Network Versions of DONATION

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Network Versions of DONATION

The Network versions of DONATION can be installed on multiple computers on a local area network (usually in your organization's office), or optionally on computers in separate locations (for example home and office) over the Internet. (See below for details on the Internet option.) With the Network Versions, you have only one copy of the database, on a computer running what is called the Network Server version of DONATION, and all other computers run what is called the Network Client version of DONATION, and access the database that is on the Network Server version's computer. Multiple users can run DONATION and make changes to the database simultaneously.

 

There are several other ways to run DONATION on multiple computers, detailed in the Multiple User Options page: with separate Standalone or Lite installations, copying the database around via backups, or via remote access software, or in a more automated way using the Cloud Storage Service.The options using separate Standalone versions, detailed in the pages for Cloud Storage Service and Transfer your Data between Computers, are the most common options selected by users who want to have DONATION on both home and office computers.

 

This page is only about the Network Versions, however.

 

Network Server Version

 

The Network Server version is installed via the doninstNetServer.exe installation program, which you download from the DOWNLOAD page on the website, at www.software4nonprofits.com/download.htm, by clicking the Network Server button on that page and following the prompts. This installs, as part of the installation of DONATION, the Firebird Server database software, which runs as a service on your computer, and which can make access to the database available from other computers as well. The database file must also be on a local hard drive of the computer that the Network Server version is installed on. Only one computer on a network should have the Network Server version installed on it.
 
The computer on which the Network Server version of DONATION is installed does not have to be what is conventionally called a network server computer, or be running a special Windows Server operating system, although that certainly works. Most commonly, it should just be the computer belonging to the main user of DONATION.
 
If you are upgrading from the Standalone version to the network versions, the easiest thing to do, assuming the Standalone version was already on a computer on your network that you want to keep using DONATION on, is to just upgrade that computer to the Network Server version, by running doninstNetServer.exe on it. If you have paid for the Standalone version, there will be a fee to upgrade, which varies depending on when you last paid. Details are at www.software4nonprofits.com/pricing.htm#upgrading.
 
Note: you do not have to share the drive or directory that contains the database file (normally Data\DONATION4.DB, under the program's Data Directory). The Firebird Server database does not require file sharing for it to work - it only uses TCP/IP.
 

Network Client Version

 

The Network Client version is installed via the doninstNetClient.exe installation program, which you also download from the DOWNLOAD page on the website, at www.software4nonprofits.com/download.htm, by clicking the Network Client button on that page and following the prompts. This can be used on a second or further computer on the same network that a Network Server version was installed on, and it accesses the database that is on the computer that the Network Server version was installed on.
 
When you install this version, it will prompt you to specify the network name of the computer that the Network Server version was installed on, and the filename and directory on that computer that its database file resides in (which is generally Data\DONATION4.DB, under the program's Data Directory). Be sure to give this path as it is seen from the Network Server version's computer, not via a mapped drive letter. For instance, if the Network Server computer is running Windows Vista or Windows 7 or 8, this will be C:\Users\Public\Documents\Cooperstock Software\Donation\Data\DONATION4.DB.
 
To be sure you have the correct computer name of of the computer running the Network Server version of DONATION, and path name to the database, do the following. On the computer with the Network Server version of DONATION installed on it, run DONATION, and use the Tools Network Client Information menu option. It will give you the exact information needed by the prompts for the "Computer Running Network Server" and "Full Pathname to Database File on Network Server Computer" in the Network Client version's installation program. If either of those are not entered absolutely correctly, the client version will not be able to connect to the server version. On that window, you can click Print to print the information out, or Open in Word to open the information in a file in Microsoft Word, which you could then take to the client computer and use for cutting and pasting if necessary.
 
The Network Client version will not be able to run unless the computer on which the Network Server version was installed is also running, though it doesn't have to be logged on.
 
If you ever run the Network Client version of DONATION and it can't open the database, the program will give you an option to correct its location on the Network Server version's computer. You can only correct the pathname of the database file, not the Network Server version's computer name, though. To correct the computer name, re-run the full Network Client installation program, doninstNetClient.exe.

 

Note: the two Network versions are not available with the free Lite version of DONATION.

 

Firewalls

 

If you are running a firewall on the computer running the Network Server version, you will usually have to make an adjustment, so that the Network Client computers can access the database on it. You will know you might have this problem if you get an error message during the installation of the Network Client version (and/or when trying to run that version) that includes the words "Failed to establish a connection". (Alternatively, you could get that message because either the computer name or the directory and filename of the database file were specified incorrectly, when installing the Network Client version.)

 

If you have this problem and are using the Windows Firewall on your computer running the Network Server version of DONATION, you can set up an appropriate Exception as follows:

 

For Windows XP:

 

From the Windows Start Menu, select Settings, then Control Panel.

