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wendykdt

IT wants us to move from local Mac G5 FMS to centralized Windows-based system

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wendykdt

Hello everyone. We're in a quandary.

 

Our IT department wants us to stop serving Filemaker Server off our local Mac G5 server, and serve it from another central Windows system that they will provide and administrate. They know little about Filemaker or Macs. We know little about the network. We are (and will be) pretty much on our own with Mac administration; most administration of PCs/network is centralized through our (huge) parent company. IT assures us there will be a big advantage to having our Filemaker server/files backed up off site via their networked backup methods. I suppose it would be an advantage, although I'm not sure it would be a big one. Our dept would still be administrating Filemaker itself--via Filemaker Server Admin, I assume.

 

Currently we:

- Are an Art Department in a manufacturing company.

- Are happily running some version of FM (currently Pro 8 and Advanced 8) and FM Server (currently 8) on a Mac G5 (Mac OS 10) for many, many years now.

- Have FM8 clients on both Macs and PCs, with a few clients outside our department, totaling around 20 users.

- Are using the corporate network lines.

- Have a local UPS for the Mac Server, which is in our department.

- Have an extensive schedule of backups to local and external drives (including a weeks worth and four Fridays of backups retained at one time). And each evening we manually copy backup files to our network file server where our [non-Filemaker] Art and other company files reside. This Windows-based FILE server is located, backed up and administered off site.)

 

I'm uneasy about this proposal. I don't see the value. It could be just my "control gene" kicking in. (Or perhaps it is THEIR control gene that's kicking in.) Our department would be nearly paralyzed without Filemaker. I'm wary of time requirements to test and switch to their proposed system, especially as we'd also like to upgrade (to FM 10 or 11). Those of us who administrate the FM system (two of us) also have primary jobs here as computer artists. And right now it is good to know that if we have a Filemaker issue, we have direct access--to take it down, create backup clones, test, recover, etc. as needed. That said, we've never needed to recover. Our system is VERY stable. We have on occasion had to access backups to replace data mistakenly overwritten by users, and we've had a strange corruption situation or two (where moving data to backup "clones" solved the problem).

 

Three questions. (OK, four.)

1. What questions should we ask them?

2. What problems should we anticipate? What should WE KNOW before we agree to start moving things around?

3. Is FMS on Windows going to present more... issues than a Mac, and likely (or unlikely) to make us wish we'd really really stayed put with our existing and relatively peaceful setup?

 

I know this is difficult to discuss without knowing more about their proposal... hence question #1! Thanks for any clues...

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Techphan

Tell them, "Hell no!" and keep running your in-department server. I say this from the perspective of a university department head that just setup a Mac server in-house rather than turn over my databases to our IT people.

 

Cooler heads prevailing, I guess I would ask "them" frankly what's in it for you to switch, and when they say "better network back-ups" tell them you are very happy with your current setup and need a better reason to change what is working very well.

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AHunter3

What Techphan said. There's no reason to assume they have the vaguest idea how to administer an FmServer.

 

They CANNOT BE ALLOWED to do "better network backups" if, by that, they mean (as they probably do) that they intend on backing up the server's hard drives. Nope, not happening. That corrupts database files. You HAVE to make them understand that.

 

They also cannot be allowed to install antivirus software.

 

The server should not be "virtualized"; you want the OS running directly "on the metal".

 

Dedicated server. No putting FmServer on a box that runs other server tasks as well.

 

No OS level file sharing. Tell them the Windows service named "Server" must be permanently disabled in the Services tab.

 

No scheduled disk defragmentation.

 

No automatic installation of OS or other software updates.

 

 

By this time they'll be saying hell no they won't run a server that way :)

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Techphan

One last thing: Why change what seems to be working well, if not perfectly?

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steels28

Is there a best practice thread/paper/blog/website for FM Server with some of this info on it? I'm running into some similar problems ~ IT hosting our database and not knowing specific requirements for working with FM Server. Just found out recently that they've been backing up wrong and I'm wondering what other items I should be worried about.

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wendykdt

Hmmm. This is very interesting, and it's good to have more concrete validation of what was vague apprehension on my part--and my question of why we need to mess with what ain't broken.

