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What is FileMaker Server?

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Dominik Keller
Sep 20th, 2023
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FileMaker Server: On-Premise Hosting of Your FileMaker Application

You have just completed a custom app using FileMaker Pro and it’s time to get the application delivered to your users. What are your options? Claris, the company behind FileMaker, offers different choices to host applications.

In this blog post, we will take a closer look at FileMaker Server.

We will explain what FileMaker Server is, how it is different from FileMaker Cloud, and how much it costs. We will also explore other options that developers have to deliver custom applications to end users, introducing Five, a low-code development environment with a simple one-click deployment feature.



What is FileMaker Server?

FileMaker Server is a hosting service provided by Claris, the company behind the FileMaker software, that enables developers to host their applications on-premise.

Once an application has been developed in FileMaker Pro, it can be placed onto a FileMaker Server to make it accessible for end-users. End-users do not need to run FileMaker on their local machines to access the application. Using WebDirect, FileMaker Server can be used to turn FileMaker applications into web applications.

Developers choose FileMaker Server to

  1. Host their FileMaker applications in an on-premise environment, and
  2. Have the flexibility to configure their hosting infrastructure, such as backup frequency, firewall, etc.

“Claris FileMaker Server is fast, reliable server software used to securely host your FileMaker custom apps on premise […]”

Claris White Paper

Because FileMaker Server enables on-premise deployment, it requires developers to purchase, configure, and maintain their own infrastructure, such as buying hardware, updating the operating system, setting up security, or determining the backup frequency. It runs on all operating systems: Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu (Linux).

FileMaker Server can also be used with popular public cloud platforms, such as Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, or Amazon Web Services (AWS). Note that choosing any of these cloud hosting providers creates additional costs and is not included in FileMaker Server.

Pricing of FileMaker Server starts at US$16.50 per user/month (capped at 99 users). When signing up for FileMaker Server, developers get up to 3 on-premise servers to host custom applications.

FileMaker Server, of course, also offers a database that can be accessed by other applications via FileMaker’s standard connectors: ODBC, REST-JSON (FileMaker Data API), or XML. It can also be used to set up authentication using LDAP or OAUTH.

Next up, let’s take a closer look at FileMaker Cloud, a seemingly similar service to FileMaker Server but with important differences.

What Are the Differences between FileMaker Server and FileMaker Cloud?

FileMaker Server and FileMaker Cloud are both hosting options for FileMaker apps.

As a FileMaker developer, you have the choice between FileMaker Server and FileMaker Cloud to host your application. But choose wisely – there are important differences between the two.

Unlike FileMaker Server, which is an on-premise hosting option, FileMaker Cloud is a fully managed cloud deployment option for your FileMaker applications. FileMaker uses AWS as its hosting platform.

Here’s a comprehensive overview of the differences between FileMaker Server and FileMaker Cloud (taken from the Claris website):

FeaturesFileMaker ServerFileMaker Cloud
Cloud ProviderPick your ownClaris (leveraging AWS)
OS manipulationSupportedNot Supported
OS updates and upgradesManualAutomatic
Software deploymentManualAutomatic
Software updates and upgradesManualAutomatic
Security monitoringManualAutomatic
HostingOn-PremiseRemote
Custom domainsSupportedNot Supported
External SQL source (ESS)SupportedSupported
ODBCSupportedNot Supported
JDBCSupportedNot Supported
Plug-insSupportedNot Supported
Custom Web PublishingSupportedNot Supported
Script automationSupportedLimited
SSLManualAutomatic
Claris IDLimitedIncluded
CostStarting from US$16.50 per user/monthStarting from US$21 per user/month

The table makes the difference between FileMaker Server and FileMaker Cloud clear.

FileMaker Cloud is a fully managed cloud hosting service for custom apps. FileMaker Cloud takes the heavy lifting out of application deployment by providing useful default settings for security, deployment, and operating system updates. In short: FileMaker Cloud is the convenient way to host custom FileMaker apps.

FileMaker Cloud relieves developers of the tedious task of setting up, configuring, and managing infrastructure.

Convenience comes at a cost, however: FileMaker Cloud starts at US$21 per user/month for 5 – 10 users only. For more than 5 users, the monthly price increases to US$43 per user/month, more than double the cost of FileMaker Server. Moreover, FileMaker Cloud does not offer custom domains.

FileMaker Server, on the other hand, replaces convenience with flexibility: it gives developers control over their hardware, operating system, and server software, making it a much more customizable choice than FileMaker Cloud.

Which One Should You Choose: FileMaker Server or FileMaker Cloud?

The choice between FileMaker Server and FileMaker Cloud really comes down to two questions:

  1. Are you comfortable with Claris (and AWS) taking care of your infrastructure, and pay a little bit extra for not having to take care of installing and maintaining your servers? Then choose FileMaker Cloud.
  2. If the answer to the question above is “no”, and you wish to select your own cloud hosting provider, or set up your own servers, then choose FileMaker Server.

Five: A More Affordable Way to Build and Deploy Applications

Five is a low-code development environment that shares many of FileMaker’s strengths, such as easy and data modeling, powerful scripting, and rapid application development. Five’s pricing starts at US$29.99 per application/month. Applications can have unlimited end-users.

On top of that, Five is available as a free download, so that developers don’t have to spend a single cent on building and testing their applications locally.


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FileMaker’s pricing can make it difficult to justify building applications, for several reasons.

First, at US$16.50 (plus cloud hosting cost) to US$45 per user/month, applications need to create enough value to be worth building in the first place. Not every small business app fulfills this criterion.

Second, user-based pricing can set the wrong incentives when building applications. For example, if you are developing an inventory management system, should warehouse workers get access? They probably should. But if there’s a team of 10 warehouse workers, and each one of them costs US$45 per user/month, then application owners might decide against giving them direct access.

Last, the developers building the application also still need to make a living. The more expensive the hosting, the less money there is for the people building applications.

Five tries to overcome the difficulties associated with user-based pricing by offering a simple and transparent fixed monthly fee per application. Visit our pricing page to learn more about our different plans.

Five also simplifies deployment. Forget about AWS CloudFormation templates, EBS volumes, and security groups. Five manages all of this through its one-click deployment feature, where developers can easily move their application (developed at no cost, using Five’s free download) onto a cloud-hosted production environment.

Just like FileMaker, Five also leverages AWS’ infrastructure to host applications. But unlike FileMaker, Five does not charge by the end user. Instead Five charges a fixed monthly fee per application starting at just US$29.99 per month.

To learn more about Five, check out our tutorial on building a simple database application here.


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