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To work Live, Or not to work live


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The Database: Originally written (preMe) in 3 upgraded by me to 5 and started running it via FM Server. For many years I'd make changes to Layouts and Scripts "live" during the day on the active files. I had a window each week when all would be kept out so I could make or edit fields. All was well in the world.

This summer we took these 44files and upped them to 8.5. Some bugs, but all seems OK.

Here's my question. I discovered that I can get into Database Design while live on the server and make changes to fields, relationships....

Is this a bad thing? Because I can, doesn't mean it's good for me.

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... You can quite safely do it if you have the following:

1) A hardwired connection - as direct to your Server as possible.

2) A reasonable backup schedule - maybe once an hour, just in case. If something goes wrong, and you lose your connection make sure you scrap the current file immediately.

Other than that, you should really be set, but as Steven says, it can seriously kill your file if it crashes any where - it may seem fine, but corruption is a distinct possibility.

The upside of live development is that you have that backup schedule in place. If you experience some sort of crash in FM normally, you'd have to rely on the copy that you last remembered to backup, at least with FMS if you've bothered to set the schedule up properly you have current backups and lose very little work.

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I work on live files routinely and have been since version 3. However, a couple of things:

1. I don't have lots of users doing lots of transactions. There are usually 10 or fewer users spread across 40 or so files at any one time and most of them are idle most of the time.

2. Files are backed-up every 2 hours. Backups are stored off-site.

3. I don't change basic DB structure while live. I'll add new stuff and make minor changes but won't make wholesale changes to the structure. I always consider how my change will affect any users that are currently working in the system.

4. My development PC has a Uninteruptable Power Supply (UPS).

5. The Server also is on a UPS.

6. I'm on a switched network and the switches are on a UPS.

7. The entire server room (servers & switches) is on a diesel generator that automatically starts after a 20 second power outage.

8. The server room is protected by a Sapphire 'clean agent' fire protection system.

Even with all this there are still risks. I have not been burned yet but I admit that it could happen. I'm one of those guys that believes that in life, there is very often a relationship between risk and reward. Very often the riskier something is the greater the potential for reward. Filemaker is no exception, there is a risk to developing live but there is also a reward which manifests itself in increased deployment speed and productivity.

You take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks and then do the cost benefit analysis. I don't think there is a black or white answer to the question.

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I had a couple of files corrupted lately while working live on the clients files, either after a disconnection or not.

I already have enough hard time with FM9 severe control over data integrity, I'd rather continue developping than making clones everyday to repair my clients files.

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Can you point me toward a document that FMI has published on this very topic? I have searched before and come up dry.


You say you would rather spend time developing than saving clones but the fact is that the whole method of developing off-line involves spending a time importing each time you make changes. Importing is not really productive time. If you develop live, 100% of your time is spent developing -- you don't spend any time whatsoever importing unless something goes haywire. It seems to me that if efficiency is king then live development is the way to go.

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