 

Regarding backups, were we to move to their proposed system, we'd certainly still want to be using Filemaker Server to schedule and run backups. The only difference would be is that instead of running these backups to 1) the local hard drive; 2) an external drive, and 3) to our file server network once daily, these backups would be going to locations on a file server, which is then backed up with their backup system. I think that's what you're getting at, AHunter3?

 

Also, what do you mean by "virtualized"? Are you referring to having Windows Server (which I think we need to run Filemaker Server) running on its own drive, as opposed to a partitioned drive?

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Jack Rodgers

It is difficult to explain to a Windows nerd all attached to his virtual this and that and "I know everything" that he/she is Filemaker's worst enemy.

 

They will not listen, it is not in their psychological profile to believe that someone else knows more than they do or that their latest whim isn't the absolute truth.

 

What will happen is that they will corrupt your database by trying to back it up while it is running, they will corrupt it by trying to run it in 'virtual something or another" and if you are really unfortunate the guy is not truely educated about windows server and will eventually lose everyone's desktops and backups and so on.

 

They often are obsessive/compulsive with a hatred for things Macintosh who subconsciously do everything they can to rid their universe of Macintosh even if it means destroying your Filemaker db.

 

To discover if the person in question has this nature, show them your new iPad and how cool it is. Watch their eyes and expression. If a barely disguised overwhelming rage peeks through, avoid them.

 

Purchase a large size volume of Dilbert and leave it in plain sight...

 

Further insights are available for a very high fee.

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wendykdt

What will happen is that they will corrupt your database by trying to back it up while it is running,

 

Yipes. So the simple "passive" act of backing up all files (NOT with FMS backup scheduler) while the server is running will cause the LIVE SERVED files to become corrupt?

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wendykdt

What will happen is that they will corrupt your database by trying to back it up while it is running,

 

Yipes. So the simple "passive" act of backing up ALL files (not just dbase files with FMS backup scheduler) while the server is running will cause the LIVE SERVED files to become corrupt?

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AHunter3

Yes, totally.

 

And: what Jack Rodgers said. He is totally correct. It Dept folks just cannot leave a server alone.

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Techphan

To add a little more to this one-sided discussion, I just purchased a Mac Mini to be a server after reading a thread here a few months ago. Our IT department wanted to host my FM apps alongside their FM apps running on their server, but they would never answer my questions directly as to whether or not the had a dedicated FM Server running only FM Server 11 Advanced, or whether they were using a "virtual" drive/server inside their Windows server environment. So, when in doubt- do it yourself.

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Maarten Witberg

Don't fix what isn't broken is the best thing I read in this thread among many other good things.

 

don'ts, do's and avoids for this from the server 11 manual (your demands list):

 

http://filemaker.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/7113/kw/server%20manual%20pdf/related/1

http://www.filemaker.com/support/product/docs/fms/fms11_getting_started_en.pdf

 

- Avoid installing FileMaker Server on a machine that is a user’s primary workstation.

- Avoid using the machine running FileMaker Server as an email, print, or network file server.

- Do not use system backup software to back up databases hosted by FileMaker Server. Instead use

FileMaker Server Admin Console to schedule backups of databases.

- Do not use anti-virus software to scan the folders that contain hosted database files.

- Disable screen savers and sleep (or hibernate and standby) mode on the server. These features reduce

performance or suspend access to hosted databases.

- Use a fast hard disk, multiple-disk RAID system, or reliable Storage Area Network (SAN) for the hosted

databases.

- Turn off Indexing Service (Windows), Spotlight (Mac OS), or any other third-party file indexing

software. This feature reduces performance.

(my bold)

 

That said, IT departments should be service oriented rather than use-our-hardware-it's-better-oriented, but that's just my hangup.

It's probably not a good idea to go calling them a bunch of windows nerds if you want to get them over to your side :-s

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Josh Ormond

Buy them lunch and a copy of one of the Star Trek movies. It will make everything go smoother.

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Maarten Witberg
my Vipre AntiVirus does it quick scan at 3:30am....My full backups are done at 4am every Saturday.....

Should I be afraid?

Yes, if these processes touch the folders that contain hosted files.

