Working with FileMaker Pro on a Network

1998 – TG writes: I’m in a weekly newspaper office that has a couple of Performa 6116s and Performa 636s doing essentially the same job: email with First Class, minimal word processing with Word 5.1, and mostly shared access to FileMaker database of some size. The files themselves are on a Power Mac 7200/120. The network is 10Base-T ethernet.

FileMaker Pro 3.0

No matter what I do with the 6116s, they run the database at the same speed or slower than the 636s. All have 40 MB of RAM and are running on Mac OS 7.6. We tried Mac OS 8.0 on one of the 6116s, and it made it run about as fast as a Mac Plus on LocalTalk.

The 604e/180-200 Sonnet upgrades at $200 sounded like just the prescription, so I bought two, upgraded a machine, found it runs maybe 10% faster than its original equipment sister. I tried it in the other machine – same improvement, so sent the unopened upgrade back. Our Power Mac 7500/100 upgraded to a 200 MHz 604e runs like a scalded tiger, but even with the slower system bus, I would have expected more out of the upgrade.

I know I can spend $500 for a G3 upgrade, but in three months I’ll probably be able to buy an iMac for $900 and sell the 6116s for $250, so that’s not very appealing.


Mac Daniel writes: Definitely. I support a network of 70-some Macs, all on ethernet, almost all running System 7.5.5, and nearly all using email (Claris Emailer or Eudora Lite), Word 5.1a, and FileMaker Pro 3 and 4. Our most-used databases are served on a Power Mac 7600/200 using FileMaker Pro Server.

I did some FileMaker benchmarking last December, working with the same database on our FileMaker Pro 3 server. Timing how long it took to open the same database on a Mac IIci, LC III, Quadra 650, and Power Mac 6100, I discovered that the 68030-based Macs (IIci, LC III) took about three times longer than the Quadra or the Power Mac.

Once we moved to a 68040 CPU or beyond, there wasn’t a significant difference between Quadra and Power Mac. This is exactly what you’ve discovered. The bottleneck is the server, not the client machines.

I’m assuming you’re running FileMaker Pro Server on the 7200, not plain old FileMaker Pro. FileMaker Pro Server is optimized for hosting databases; regular FileMaker Pro isn’t.

Another thing I learned (this from the Mac Managers list) is that a faster CPU in your FileMaker Pro Server can make a world of difference. So about a month ago I upgraded the 7600/132 by dropping in a 180 MHz 604e card (pulled from another Mac to make room for a G3 upgrade). Although the CPU is less than 50% faster, the databases seem twice as responsive as before.

I suggest you stop using a 7200 with a 120 MHz 601 CPU as your FileMaker Pro Server machine. A machine like your 7500 with the 200 MHz card would make a marvelous server – and everyone using FileMaker Pro benefits when the server is upgraded. I also recommend at least 48 MB of RAM in the server.

Other ways to speed things up: avoid using Virtual Memory (VM) if at all possible. Apple recommends VM because it makes the Power Mac use memory more efficiently, but speed can be more important than just how much memory a program uses.

Pay attention to the reviews of Mac OS 8.5, which has improved both hard drive and network drivers. It could make a real difference in a client-server setup. But wait for the hard drive bug to get solved. Although it seems only about 1% of Macs suffer from the problem, Murphy’s Law has a tendency to strike no matter how cautious you are.

The key is to put your money into the database server, not the desktop systems.


A friend wrote that perhaps you are using FileMaker Pro 2.1, not 3.0 or 4.0 with FileMaker Pro Server. If that is the case, you’re probably suffering from poor 680×0 emulation, since FileMaker Pro 2.1 doesn’t have any PowerPC code.

If this is the case, your inexpensive option is a better emulator, such as the one in Speed Doubler 8. Your better option is to upgrade to FileMaker 4.1 and FileMaker Pro Server. That’s a lot more expensive than Speed Doubler, but it will also provide a greater improvement.

Another reader reminded me that using TCP/IP instead of AppleTalk also speeds up network use of FileMaker.

Yet another reader notes that server performance is the bottleneck for sending data to the client, but the client computer’s ability to display that data can also be a bottleneck. At that point, a faster client will also speed things up.

Keywords: #filemakerproserver #filemakerpro

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