Tim Dietrich

Custom Software Developer

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FileMaker / Amazon EC2: An Afforable Hosting Option

I've written several times now about my experience using Amazon's EC2 service as the foundation for my FileMaker database hosting service (Open Remote). I've been using EC2 servers for well over a year now, and it has proven to be an extremely reliable way to host FileMaker databases. We have had no unscheduled downtime since we moved to EC2 back in January of 2014.

My only complaint about EC2 had been its high cost. I say "had been" because that call changed for me last week. Let me explain...

Expensive, But Worth It

When I first started to investigate the EC2 service, I experimented with several EC2 instance types. Think of instance types as different models of virtual servers, with each model providing a certain number of processors ("vCPUs" in EC2 terms), memory, storage capacity, and network performance.

The instance type that I decided on was "m1.xlarge" and I did so primarily to get the "High" network performance that it provided. This was especially important to me because the FileMaker 13 platform had just shipped, and I wanted to be able to provide FileMaker Web Direct support without sacrificing performance. The cost of the instance was around $500 per month. Expensive, but well worth the cost.

Cutting EC2 Costs by 40%

This March, while working on a couple of "stealth" projects, I decided to experiment with different EC2 instance types. And what I found was surprising.

I found that using an "m3.large" instance type, a slight step down from the "xlarge" instance type, worked just fine. While the m3.large instance includes what Amazon describes as "moderate" network performance, it was plenty fast. Even FileMaker WebDirect sessions were snappy.

So last week, during an upgrade to FileMaker Server 13v9, I switched from the older m1.xlarge instance to an m3.large instance.

Being on EC2, the process of migrating to the new server was seamless. I simply spun up the new instance, installed FileMaker Server, installed the SSL certificate, moved the databases, and reassigned the IP address. The total downtime was less than an hour.

As far as speed goes, there is no noticeable difference between the old and new instances. Everything continues to be snappy, including WebDirect and Go connections, and requests coming in from the FileMaker API for PHP.

The big difference that I'm noticing is the cost. The m3.large instance will cost just under $300 per month, a savings of 40%. Yes, that is still expensive, but it is acceptable.

My Upcoming FileMaker / EC2 Hosting Course

Are you interested in learning about Amazon EC2 and how you can use it to host FileMaker?

I'm in the process of putting together an online course (and book) that covers everything that I've learned about EC2 , how it can best be used to host FileMaker databases, and some tips and tricks that I've learned.

If you are interested in learning more, click here. And be sure to signup for my newsletter. I'll be announcing the course's availability there first, and providing a discount to subscribers.