At the very least put the folders of hosted files on a separate volume. don't backup them ever using third party stuff. don't let antivirus programs scan these folders. ever. never. that should be clear by now

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Jack Rodgers

Awww.... You just made my day, "Jack Rodgers is totally correct!"

Anyhow, the logic of backing up is that Filemaker Server creates magnificant upto date backups (and quite quickly in the latest versions). At the time of making its backup it saves all of the memory resident info on all of the workstantions to disk (there si a technical term for this which escapes me at the moment). These backup files created by Filemaker can be backuped by the IT guys AFTER they are closed.

 

The problem with saving the active Filemaker server files is that they are not complete, there is a lot of unsaved data in RAM on user computers waiting to be dumped to disk. So, any backup made by IT will not be accurate even if it doesn't damaged the files being served.

 

Would I trust Microsoft software to do a good backup of open files? About as much as I trust Microsoft Updates to close my files before shutting down...nope...

 

Don't forget that there are IT people who don't know what they are doing any more than the person did who hired them.... :) Read Dilbert diligently... :)

 

Just to be fair, there are some IT guys who know more than I do... I just haven't met them. :)

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wendykdt

Excellent feedback (and documentation/links). I had a gut instinct it wasn't a good idea, but that wouldn't get me far in discussions with IT.

 

(Maybe we'll buy them lunch. But I'm keeping the Star Trek movie... see, I'm a bit of a Mac nerd. That's your standard nerd, but with a creative streak.)

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wendykdt

Discussions are continuing... Any thoughts from anyone about us serving FM from a stand-alone Windows machine vs. Mac? As a Mac nerd I'm leery of this also... PCs/Windows just seems to make everything more difficult. But that might just be vicious rumor...

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Josh Ormond

It will work. As with anything, the specs of the machine are the variable.

 

Windows is what it is. I've used both platforms, and given a choice for Server, I would probably go with Mac...but I would have no reservations about going with a Windows box either. It it is your only option to keep the solution hosted in your local office, than it is still better than letting non-FileMaker-oriented techs have at it.

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wendykdt

OK. Thanks--and a thank you again to all.

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AHunter3
Discussions are continuing... Any thoughts from anyone about us serving FM from a stand-alone Windows machine vs. Mac? As a Mac nerd I'm leery of this also... PCs/Windows just seems to make everything more difficult. But that might just be vicious rumor...

 

I am a total Macintosh devotee from way back when, but I have only good things to say about FileMaker Server running under the Windows OS. If you're going to remain in possession of the server yourself, it is safe to set up Windows Server, install all current patches, make a bootable backup of the HD before hosting any files, and then host your files and just let it run.

 

The problem with the Windows version of FileMaker Server crop up when the IT Dept wants it in the server room; the problem there is that it means you're using a WINDOWS SERVER and then you've got the IT Department problem exacerbated far beyond what it would be if it were a Mac server in their possession:

 

• If it were a Mac server, the typical IT Dept / Server Dept geek would quite possibly turn his nose up at it and ignore it, but because it is a WINDOWS SERVER he's just gotta stick his nose in. Therefore you've got to worry about the following items much more just because the IT folks are more likely to pay attention to a Windows server.

 

• It's a Windows server and they are going to want antivirus software running on it. I'm not saying there aren't IT folk who genuinely believe that MacOS servers oughta have antivirus sw running on them (there are!) but when it comes to Windows servers they'll act like it's corporate suicide to not run antivirus sw on a Windows server, even if it can't be accessed by any other computer except via the FMP7:// protocol (not a vector via which viruses can be spread to the OS itself), and then with regards to that being the only protocol running, see below...

 

• It's a Windows server and they are going to want to run their "manage all Windows servers from a central position" software packages or at an absolute minimum expect to be able to browse folder contents from whatever PC they are sitting at at the time. They call it an "administrative share"; even Windows PCs that allegedly are not set up to deploy file sharing are sharing everything if you have the full-blown Admin password; the C drive's "administrative share" is either $C or C$, I forget which. Anyway, they are NOT going to like it when you tell them to completely disable the entire service called "Server" so that no other PC can browse the FileMaker Server's directories at all.

