Would like to gather information about using a mini Mac M2 for latest and greatest FMS20.3.1 for 5 users in our small office.
Currently we have a VM sublet on a Windows Server which has all kind of issues and IT costs are high. So if the Mini would be sufficient enough and reliable that could be an option. The database is a two file solution with one file as using for archiving generated PDFs (1.5GB) and the main file only total 300MB containing data growing slowly by 300 MB annually.
Is the Mac Mini recommendable for our scenario?
I have a few 2020 M1 minis which are upgrades from 2012 Core i7 Intel mac minis, and the M1 minis are superior in every way, and I would expect the M2s to be even better.
Note that you can't upgrade RAM or SSD after purchase, so make sure you get the proper specifications for your need.
Also, you can get the Mini with 10 gigabit Ethernet which would give room for future expansion if your LAN goes above 1 gigabit speeds.
I'm running our servers on Ventura 13.6.x right now, and don't have much experience running FMS on Sonoma 14.x yet.
Thank you very much for your answer @xochi ! So how is the uptime? My concern is only that a second drive for backups are outside via USB-C connection and that there is no redundant power supply on board.
The advantage though is the minimal Hardware all on a chip pretty much means less parts to fail or does it?
Use a Mini on which you virtualize macOS with UTM. Install the FileMaker Server in the VM. Back up the VM regularly. With UTM, you can also move a VM quite easily if there are problems with the hardware. Performance is no problem at all for a 5-man team! I have a customer who has 20 people working like this at peak times.
You should also install an SSL certificate and set up a DNS in the internal network. A so-called split DNS soft ensures that you also receive a green lock for an encrypted connection in the internal network.
Here's an outline of the setup I use:
- M1 mac mini with 16G RAM, 256 or 512GB SSD
- Ventura 13.x (latest version)
- FileMaker 19.x (latest 19 version)
- 3 sets of backups:
- Time Machine (hourly) local backups
- Super Duper (daily) local backup
- Arq Backup, backing up to an Amazon AWS S3 (offsite) container
Uptime is excellent, with a few exceptions:
Aside from those issues, which can be avoided, uptime is flawless.
Again thank you for your help which i find very helpful @xochi. So please define "extremely heavy use" and what do you think of using iCloud documents folder to be as a backup storage for external backups? Thanks again!
There are a lot of details in my post, but the TLDR version is that if some malicious web process hits our WebDirect site with thousands of hits within a minute or two, it crashes. In our case we think it was email virus scanners (the kind that see a URL in an email and attempt to open the URL) that were triggered when a client sent out an email (to thousands of people) with a URL to our WebDirect site. This was in FMS19 and there has been a lot of work on FMS20 WebDirect, so it's possible that issue has been fixed already.
I think that would be fine - You want to follow the 3-2-1 rule: 3 backups, stored on at least 2 different media or formats, and at least 1 which lives offsite. Just make sure you are not trying to back up the live database files.
Backups: We always use the default location for FM Server backups (local drive where FMS is installed
Then: We use an utility (here ChronoSynk) to copy those backups to another location (here a NAS and/or a RAID). I'm a fan of the iCloud drive for data I need everywhere - but NOT for live data or backups from a server that is running 24/7... We have had several issues with customers who been running out of space, internet connection broke, et.
As for Mini's: We are running Mini's for years, as FMS, as workstation et all. The only issues we've had was at the time where Mini's (not uni-body, the first ones) hat a somewhat flaky power-connector... (sometimes one unplugged the cord by accident...)
That said, we do not have heavy load and/or really big data
@mipiano thank you! Very interesting and appreciated. If I would go the VM it would be not so beneficial because if the mini dies I have to do the same work and reinstall instead of FMS the VM which seams same amount of work. So maybe I don't get the benefits or shall I just move then to a VM with docker or Ubuntu (which I am frankly not at all familiar with both)?
We don't yet use WebDirect. But that's great advice. Thanks. And yes no live / open file backups!
If your computer breaks down, all you need to do is install UTM on another Mac. That is zero effort! And copy the VM from a backup to the new computer.
If you are on a Apple Silicon Mac and stay on Apple Silicon, that's all it is!
That saves you a lot of working time in the event of damage!
The BASE model M2 has significant performance constraints on disk I/O - Apple moved to a single NAND, which basically cut the IO performance in half.
You need to move to the M2 Pro to get to where the dual NAND structure of the M1 machines comes to play. (note this same issue impacts MBAirs as well. )
Thanks and very good to know @Kirk. We would never consider low end configuration as well as MB Air for FMS or any other laptop.
