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Always available FileHold systems

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Many customers require FileHold to be available at all times. Whether it is supporting a business-critical function or thousands of users, the need is the same. If documents are not available, employees are not able to get their work done.

Customers have a variety of options when licensing and deploying FileHold and some of those options address concerns of availability.

  1. Install a cold backup server that can be brought online in the event of a production server failure. Ideally, you would have your databases on a high availability SQL server and your document repository and full text index files on a high availability NAS or SAN. The production and backup FileHold servers would point to the same database instance and the same logical drives, so there is no need to worry about replicating any data. Only one FileHold server (IIS) would be started at one time. Your reverse proxy or DNS would be pointed to the server that is in production.
  2. Setup the FileHold server in a live motion virtual environment. In the event of a network or hardware failure at one virtual host, the virtualization would start FileHold on the other host. As before, you would have a high availability instance of the database and the logical drives.

There are a couple of licensing options for a highly available FileHold system. FileHold automatically grants a 7 day license extension whenever there is a change in our node lock. There is a change in our node lock whenever FileHold is started on a host it does not recognize. FileHold administrators are notified when this 7 day period starts and they can request a replacement license from FileHold or they can repair the original problem with the production server and switch back before the 7 days expires.

For option 1, if you do not want to have the 7 day limitation, we offer a backup license. This license is available for non-production servers. In this scenario, each server would have a permanent license, but only one can be in production at one time. The non-production backup license has a special lower price relative to the production license price.

We know through a lot of real world experience with our customers that failures in FileHold are very rare where there is good IT governance and good IT operations. Option 2 easily handles the case where hardware fails with near zero downtime for users.

A large number of our installs have SQL server running on a dedicated server machine. In these scenarios, customers can deploy the standard Microsoft high availability option for SQL server. FileHold makes available database connection strings for any sites that would like to tune how the FileHold server interacts with the high availability SQL server.

When there are many hundreds or thousands of users involved, we also recommend designing a server landscape of at least two or three server instances to allow for testing and development. This makes it possible to trial new features and configurations and planning and testing your release management in a way that does not affect your production environment. As with the backup option, lower cost licenses are available for any non-production server in your landscape.

Although not directly related to fault tolerance, active management and monitoring of your database server by a database administrator will help to ensure good performance and uptime for your users. FileHold is a highly configurable and flexible solution and no two sites will stress the database server in exactly the same way. Users on large systems can experience time outs and related errors when accessing critical shared tables in the system if SQL server is not well tuned and does not respond quickly enough to all requests.

For customers with less than 200 users this database tuning is important, but not so critical. However, when you have many hundreds or thousands of users on the system, this is a very important topic. The actual numbers vary as it depends on what types and how many searches are taking place, how many new documents are being added each minute, etc.

On the topic of large user populations. You may wish to plan to separate the application server from the web client, mobile web client, or Courier client server. This is not needed if most users access the system with the desktop client or you have a relatively small number of users. The separation of the server based client software from the application server is a standard FileHold server installation option. As with the desktop clients, there is no license cost from FileHold for extra installations of these server based clients.

profile picture russ beinder Russ Beinder is the Chief Technology Officer at FileHold. He is an entrepreneur, a seasoned business analyst, computer technologist and a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). For the last 25 years he has used computer technology to help organizations solve business problems.