 

• They will have backup software and some policy that will say all servers are to be backed up via the backup schedule. If it were a Mac server it would not necessarily be exempt from that but they might not have a MacOS version of their favorite backup sw, or it might be less compatible, etc, or as I said before they might turn their noses up at a Mac server and say "who cares?" and leave it out of the backup schedule. But they will think it is freaking NUTS to not have a Windows server in the schedule. Each of them individually will think that can't possibly be right so even if Joe understands why it isn't included, Sue will notice one day that it isn't and will quickly install the sw and include it in the schedule without consulting Joe because EVERYONE knows that EVERY server ALWAYS must be in the backup schedule.

 

•*Updates and patches. Windows geeks are much more worried about exploits if the OS is not kept absolutely up to date. So they will be downloading and installing OS patches while the files are active hosted, which is a bad idea. (Better to wait until there are quite a number that are in need of installation then halt FMServer and install them all over the weekend or something).

 

etc.

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wendykdt

Yeeeaaah, AHunter3, I think you are right on. Even with a WIndows machine here in our department, it would, of course, still be on the "official" network and therefore they probably would want to "push through" all their periodic "automatic" updates. And your last Joe vs. Sue bullet quite scared me, as most of what IT does here dictated by our parent company via the help desk, and by their accents we have to assume they are... nowhere near the guys in the room down the hall who handle local IT issues. Right now, they leave our Mac alone, except for a curiosity question now and then.

 

It is good to know that for the most part, a decent WIndows server would be as stable as our current Mac platform.

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kirkrr

Wendykdt - your "rogue IT' and "terrorist data stores" scares the hell out of an IT staff - they are tasked with the control, maintenance and security of the technology environment, including infrastructure and, more than anything, data. To have islands of automation out in the user community is, in the normal mindset, an uncontrolled disaster waiting to happen.

 

On the other side of the coin, FM ain't like any other animal in their IT zoo - it plays by different rules. If you were to lay out the requirements, then IT could meet those requirements - until the next personnel change in the management of your servers, then all bets are off.

 

As far as moving to Windows - a big step backwards. From my experience in managing IT shops with as many as 262,000 desktops, the cost-per-desktop for a Windows machine is over 5 times the cost of a Mac. Servers are an even greater disparity, with an almost 30 to 1 ratio. I have confirmed this from this very large organizations to far smaller ones. A graduate school staff at a major university, when they got a new dean, canned all the Macs that they had been running, along with the one part time admin. In place of that, everyone got a shiny new PC, lower productivity, and a support staff of 5, plus an increase in the University help desk time of a larger amount. I have seen this repeated a dozen times, with extremely consistent data.

 

As long as you are not paying for the Windows servers, the IT staff will not be sharing the server that FM is residing on, there is no virtual machine running another operating system on the same hardware, and the IT staff does not add this machine to their normal disaster recovery backup process, then you should be all set. Yeah, right, like this is gonna happen! Good luck fighting city hall....

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wendykdt

They're baaaaack... Somebody reopened this can of worms. This time our local IT "assure" us that they will disable backups, no anti-virus, no auto-updates, etc. (I showed them my list of Must Haves compiled from this forum thread.) However, I get the impression that this WILL be a partitioned machine with other programs running. (Is this what "virtual" is?)

 

They've given us, for now, a stand-alone PC on which to do initial tests of FMS (13). (I realize this is not a true test; more an "opportunity" for us to do general orientation on the PC platform.)

 

Two questions:

1. One of the "benefits" we've assumed is that FMS will be able to back up directly to an off-site (remote) network drive without one of us staying late to do it. (What we do now is have FMS back up to the local drive, and we manually copy it up to the network.) I have seen definitive documentation that this is NOT possible if FMS is on Mac OSX. However, I haven't found a definitive answer for doing this via FMS on Windows. Can anyone direct me to ...unarguable documentation that I can present to them?

 

2. Also, each employee of our company has to log into a PC [networked] Desktop using their own individual logins and passwords. They have said they are NOT allowed to create a shared admin account. So I and the other admin (and any others who are trained to shut down the database in emergencies if we are not here) would have to access the console in our own "desktop account". At least I'm guessing that would be how it works. Is this a show stopper?

