- Who: Anyone interested in interacting with their FileMaker Server data via the web.
- What: How to point a web Domain Name to FileMaker Server and the Data API (also useful for WebDirect)
- With: FileMaker Server (any version), a Domain Registrar (like GoDaddy).
- Why: Use a custom domain name like discoverfilemaker.com to point to your FileMaker server.
Overview: How to point a domain name to FileMaker Server
Your company’s custom domain name is the portal to the company for the rest of the world on the internet. It can also be the portal to your FileMaker data. In this article, we will walk through a big picture guide on how to set up a custom domain name to point to a FileMaker Server (for example: fmserver.mycompany.com ).
This article assumes that you already have a domain name, and you already have a FileMaker Server set up with internet access (ideally behind a static IP address) which you can already connect a FileMaker client to via IP address. It also assumes that you have already installed an SSL certificate on your FileMaker Server. If you have not installed an SSL certificate yet, you can use our step by step guide here to install the SSL certificate before continuing: https://discoverfilemaker.com/install-ssl-certificate-fm-17-server-admin-console/
When we register for a domain name (like mycompany.com) we also get to create subdomains, which you can think of as subdirectories in a computer directory (folder) structure. This allows us to further customize our domain name and with subdomains like this:
Our final goal here is to create a subdomain, in this example we will use “fmserver”, that will point any traffic sent to: fmserver.mycompany.com to the specific IP address where our FileMaker Server is set up. That means we should be able to connect a FileMaker client to FileMaker Server using our SSL and domain name (and get that glorious green padlock icon!), or we can connect to full web sites hosted on the FileMaker Server and take advantage of custom web publishing! If you already have a website set up with a web host, any traffic sent to this subdomain will not interfere with the main web site.
Pointing the web to your FileMaker server
We can use the DNS (domain name) services provided by our domain registrar or web host to point any traffic meant for fmserver.mycompany.com to a specific IP address. Below are examples to create your DNS pointer record from a domain registrar or a web host. Though there are many possible domain name registrars, this article will use GoDaddy in the example.
- GoDaddy Example (domain registrar):
- Log in to GoDaddy
- Click on your domain name’s DNS button:
- Click the Add button at the bottom.
- Select “A”
- Host: use your subdomain prefix (e.g: fmserver.mydomain.com)
- Points to: use your static IP.
- TTL: leave it at 1 Hour
- Press Save
- Cpanel Example (web host):
- Log in to your web host’s cpanel.
- In your Cpanel, look for the DNS section and click on the “Simple Zone Editor”.
- Name field: type fmserver.mydomain.com
- Address field: type your static IP
- Press the “Add an A Record” or Save button (whichever you have).
Connecting to Your FileMaker Server
Now you can connect to your FileMaker server from FileMaker using the hostname: fmserver.mydomain.com!
- Open FileMaker Pro or Advanced
- In the Launch Center, click on the Hosts tab.
- At the bottom left, click on the + symbol to open the “Add Favorite Host” window.
- In the Host’s Internet Address, use: fmserver.mydomain.com
That’s it! Now when you or a client connects to your FileMaker Server via the WAN, you will get that elusive “green padlock” and your connection will be encrypted! If you want to connect to WebDirect, you would simply use: https://fmserver.mydomain.com/fmi/webd.
Note that since we are connecting via SSL encryption, you must specify the “https” in the url.
Accessing FileMaker Server via the Browser
On install, the FileMaker Server sets itself to work with the operating system’s internet server so that web pages can be hosted on that server. This makes it easy to host web sites connected to your FileMaker databases! The default folder for hosting web pages on a FileMaker Server is: (shown here as a windows path):
C:\Program Files\FileMaker\FileMaker Server\HTTPServer\conf
The “conf” directory is set up by FileMaker server as the default public www directory on your Windows Server, so all web pages/sites go here. For example, if you have several custom sites like: intranet.mydomain.com, client1.mydomain.com and, client2.mydomain.com, you can simply navigate to them via url’s like: https://fmserver.mydomain.com/intranet/ or https://fmserver.mydomain.com/client1/.
Let’s create a new folder inside the “conf” folder called: testdb
(example: C:\Program Files\FileMaker\FileMaker Server\HTTPServer\conf\testdb\ )
Note: all folder names inside the “conf” folder will be case sensitive when using a URL to navigate to the FileMaker Server.
For testing purposes, let’s also add a simple text (.txt) file called test.txt inside our new folder. That way when we test our connection, we can point it to this file for verification. On our test.txt file, let’s open it and write “Hello World!” (no quotes needed) and save it. Now we can connect to that file with this URL:
You should now see “Hello World!” in your web browser!
Folders inside the “conf” folder are all being hosted by the server’s internet hosting services, so they can all be accessed via the browser. Of course this connection is encrypted via SSL, but it is important to at least be aware that all files inside the “conf” folder are web facing.
Good times! Now we can use a domain name to connect FileMaker clients to the FileMaker Server and get the green padlock, and we can also use our domain name to access web sites hosted on our FileMaker Server. Here are a few final ideas to consider:
- Each folder inside the “conf” folder can be the “root” folder for a separate web site. If you wanted to, this could allow you to host a custom web site for each database on your server (since the html files will dictate what database they connect to).
- There are many variations in SSL vendor web sites, web hosts, DNS managers, cloud providers, etc. If your personal variations are a little different, the underlying principals still apply, so with a little digging you should be able to find the equivalent tools and resources at your respective providers.
- If you used a custom port for SSL on your server, be sure to append the port to all your urls. For example:
- Firewall: if you haven’t set up your Windows Server firewall and/or you disabled it to make sure all connections were working properly, you will find detailed instructions on setting up the Windows Firewall for FileMaker Server here. There is no reason to leave the solid Windows Firewall disabled! 😉
- Troubleshooting- If you run into problems, look out for these things:
- Try clearing your browser cache.
- Try flushing your local DNS cache. On windows, in the command prompt use: ipconfig /flushdns
- Go over the Windows Firewall instructions to make sure your current implementation is correct.
Happy File Making!