Setting up remote access to FileMaker Pro databases is a fairly common task for FileMaker Developers. It is also one of the more common support questions asked by my clients after I have left the building, so I have created a walk through on how to set this up that is hopefully simple enough for people who don’t do this everyday to follow.
Here is how to setup access to FileMaker Server for Remote Access from behind a Network Router Firewall using Port Forwarding.
The Big Picture
There are two sets of IP addresses to think about when setting up FileMaker Server to allow remote clients to login.
The first IP address is the WAN (Wide Area Network) IP address, think of this as the phone number for the company or organization. This is how the router is called from the outside. It is the IP address that whatsmyipaddress.com obtains, and is usually assigned by an Internet Service Provider, cable or telephone company.
Internally, there are IP addresses assigned to each computer and router on the internal network. Think of these as local extensions, similar to what a telephone system might use. Each computer gets, what is known as an internal IP address, one that only lives within the network. These IP addresses are often something like: 192.168.1.100, or 192.168.0.101 etc. These addresses are assigned automatically by the network router. This process is called DHCP or Dynamic Host Control Protocol.
Port Forwarding is a bit like the voice mail equivalent of ‘Press 101 to speak with Jim Brown’. It allows a computer application to directly address a specific computer within a network and behind a firewall. FileMaker Server uses Port 5003 for remote access. For a complete list of FileMaker Server ports, check out FileMaker’s Knowledge Base here.
Four things have to line up to allow Remote Access to FileMaker Server when it is behind a network router firewall.
1) The External IP (WAN) address ( obtained from www.whatismyipaddress.com)
2) The computer’s internally assigned (by the router) IP address
3) Port Forwarding has to be turned on in the Router/Firewall and pointing to the server computer.
4) Setup ‘Using DHCP with manual address’ if available on the server computer.
1) Getting the Router’s IP address (the WAN address)
To obtain the router’s IP address, open a web browser on the FileMaker Server computer and go to www.whatismyipaddress.com. A map and a message with the external IP address should be listed.
2) Obtaining the Server Computer’s Local IP Address
Under the Apple Menu, select About this Mac. Then click ‘More Info..’. Windows computers list their local IP address in the Control Panel, Network and Internet panel. More details from Microsoft are here.
Click ‘System Report’
Click on the Network Info item on the left sidebar.
The IP address of will be displayed under the Built-in Ethernet, or Airport Network, whichever is in use by server computer.
3) Port Forwarding Guide online
The web site Portforward.com has an extensive list of router manufacturers and models as well as specific instructions for different applications that require port forwarding.
Choose the Make and Model of the Router
Select a Manufacturer and then the router model in the popup list. Click ‘Search’ for the detailed view of the model.
Select the Port Forwarding Application for FileMaker Pro or FileMaker Server
Scroll down to the ‘F’s’ for FileMaker
FileMaker Port setups
Detailed setup manual for FileMaker Server
There is a detailed description of setting up port forwarding for FileMaker Pro or FileMaker Server for each model of router listed.
Sample Entry for a Linkys Router, FileMaker Server
Sample entry of a port forwarding entry in a network router web admin screen.
Setting up Port Forwarding
Now that the two important IP addresses, the Internal IP address and the external IP address have been obtained, it is time to use this information in the setup of the Router.
Where the two IP addresses (the Router’s and the Computer’s) are important, is when using a Firewall. Most modern routers have firewalls built-in to protect the interntal network from outside attacks by hackers. It is necessary to open a Port (or access channels through the router) used by FileMaker Server or FileMaker Pro to the computer in order to allow Remote Access to FileMaker databases.
To set up Port Forwarding, log into the router. It is usually at the address 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1, but may be something else. Check the network router’s documentation.
The login screen may look a little different depending on the router being employed.
Look for Port Forwarding
Sample screenshot from a Linksys router.
The screen may look different than this, but the fundamentals should apply.
Setting up Port Forwarding
In this case, with an older Linksys router, it is in the Advanced area, look for something like ‘Port Forwarding’ or ‘Forwarding’ or ‘Applications and Gaming’.
- Name the Application ‘FileMaker’, so that it will be obvious to anyone who is reviewing the settings.
- Click both TCP and UDP protocols
- Target the IP address of the FileMaker Server computer using its local IP address.
- Click the ‘Enable’ button
- Cick the ‘Apply’ button
4) Setting the Server to a fixed IP address
If the router is using DHCP, it may be necessary to setup the Server computer to a manual address, to avoid the Router loosing track of which computer to route the external FileMaker Remote Access requests to. That way, whenever the server machine gets turned on, it will have this address and the address will not interfere with other dynamically assigned IP addresses of other computers on the network.
In the System Preferences, under Network, Built-in Ethernet, there may be a settings screen that allows the option of ‘Using DHCP with manual address’. Enter an IP address outside the normal range of dynamically assigned IP addresses.
For example, the normal range might be 192.168.1.100 through 192.168.1.124. Assign the Server to the IP address 192.168.1.125, above this range.
Note: Not all routers support this function, so it may be necessary to use the dynamic IP address, and periodically update the Port Forwarding table as seen in the previous screen.
FileMaker Pro clients setup for accessing Remote Access
Back in FileMaker Pro, when working offsite, select ‘File’ menu and ‘Open Remote’ option.
Open Remote File screen
Click the ‘Add’ button to add a new remote FileMaker server.
Enter the WAN address of the remote FileMaker Server computer
Give the remote address a Nickname and click ‘Save’. If all goes well, the databases on the remote FileMaker Server should show up in the next screen.