In Control Panel, select Windows Firewall.

Assuming it is turned On (if it is Off, this isn't the problem!), make sure that "Don't allow exceptions" is not checked, then switch to the Exceptions tab.

Click the "Add Port" button, and on the window that comes up, for Name enter something like "Firebird Server for DONATION", and for Port Number enter "3050", both without the quotes. Make sure that the TCP radio button is selected.

You may want to also click the "Change Scope" button on that window, and select "My network (subnet) only", to protect it from accesses from the Internet. If you do that, click OK after making that change.

Click OK on the Add a Port window, then OK on the Windows Firewall window.

 

For Windows 7 or 8:

 

From the Windows Start Menu, select Control Panel.

In Control Panel, select Windows Firewall.

Assuming the Windows Firewall State is On (if it is Off, this isn't the problem!), click Advanced Settings on the left.

In the window that comes up, click Inbound Rules on the left, then New Rule on the right.

In the window that comes up, click Port, then Next.

Make sure TCP is selected in the next screen, and Specific Local Ports is selected. To the right of Specific Local Ports, enter "3050", without the quotes, in the entry field. Click Next.

Make sure Allow the Connection is selected in the next screen, and click Next.

You can leave all of the checkboxes selected in the next screen (though it's probably safer to uncheck "Public"), and then click Next.

Enter a Name for this rule on the next screen (for example something like "Firebird Server for DONATION"), then click Finish.

You can then close the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security window

 

For other versions of Windows, it should be something similar to one of the two above sets of steps.

 

If you are using different firewall software (not Windows Firewall), the important thing is to allow incoming TCP accesses to port number 3050 on the computer running the Network Server version of DONATION.

 

License Keys

 

When you receive license keys for the program, special license keys are needed if you are using the Network versions (Network Server on one computer, Network Client on one or more other computers). The network versions of DONATION always allows up to five simultaneous users for the one price.

 

The same license key should be installed on all computers on your network on which you install DONATION, whether they are running the Network Server version or the Network Client version. This applies both to your initial install, and if you get an updated license key after any annual renewal payment.

 

Detecting your Version

 

If you are not sure which version of DONATION you are running, use Help About DONATION ..., and it will tell you in the window that comes up.

 

Simultaneous Users and Limitations

 

To be clear about simultaneous users, you are allowed to have one Network Server installation, and any number of Network Client installations. Multiple users can be running DONATION at the same time, accessing the same database.

 

While you can have simultaneous users running DONATION, there are some actions in the program that can only be run when you are the only user running DONATION. There are also some actions that can only be run from the Network Server installation. For instance, Restoring a backup database, Validating your database or creating a new database in the Database Switch Databases window can only be done from the Network Server installation. And making backups behaves somewhat differently, depending on which version you are using.

 

Some actions can only be done when you are the only user running DONATION (whether on a Network Server version or a Network Client version) because we have judged that there is too much danger of conflicting or inconsistent data being put into the database if more than one person tries to do the same actions at the same time. For instance, creating receipts with the Receipt menu options, or using One Date Batch Entry of donations. In these cases, you will receive a message from the program informing you of why you cannot do that action at that time. To resolve the problem, ask other simultaneous users of DONATION to exit the program, and then try the action again.

 

In some other cases, two or more users can do the same thing at the same time (for example creating or editing donors or donations on the main window), but in unusual circumstances, you may get an error message. For instance, suppose two users are simultaneously making an address change for the exact same donor. The first one that clicks Save will have their changes saved, but the second one will probably get a slightly technical-looking error message saying "Record changed between retrieve and update", and will not be able to save their changes. They will have to click Cancel to abandon their changes.

 

When you do have a network version allowing for simultaneous users, a Refresh button appears at the top right of the Donor List on the main window. Clicking that will reload the main window, to pick up changes made by other simultaneous users, for instance added or deleted donors, changes to donor names, changes to the lists of donor or donation categories, etc.

 

Although the DONATION program almost never crashes, if it does, or if a user running DONATION restarts or turns off their computer without exiting DONATION first or there is a power failure, a minor problem can occur. Any user on another computer that tries to run DONATION may get a message that the maximum number of simultaneous users has been exceeded, when it in fact hasn't. That's because the copy of DONATION that crashed, or wasn't exited properly when its computer was restarted, didn't have a chance to notify the Firebird Server that it had exited, and thus the Firebird Server thinks it is still using up one of your simultaneous users. Fortunately, this problem is easily resolved - wait two minutes and try again, and it will be OK, because indications in the Firebird Server that any given simultaneous user is using DONATION are automatically cleared after two minutes.

 

Switching Databases and the Network Version

 

If you are maintaining multiple databases for multiple organizations with the Database ⇒ Switch Databases menu option, only the Network Server version can create new databases. Once it has done so, users of the Network Client version can also access those new databases.

