in your FileMaker application can lead to serious headaches down the road. They can impact your system’s performance and scalability, holding your business back. Tracing back the steps you made early on is nearly impossible, especially if you don’t keep good documentation. We’ve been on this treasure hunt many times before and can share our insights on how to get to the source of your performance issues through human engineering.

IT Requirements v. Non-functional Requirements

As I mentioned earlier, many non-developers build the first iteration of a FileMaker application. It’s when a business gets larger and the system becomes more critical that IT steps in. That means the application is built with business requirements foremost in mind rather than non-functional or IT requirements.

In a successful solution, both functional and non-functional requirements are considered. When non-functional requirements are neglected, problems arise.

If you don’t have an IT department or engineer on staff, you need someone to help you understand standard IT requirements so that you can scale your technology as you grow. That’s where a good partner steps in.

We’ll share our top insights on navigating these challenges and making the best long-term decisions for your application.

Extending FileMaker’s Performance with Distributed Architecture

 We’ve worked with many organizations to push FileMaker to new levels. Given the platform’s integration capabilities, we often leverage FileMaker to do what it does best and leverage distributed architecture to extend its performance further.

We help clients find FileMaker’s sweet spot so that it can serve as the core solution, the main system hub, the unique business logic that makes your business like no others. Then, we distribute all other more common tasks and processes to systems applications that handle them better, by looking for “solved problems”. After all, FileMaker doesn’t need to do everything, but it can certainly orchestrate and direct everything.

We’ll share real-world examples of how distributed architecture can help a mission-critical FileMaker application scale with our clients’ businesses.

Architectural Assessments and FMBlaze

At Claris Engage 2024 earlier this year, one of our talented FileMaker consultants, Karl Jreijiri, introduced a tool he’s been working on to test user loads on FileMaker applications – FMBlaze. We’re sharing more about the tool and the architectural assessment capabilities we can provide to help you get ahead of your current performance state and launch rapid business growth.

Stay Tuned

We look forward to sharing our best tips and insights in this blog series on properly scaling your FileMaker application for long-term success and growth. Stay tuned for the next blog post in the series! If you have questions or would like to explore partnering with our team to scale your FileMaker application, contact our team today to schedule a call with one of our consultants.

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