 

Right now we're obligated to spend time installing, configuring and testing unless we can present a solid reason why their proposal will not work.

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Josh Ormond

FMS runs as a Service of the machine, no user needs to be logged in...unless to do an install/update of FMS itself. So you should be fine on that account. As for administration of the server and settings you can do it from your workstation, with the right settings.

 

2. Also, each employee of our company has to log into a PC [networked] Desktop using their own individual logins and passwords. They have said they are NOT allowed to create a shared admin account. So I and the other admin (and any others who are trained to shut down the database in emergencies if we are not here) would have to access the console in our own "desktop account". At least I'm guessing that would be how it works. Is this a show stopper?

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wendykdt

Dang, hoping for a show stopper. :)

 

Currently, we physically access our Mac OSX FMS11 for things like getting a copy of a local backup to "play" with (we have backups running every 30 minutes to local and external drives). Each night we manually copy a backup from the local drive to our network (although I am/was close to an automated solution on that on the Mac). Occasionally we will need to swap in an updated file in our multi-file legacy database, and close/stop serving the databases for that process. We've also done all installs/updates ourselves and handled the coordination with all 20+ users on PC and Mac. None of these tasks have been an issue since either of us can log into the Mac FMS account with its own password.

It sounds like we will have to rethink a few things... Guess I'll start expanding my list of concerns for IT. I'm quite concerned that they simply don't understand FM. Thanks for helping me start to get a handle on some of this.

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MacDevGuy
I am a total Macintosh devotee from way back when, but I have only good things to say about FileMaker Server running under the Windows OS. If you're going to remain in possession of the server yourself, it is safe to set up Windows Server, install all current patches, make a bootable backup of the HD before hosting any files, and then host your files and just let it run.

 

The problem with the Windows version of FileMaker Server crop up when the IT Dept wants it in the server room; the problem there is that it means you're using a WINDOWS SERVER and then you've got the IT Department problem exacerbated far beyond what it would be if it were a Mac server in their possession:

 

• If it were a Mac server, the typical IT Dept / Server Dept geek would quite possibly turn his nose up at it and ignore it, but because it is a WINDOWS SERVER he's just gotta stick his nose in. Therefore you've got to worry about the following items much more just because the IT folks are more likely to pay attention to a Windows server.

 

• It's a Windows server and they are going to want antivirus software running on it. I'm not saying there aren't IT folk who genuinely believe that MacOS servers oughta have antivirus sw running on them (there are!) but when it comes to Windows servers they'll act like it's corporate suicide to not run antivirus sw on a Windows server, even if it can't be accessed by any other computer except via the FMP7:// protocol (not a vector via which viruses can be spread to the OS itself), and then with regards to that being the only protocol running, see below...

 

• It's a Windows server and they are going to want to run their "manage all Windows servers from a central position" software packages or at an absolute minimum expect to be able to browse folder contents from whatever PC they are sitting at at the time. They call it an "administrative share"; even Windows PCs that allegedly are not set up to deploy file sharing are sharing everything if you have the full-blown Admin password; the C drive's "administrative share" is either $C or C$, I forget which. Anyway, they are NOT going to like it when you tell them to completely disable the entire service called "Server" so that no other PC can browse the FileMaker Server's directories at all.

 

• They will have backup software and some policy that will say all servers are to be backed up via the backup schedule. If it were a Mac server it would not necessarily be exempt from that but they might not have a MacOS version of their favorite backup sw, or it might be less compatible, etc, or as I said before they might turn their noses up at a Mac server and say "who cares?" and leave it out of the backup schedule. But they will think it is freaking NUTS to not have a Windows server in the schedule. Each of them individually will think that can't possibly be right so even if Joe understands why it isn't included, Sue will notice one day that it isn't and will quickly install the sw and include it in the schedule without consulting Joe because EVERYONE knows that EVERY server ALWAYS must be in the backup schedule.

 

•*Updates and patches. Windows geeks are much more worried about exploits if the OS is not kept absolutely up to date. So they will be downloading and installing OS patches while the files are active hosted, which is a bad idea. (Better to wait until there are quite a number that are in need of installation then halt FMServer and install them all over the weekend or something).

