If you are in any way connected with the world of Claris, you will have heard about the new Claris platform. With a soft release in September 2022, things have been progressing in all products across the platform. If you want to catch up, have a read of our previous article “Introducing the Claris platform” and a curated pathway on the Claris Community.
Now we are six months down the track, many people are asking whether they should switch from the FileMaker platform to the Claris platform? What are the advantages of the new Claris platform? Are there any downsides? In this article, we will lay out the current (March 2023) landscape. As updates occur in the coming months, we will post them here.
Defining the Switchers
To be clear, we are looking at existing FileMaker customers with solutions that may have been in use and development for anything from one to thirty years. These solutions will likely be well entrenched within the organisation and, more often than not, are critical to the business operations. This has implications for business continuity when transitioning to the new platform.
Let’s look at three model FileMaker customers to consider their options:
- Able Finances — a small finance business with 20 staff
- Beet Growers — a farm cooperative with 5 office staff and 30 farm hands
- Car Mates — a web based business for connecting people to share car trips
Able Finances have their FileMaker solution hosted with FileMaker Cloud in the Sydney (Australia) Data Centre. In the office, staff use FileMaker Pro to work with the solution. Externally, clients use FileMaker WebDirect to submit enquiries and check their accounts. There are various APIs used to connect the FileMaker solution to external services. They currently have an annual volume license (AVLA) for 15 concurrent users.
Beet Growers have their solution hosted on premise on a FileMaker Server. In the office, they use FileMaker Pro. In the field, they use iPad devices with FileMaker Go installed. The FileMaker solution uses a number of plug-ins. They currently have an AVLA for 5 users – only the office staff use FileMaker.
Car Mates have a comprehensive web site used by customers to register rides and connect with people to share their ride. Their FileMaker solution is hosted on a FileMaker Server with a hosting company. They use FileMaker Pro to access the solution which connects live to the backend MySQL database that runs their web site. They also use Claris Connect for connecting to various apps such as their Xero accounting system, SurveyMonkey and Slack. They currently have an AVLA for 10 users and a Claris Connect license.
Let’s look first at what licensing options are available for our switchers. The upgrade cost will depend on their current licensing and, of course, where in the world they are based. With different currencies and prices across the globe, we will deal with pricing in percentages rather than actual dollars.
There are currently two licensing options:
- Claris Platform Bundle
- Claris Problem Solvers Circle (“PSC”)
Existing FileMaker licensees can change their licensing to either program. There may also be options for customers with expired licenses — check with your Claris Partner developer or direct with Claris.
Both options include:
- Claris FileMaker — Pro, Go, Server, FileMaker WebDirect
- Claris Pro — Pro, Go, Server, Claris WebDirect
- Claris Studio
- Claris Connect — Standard license
Essentially, the Platform Bundle is an annual volume license. You nominate the number of users required, starting with a minimum of five (5). The Platform Bundle is priced at +25% of your existing license cost. This can be locked in for up to three (3) years.
The PSC is an annual site license — it covers you for your entire organisation (employees, contractors and consultants) plus unrestricted anonymous users. The PSC is priced at +45% of your existing license cost. As above, the PSC can be locked in for up to three (3) years.
The best value with the PSC comes for licensees moving from an annual volume license — the site license means you do not need to think about how many licensed users you have; and you can expand usage to everyone for any solution you develop.
If you already have a site license, 45% additional may be a significant cost for access to the new Claris platform. There does not seem to be a cost effective way for an organisation with a site license to move to the Claris platform.
Claris have discussed the value of the PSC to both customers and to Claris. For customers, it allows licensees to upgrade to a site license and expand their use of Claris solutions across their organisation; for Claris, they are banking on the additional value being realised and maintained into the future.
Neither of the licensing options above includes a Claris Cloud option — FileMaker Cloud or Claris Cloud (when available). There is an option for Cloud with the PSC for +55%.
Reasons to Switch
Let’s start with the upside. What will our switchers benefit from with their new licensing?
It is important that you will still have access to all FileMaker products included in their licensing. These are still being developed and improved by Claris. An organisation will want to keep their existing installations in place while the new infrastructure is set up and the solutions converted and tested.
There will come a time when the FileMaker platform is retired — the Claris platform will be your only option. But not right now.
Claris Pro development
Developing solutions in Claris Pro is the same as in FileMaker Pro (see our article). This is a definite upside because all your FileMaker development skills still apply. Nothing new to learn there.
