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FileMaker 15 review: Evolutionary release with a new licensing program

William Porter | May 18, 2016
Coming soon to an Android screen near you.

Like FileMaker Pro and Pro Advanced, FileMaker Server in version 15 gets few headlines and such improvements as it does get will be important mainly to developers and network admins: better logging, improved handling of SSL certificates, and a couple of performance enhancements.

No “I” in Teams

On a less technical note, it looks like FileMaker Server is about to become the most important element of any FileMaker installation, not just because it serves databases to remote users, but also because it takes on an expanded role as the controller of FileMaker licensing.

At least for now, you’ll still be able to buy individual, perpetual licenses for FileMaker Pro and Server, priced at $329 for Pro, $549 for Pro Advanced, and $1044 for Server. Volume discounts with annual subscription pricing are also available and buying in volume can bring the price per user per month of using FileMaker Pro down to $10 (not including Server) or even lower if you purchase larger bundles of licenses. These are described on FileMaker’s website as “legacy licensing” options.

But FileMaker 15 is introducing a new licensing model called “FileMaker for Teams.” Basic cost per year is about the same as legacy volume discount subscriptions if you don’t need access via Go or WebDirect, and somewhat cheaper if you do. With FileMaker for Teams you’re licensing “user connections” rather than people (i.e., users) or apps on devices (i.e., connections), and the licensing will be handled not in the apps but in FileMaker Server. So FileMaker for Teams comes with a somewhat new flavor of FileMaker Pro styled “FileMaker (for User Connections).” Yes, it’s awkward but it at least it’s unlikely to contribute to acronym pollution. The functionality of FileMaker (for User Connections) is identical to that of the plain old FileMaker Pro, except that FileMaker (for User Connections) is activated only while it’s logged into Server.

I am pretty sure FileMaker Incorporated regards this approach as simpler and in some ways it is. With the bad old approach, you had to calculate the average and maximum number of connections Server would be hit with at any one time during a typical day. With FileMaker for Teams, you just ask yourself how many users you have and you’re done. (Wouldn’t it be great if your cellular service provider simply asked you how many phone numbers you need?) The FileMaker for Teams licensing model also more closely resembles the models used in the larger corporate database world, and in that respect, it may make TCO and ROI comparisons easier for decision makers.

Nevertheless, there’s going to be some pain involved in this transition. It’s unclear how legacy licensees will transition to FileMaker for Teams. Also unclear is how this will impact one of FileMaker’s core markets, namely, very small offices with fewer than five users and especially those who may have outsourced the hosting of their databases to one of the several excellent FileMaker hosting services available on the Internet.


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