 

Uninstalling the Network Server Version of DONATION

 

If you are running the network server version of DONATION, and you decide to uninstall DONATION, an extra step may be required.

 

If you are sure you do not want to use DONATION again, and if in addition you are sure that you are not running any other applications that use the Firebird Server database software, you can uninstall the Firebird Server from Control Panel's Add or Remove Programs tool (called Programs and Features in Windows Vista). It will show as "Firebird 2.0.3" in the list of installed programs.

 

If you have version 3.11 or higher of DONATION, you may be prompted to uninstall the Firebird Server as part of DONATION's uninstall process. If you do get that prompt, and answer Yes, then you don't have to also separately remove it with Control Panel.

 

Using Terminal Services Clients

 

Some users have asked about having the clients access a single Network Client installation via Terminal Services, rather than installing the Network Client version of DONATION on their individual computers. If this would mean that each client would appear to have the same COMPUTERNAME (in its environment variables) that could cause very serious problems. The reason is explained above, where it talks about some features (including issuing receipts) that can only be done when only one user is running DONATION at a time. When each user's COMPUTERNAME is the same, no matter how many users are running simultaneously, the program will always think there is only one user, because that is how they are distinguished. So those actions that we have deemed to be dangerous if more than one user was attempting them at the same time will be able to be done by multiple users simultaneously.

 

So, the obvious conclusion is to not do that. If you are using Terminal Services, it must be done in a way where each user appears to have a different COMPUTERNAME.

 

Using the Network Versions over the Internet

 

Although the Network Versions are usually run only over a local area network within one location, it is also possible to run them over the Internet, for instance so that users can access the same database installed in your office, from their homes. However, you will almost certainly need assistance from a network support person to get this working. (We cannot talk a person that isn't familiar with networking issues and router configurations through this!)

Unless you absolutely have to have multiple users having simultaneous access to the same database over the Internet, we would strongly recommend instead considering using the Cloud Storage Service, which allows users to take turns using the same database in a controlled way.
 
The first requirement to set up the Network versions over the Internet this is that you have a computer (which could be a real server or a normal workstation computer or laptop) in your office, which can be accessed via a static IP address and/or an Internet-accessible hostname, on which you can install the Network Server version of DONATION. You will have to leave that computer always running (though DONATION doesn't have to be running on it) so that the other computers you want to access DONATION on over the Internet can access it.
 
Technically, the computer running the Network Server version of DONATION could even be a home computer, but then you would have to leave it on at all reasonable hours when someone else might want to access the database. And also, Internet speeds on home computers are often slower than those in your office.
 
If the computer you want to run the Network Server version of DONATION on does not have a static IP address or Internet-accessible hostname, you can use free or inexpensive services such as www.dyndns.org or www.no-ip.com to set one up.
 
Next, as usual with the Network version of DONATION, you need to follow the instructions above under Firewalls, to open up your firewall on the computer running the Network Server version, to allow incoming accesses on port 3050.
 
Assuming that computer is behind a router, you need to use the router's user interface (usually web-based) to allow for port forwarding of incoming requests on port 3050 to that computer running the Network Server version of DONATION. Some router software may call that something like "enabling application support".
 
Once that is all set up, install the Network Client version of DONATION on whichever other computers you want to install it on, as long as they have high-speed Internet access. Presumably this will be some of your users' home computers. When that installation program prompts for the hostname for the network server computer, give it the correct hostname, as discussed above. (You can alternatively give it the IP address, but only if that is a true static IP address.) If everything has been set up correctly, those remote instances of DONATION should then work, accessing the database on the computer in your office that is running the Network Server version of DONATION.
 
Please note that because the data access is over the Internet, even with a high-speed Internet connection this will run significantly slower than the normal Standalone version, or even the Network Client version installed on another computer in your office. You will have to test this for yourself to determine how acceptable you think those speeds are. If you are not satisfied, you can use one of the other Multiple User Options instead.
 
In our testing, we were not able to also have additional Network Client versions of DONATION within our own local area network work successfully accessing the Network Server version's computer via its external hostname (which we established via www.no-ip.org). We had to set it to the internal hostname of the Network Server version's computer, and then it worked fine.
 
If you are going to use this Network Version setup over the Internet, you absolutely must put a password on your database, via the Database ⇒ Change Password ⇒ Program Entry Password menu option, and optionally also set the other passwords there if you use them. That is because anybody that knows the hostname of your Network Server version's computer could install the Network Client version of DONATION on their computer and access and modify your DONATION data, as long as they could get past any password prompt it gave them.
 
Also of course if you are going to do this, you need to pay for the Network Version of DONATION. (However, you can test it out during the initial 60-day evaluation period, prior to your purchase.)