If you have external connections through APIs or use ESS connections to SQL databases, these will all still work. Obviously, they will need to be tested but the technology and processes are the same in Claris Pro.
The products of the Claris platform work seamlessly together united with a Claris ID for access. This makes it easy to link a Claris Studio table to your Claris Pro solution for access to data. And users can easily open Claris Connect to create new flows.
If you do not already have a Claris Connect license, you do now! Start looking at what connectors are available and what flows can be created. This all works with the FileMaker platform, so you may be able to get a head start there.
The question is what happens to an existing Claris Connect license? Can you move any existing flows across to what will be a new license? Yes — Claris have a manual process to assign an existing Claris Connect to the offer. Make sure this is done at the time of taking up either licensing option.
Start looking at what Claris Studio offers and how it might be useful to your organisation. Read our article “Claris platform: Introducing Claris Studio” for an overview, and many other articles about Claris Studio views and more. You will not be able to easily connect the data from Claris Studio to any FileMaker solutions but you may find standalone use cases to get started.
Claris Studio is an addition to the Claris platform that will fill a lot of gaps currently filled with third party additions. There is a lot to know about the various views available in Claris Studio. There will be many use cases for web forms, dashboards and kanban boards. Learn more through our articles.
Freemium is coming
With the new Claris platform will come (soon?) a great new way to dip your toes in the water. The freemium offering is more directed at new users to the platform but it will be useful for existing license holders wanting to test Claris solutions. Access to the entire Claris platform for two users is available under a Claris Free license. Some feature and deployment limitations apply. You can sign up to be notified when it is released.
It is Claris
Never underestimate the importance of the history and longevity of the company behind this Claris platform. Claris is a wholly Apple owned company that has been around for over 30 years. There are not that many software companies that can make those claims.
What’s the Catch?
We are not being negative here — just realistic about the potential costs to your organisation of moving to the Claris platform. Costs will not be just money — as above, your licensing will cost more. Costs also include time spent by you and your users. This includes time to:
- set up Claris IDs
- convert files, reset security and test functionality
- setup and configure a Linux server, and install and configure software
- learn how to use Claris Studio and Claris Connect
While you are not switching to completely new software, FileMaker and Claris are not the same. And in many cases that is a good thing that will just keep getting better.
Burn the boats
When you finally make the move to the Claris platform, there is no going back. You will have converted your .fmp12 files to .claris format — there is no backwards conversion. While it is true that you still have the FileMaker copies, any new development you do will be in the Claris files. This means that your converted Claris solution will need to be fully tested before making the final move.
There is no direct connection possible between FileMaker and Claris products (with the exception of Claris Connect). For example, FileMaker Pro cannot see Claris Server; Claris Pro cannot open .fmp12 files; FileMaker Pro cannot access Claris Studio tables. This means that all your users will need to move to the Claris platform.
The exception would be if you were migrating, testing and commissioning solutions separately. In that case, users may need to use FileMaker Pro for some solutions and Claris Pro for others. FileMaker Pro and Claris Pro can coexist on the same machine.
Everyone gets a Claris ID
All your users will need a Claris ID to connect to your Claris solutions and Claris Studio. While this is not complex, it is something that may take time. Anyone can get a free Claris ID — simply go to my.claris.com and provide the required details. However, the license manager can invite users to the Claris Team using their email address. New users will get an email with a join link to create their Claris ID.
The only exceptions to the requirement for a Claris ID are:
- users accessing public links for Claris Studio web forms
- anonymous WebDirect access with a site license (PSC)
Each of your Claris Pro files will need to be set up with all the Claris IDs of your users. This is a reasonably simple process of creating a new account, entering the email address and assigning a privilege set. While you can use the Default account with a privilege set applied for anyone with a Claris ID to access the file, this is not recommended.
Creating Claris ID accounts is quite quick if you only have one file. A longer process for multi-file solutions. All could be made easier if Claris reinstated the Accounts script steps in Claris Pro. Please?
The requirement for Claris ID authentication means there is currently no offline access for Claris solutions. This may present issues for certain organisations.
The downside is that Claris ID is currently the only option for access. There are no other external authentication options such as Active Directory, Open Directory or OAuth providers. This is a high priority for Claris and will likely change sooner than later.