 

etc.

 

Ha ha! I am laughing as I read this. I know this is an old post but I had to respond for "educational/informational" purposes.

 

It's a very over-simplified description of the actual problem but every point is based on truth and the worst part of it is this is only the tip of the iceberg of the situation from the position you have been able to observe it from. In reality it's much worse. What's missing are the perspectives of Accounting, Management, IT Architects and Developers, Support Management and Staff - which I could fill in and illuminate further on the subject with additional background but it makes me sick to think about it. I had the opportunity to see the situation from the backend/inside of the i.t. department. Let me give you one example;

 

At a staff meeting with about thirty people which included management, technical support staff, and SMEs, a manager made the statement: "Well, it would probably be better to replace all the Macs, because... ya... you know there's no software available for Macs". Some sat in disbelief and shock, and others politely correcting the facts about this 20 year old farce that Wintel folk had been able to perpetuate in an effort to save their sorry souls from the evil platform known as Macintosh.

 

Now more than five years later what did they end up saving? Nothing. The Windows infrastructure guys were all laid off and replaced with outsource talent and cloud services. If you want to understand this from their perspective I could go on and on. (Feel free to ask). However I will spare you having to listen to all the gory details.

Edited by MacDevGuy
sentence unclear

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MacDevGuy
Dang, hoping for a show stopper. :)

 

Currently, we physically access our Mac OSX FMS11 for things like getting a copy of a local backup to "play" with (we have backups running every 30 minutes to local and external drives). Each night we manually copy a backup from the local drive to our network (although I am/was close to an automated solution on that on the Mac). Occasionally we will need to swap in an updated file in our multi-file legacy database, and close/stop serving the databases for that process. We've also done all installs/updates ourselves and handled the coordination with all 20+ users on PC and Mac. None of these tasks have been an issue since either of us can log into the Mac FMS account with its own password.

It sounds like we will have to rethink a few things... Guess I'll start expanding my list of concerns for IT. I'm quite concerned that they simply don't understand FM. Thanks for helping me start to get a handle on some of this.

 

So Wendy, any hindsight lessons or is this still in discussion nearly 8 months later? (I know large corporation cycles can take years so this could very well still be spinning around for you).

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wendykdt
So Wendy, any hindsight lessons or is this still in discussion nearly 8 months later? (I know large corporation cycles can take years so this could very well still be spinning around for you).

 

FYI to anyone who might read: We managed to deflect this little nightmare. The closest we came was about a month ago when IT took over control of virus protection on all Macs... I had to run interference to ensure they did NOT install their software on the FM Server. So far they haven't... although the scenario of someone suddenly realizing they "overlooked" one Mac is still a possibility, I suppose!

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wendykdt

I just had to check back here... IT simply does not give up. We no longer have a choice; they are moving our Filemaker Server (in fact, our entire ART department, and fonts be damned) from Macs to PCs due to the dangers of "unmanaged" Macs. (No weight is given to the thought that a less homogenized desktop population may actually pose less danger.) The PC Server will be in our department, but the battle is now on to help them understand the issues with virus software, backups (I'm particularly afraid of this one), untested updates being deployed automatically, etc.

 

We're now at FMS (and FMPro) 15, and I assume the dangers remain the same, but if anyone has further feedback, it is welcome.

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AHunter3

With the database files installed but FileMaker Server NOT running, make a complete clone of the hard drive. Swap it out for the internal hard drive and verify that the clone drive will boot properly.

 

Remove the clone physically from the server environment. Keep it at home or something.

 

Hand-write all of the instructions about no antivirus and no backup software and no file indexing onto an index card and laminate it onto the server case. Remove the keyboard and mouse and add a second index card that says "Touch this and DIE".

 

Once a week, minimum, go over to the machine in person, physically, and verify that they aren't running anything they shouldn't be.

 

Manually copy FileMaker Server's scheduled backups folder to a thumb drive or a hot-swappable external (USB, etc) drive and take it with you.

 

I wish you luck.

 

 

PS: for your art department boxes, install Windows on your Macs using BootCamp. Also install Parallels with a VM of the same Windows variant. Maybe they'll let you dual-boot MacOS for the compatibility issues.

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