I'll just chime in (since it's Christmas ) to add that I, too, have several Mac minis (M1) in service as FM servers. As others have mentioned, don't skimp on the configuration as they're not easy to upgrade (possible, but depending on where you are, potentially expensive and dicey). I love the form-factor as they consume little room in a server booth or room, and they're extremely power efficient (amazingly so).
I also have several Mac Pros (the black rubbish bin model) with 16 GB - 64 GB of ram and the performance (untested) feels equal, or in some cases, better on the minis.
For backups, we have more of a hybrid setup in most cases. We do hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and progressive backups, via the FMS control panel schedules. The progressives (and sometimes hourly) are done locally on the internal SSD. The others are mostly done to an external RAID (RAID 1 aka Mirror) over Thunderbolt, and this has worked well for our solutions. There are some other configurations as to storage, depending on I/O intensity and such, and business rules, for different solutions. We also typically backup as a clone as well, but on a less frequent schedule, depending on development cycles (~weekly or ~monthly, etc.).
Offsite backups are easily configured using shell scripts (launchd + .plst on Mac).
I've not put any system into service with Sonoma 14 or FMS v20/23 as I'm loathe to deal with "latest/greatest" version issues, so will defer to others on that.
Thanks. Great insight @daleallyn. One question though: How did you setup the RAID via Thunderbolt? Is this in conjunction to the internal SSD or an external device with multiple drives?
Hi, @barefoot , the RAID enclosure is an external device connected over Thunderbold 2/3/4 (depending on which Mac). The internal SSDs are 512GB or 1 TB, and the RAIDs are 4-12TB, mostly 6TB (a price sweet spot where I am); two drives in the enclosure set to mirror (RAID 1) for redundancy. Could use RAID 10, but it's not needed in our use-cases. (We use two-disk arrays for FM backup normally, RAID 10 requires four. YMMV)
I would not feel great about relying on USB for backup connectivity (although USB C seems to be much more reliable than USB A). I have never had an unexpected disconnect with Thunderbolt, nor a failure to mount on automatic restart after power failure or maintenance restarts.
Depending on circumstances, the external Thunderbolt device can also be used for external container storage, but one should test user experience compared to storage on the internal SSD. Probably a dedicated device would be preferred for external container storage (if not storing on the internal SSD), rather than mingling with backup storage, but I've seen it work fine.
We use various RAID enclosure brands, but choose quality over price. One that comes to mind is the LaCie 2 Big RAID, but there are many good ones. I've had good luck with OWC when in the U.S., but not easily available where I am now. It's typically cheaper to buy the enclosure and drives separately (not always), plus the warranty on bare drives can be much longer compared to pre-assembled devices. I always use enterprise-class drives. Not all RAID enclosures are Mac-compatible out of the box, so take care to look at that if you're going with such storage.
Thanks @daleallyn , I see. I am contemplating / evaluating if it is more reliable to use the internal 1 TB SSD of the mini Mac M2 Pro for OS and FMS including live files and use an external (only-option on the mini) for Backups or if the external Raid could be used for live files as well?
Or we set it up to run frequent Backups to the RAID etc. Thanks again for all the RAID info.
We have an M1 Ultra for one of our clients and it's rock solid. We do NOT use WebDirect. We've had it for a year and a half now and I think we only restarted it once, other than system updates. We have about 30 users. Our client has 850Mbps down and 12Mbps up and the used to host on a AWS server in Virginia (they're in MA). Moving it Inhouse with the Mac Ultra has been more stable in terms of uptime and based on some speed tests I ran (timing startup, scrolling through 100 records and refreshing screens, etc), the speed increased 6-fold with the Mac Ultra, so things that used to take a minute now take 10 seconds.
My primary suggestion would be to ensure that backups are never on only one drive media, be that internal SSD, external storage, or cloud. Redundancy is you friend.
We have a few clients with on-prem Mac Mini or Mac Studio as FMS, and it can be a great solution. As others have mentioned, don't skimp on the specs.
FMS won't take full advantage of the GPU cores in the M2 Max or Ultra of the Mac Studio, but… there is a point where if you spec up an M2 Pro Mini, it will be the same price as a Mac Studio with the same RAM and storage… but it will have an M2 Max instead of an M2 Pro chip, and have the better case with more ports and better cooling.
I can't wait to see the spec options for the M3 Mini and Studio… that M3 Max is a beast.