SOC 2® Type 2 reporting for security, availability, and confidentiality, and ISO certifications for information security management (ISO/ IEC 27001) and personal data in the cloud (ISO/IEC 27018) are in the planning stages for the Claris platform.
Claris files currently have no access via OBDC or JDBC clients. There is also no custom web publishing via PHP. There is still access via OData and REST access via the Claris Data API.
Claris Server is only available for install on Ubuntu 20.04 (Linux) — not macOS or Windows. This will likely necessitate new hardware. The installation is not exactly simple. If you have never used a Linux server, it is a whole new operating system to learn about. Claris have produced a white paper for download — Running Claris Server on Ubuntu Linux — an essential read.
Installing on Linux servers may be a positive where you use an external hosting provider (or even in house) — Linux servers are typically cheaper than Windows servers. The paper referred to above lists a number of other benefits of Linux.
Claris Cloud is marked all over the Claris web site as “Coming Soon”.
Claris Studio is a new product for Claris. It is very functional and can fill a lot of gaps very easily with a no code web platform. However, being such a new product there are a lot of things missing when comparing it to more mature competitors. For example, if you already use some sort of web form, you will quickly see where Claris Studio Forms fall short.
Also due to its short life, there are a number of bugs and unexpected behaviours in Claris Studio. Hopefully these can get fixed quickly with the new agile development methodology and release cycle.
The big downside for Claris Studio is the hosting — currently only in one data centre in the USA. There are more coming online “soon” for Frankfurt and Tokyo. But that will not help us in Australia. There was a promise from Claris that they will be faster to open worldwide data centres than was the experience with FileMaker Cloud. Hoping this is true.
There is also a verbal commitment from Claris that any customers who are early adopters will be automatically moved to a data centre closer to their location when available. Currently seeking confirmation of this in writing.
What About Our Switchers?
So how does this all play out for our switchers? We need to consider whether they will still be able to do what they do in FileMaker, and what licensing option is best for them.
They will immediately have issues with cloud hosting. There is no Claris Cloud yet, let alone a data centre in their region. They could try moving to a third party Claris host, or they could try an on premise server but they will need new hardware and possibly external support for installation and configuration.
For their clients submitting enquiries, it may be possible for them to quickly create an equivalent web form with Claris Studio. However, for clients checking their accounts, Claris Studio is not able to send a response to a web form submission. They may be able to set up a Claris Connect flow that sends the response as an email. It may be best for them to get PSC licensing to continue with anonymous WebDirect usage.
There should be no issue with using their existing API configurations.
Conclusion: while Able Finances could switch to the new Claris platform, they will likely not see any huge benefits for the effort and cost required.
They will need to set up a new Linux server with Claris Server on premise. iPad devices will be able to run Claris Go. They need to investigate Claris platform compatibility of the plug-ins they use with the various vendors. Claris Studio may present some opportunities for them in creating Dashboards to better visualise their data; they could also use some web forms for farm contractors (sign on/off, and job completions). They will probably get Platform Bundle licensing but if they wanted to extend Claris Pro solutions to their farm hands, getting the PSC licensing would be cost effective.
Conclusion: they may see some benefit investigating possibilities with Claris Studio — get a Platform Bundle to start.
They will need to check whether their hosting company offers Claris Server hosting on Linux (hopefully at a cheaper rate). Their Claris solutions will still be able to access MySQL. And since they already use Claris Connect, that should be easy to transition to their new license. They will probably get Platform Bundle licensing (without separate Claris Connect licensing).
Conclusion: the Platform Bundle will give them a chance to explore the new Claris Platform to see if any current or planned projects could benefit. They may find that it is easy enough to move their existing FileMaker solutions to Claris.
To Switch or Not To Switch?
Eventually, all FileMaker users will need to switch to the new Claris platform. That will take time for planning, testing and moving. Right now, it is prudent to tally the cost of moving — time, learning, hardware and licensing. That will be weighed against the current perceived benefits of the new Claris platform.
If there are no showstoppers, you need some solid use cases and benefits to justify the costs. If you can see some possible uses for Claris Studio, then you can investigate and develop independently from your existing FileMaker solutions. If the benefits are not currently there, you can safely maintain the status quo and check back with the Claris platform in 6–12 months.
What About You?
If you have experience investigating your possible (or actual) switch, feel free to comment below. If you have questions, either post below or email us privately.
Claris Platform: Making The Switch was originally published in Discover the Claris platform on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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