Deciding between client and server based font management

Hello,
My company wants to sort out font management issues and, after looking at different options, we're considering buying software from either Extensis or Linotype.
But the bigger question than which software maker to go with, however, is should we buy several client licenses or a server license? We couldn't fully understand the exact way font server works, so any explanations (as you'd talk to a child) are welcome.

    Could you recommend the right choice based on the below?
  1. Currently, 6 computers would need constant access to the font library (5 Macs and 1 PC). This number may increase in the future but not drastically.
  2. The designers would need the ability to search and preview all the fonts in our library. Does font server allow to do that without importing everything (hundreds) first to the client?
  3. Ability to check if a font contains specific features and glyphs.
  4. Auto activate fonts in Adobe CS (5, 5.5)

The second point is very important to us as we have hundreds of fonts, so the discoverability is crucial. Ideally, we'd like to be able to perform search based on keywords (like you do at any online font store) and choose/activate the right typeface based on preview.

Also, what are your preferences for storing fonts on a server/hard drive? Do you put all the fonts to one folder? Do you sort them according to style, foundry, format etc? Would you use Mac or PC for a font server (our general file server is Windows PC)?

If you could point us in the right direction, that would be great. Thanks!

hrant's picture

{To Follow}

Karl Stange's picture

Currently, 6 computers would need constant access to the font library (5 Macs and 1 PC). This number may increase in the future but not drastically.

Both the Extensis (UTS/UTC) and Linotype/Monotype (FontExplorer X Pro) tools would allow you to do this and with significantly more computers. I have seen successful implementations of both tools with hundreds of clients per server.

The designers would need the ability to search and preview all the fonts in our library. Does font server allow to do that without importing everything (hundreds) first to the client?

In order to preview the fonts you also need to download them to the client computer. Usually you only perform one download per client and so the process of previewing fonts is not slowed down by constant network traffic. By way of example, if you have 10,000 fonts you would perform one download per client, which might take 20 minutes depending on the network transfer speeds, server location, etc... but then you should find that each client can preview and organise that font data seamlessly. You would then only encounter new network traffic when new fonts were added to the server. The mechanisms for downloading and previewing are different for each product but I am not clear on the technicalities.

Ability to check if a font contains specific features and glyphs.

FontExplorer has a sophisticated tool built in that allows users to look at metadata, characters, Unicode values and optical and metric kerning. UTS/UTC uses the native character palette tools to display this information, at least in the Mac environment.

Auto activate fonts in Adobe CS (5, 5.5)

Both tools currently support auto-activation for these versions of Adobe CS.

Ideally, we'd like to be able to perform search based on keywords (like you do at any online font store) and choose/activate the right typeface based on preview.

The functionality associated with this is currently more sophisticated in the Extensis product.

oldnick's picture

This issue boils down to one simple question: how hard or how easy to you want to make it for determined thieves to steal this font?

fallenartist's picture

Hi Karl,
Thanks for the long answer. If both the server+client and client only option requires the whole font library to be imported first in order to perform full search/preview (as I understood you), what is the advantage of the (more expensive) font server?

fallenartist's picture

Nick,
I believe our servers are quite secure. Or did you mean something else?

Karl Stange's picture

what is the advantage of the (more expensive) font server?

With a large client distribution base the advantage is having a single repository of fonts that everyone refers to. This gives you the ability to configure that repository based on the requirements of specific users, which is particularly useful when you start to look at larger user numbers and need to adhere to smaller license figures, e.g., you may have some fonts licensed for only 10 users and so need to restrict access to those fonts.

Both tools also provide a fallback mechanism through the server option which allows you to continue working in the event that something should happen to the primary server. Each tool delivers this fallback in a different way but ultimately to the same end.

oldnick's picture

Aleksander,

You may well BELIEVE that your servers are quite secure, but I have gotten the distinct impression that NO server is really secure. Ask the Iranians, if you need some proof.

But, maybe I am just a little paranoid. My horoscope today said quite clearly that I needed to backup my work ASAP—which, actually, really needed to be done. So, I disconnected my router, powered up my grandpa box, and burned a copy of all of my critical files to DVD. Twenty-three skidoo.

Better safe than sorry; better Too safe than REALLY sorry.

Karl Stange's picture

Nick, a little paranoia, well managed and focused within understood personal and extra-personal parameters, that is, understanding that you may only be part of a larger group or system being watched, can be a useful perception of the world. Of course, if government or private hacking enterprises are data harvesting fonts perhaps it bodes well, either for the perceived global importance of fonts or perhaps as a side effect, making systems like ECHELON nicer for the data monkeys that monitor them to look at.

What I do know, less coffee and Gibson after 8pm is probably wise... Probably.

fallenartist's picture

OK, so it seems in our case (6 machines in one room) purchasing font server is a bit over the top?

Hmm, I really hoped font server software would allow our designers to directly connect to/search/preview the shared font library on a server without the need to import everything to the client each time new font is added. Why would such inconvenience be needed?

Or am I missing something?

fallenartist's picture

Nick,

I hear you but, as far as I'm aware, we are not in the possession of any valuable information worth launching a targeted attack orchestrated by a superpower. For any other random situation we should be safe.

Karl Stange's picture

Why would such inconvenience be needed?

I think it has to do with the mechanism for displaying the type requiring a local instance of it in order for the rendering to occur. Otherwise the rendering is being done across the server connection, which would cause a considerable amount of server traffic. These two tools approach this differently and I cannot speak definitively for either one, it is possible that the UTS tool allows server browsing without a download occurring.

One of the upsides of the download approach is that users can then work offline from the server until they require any new additions, particularly useful for laptop users.

Thomas Phinney's picture

UTS deals with this problem by downloading the font, yes. This is a physical and logical requirement for client-side rendering, and allows easy changing of sample text content, size, etc. Fonts downloaded by UTS solely for preview purposes are NOT made easily accessible on the client machine, however. Whether they are cached or not depends on the replication mode the user is set to (on demand, on demand local cache, or "all").

Do you have a network admin type person to set up the system, and help with occasional network-related issues? Although it is not rocket science, some familiarity with technical network/server tech is required for setup of either UTS or FEXS.

fallenartist's picture

UTS deals with this problem by downloading the font, yes.

Downloading in the background?

I specifically try to learn if the font server software streamlines searching and previewing experience or not. If not, then I can't see the advantages of UTS over Fusion in our case, really.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Yes, in the background.

UTS doesn't offer significant search/preview options that Suitcase Fusion does not, other than the possibility of not having all the fonts on your local machine. Beyond that, it gives you the ability to share a common font repository, share sets, share added metadata, track licensing, and the like. Much of which might help in finding fonts, mind you.

fallenartist's picture

Thanks for all answers. We have installed a trial version of UTS and so far so good. The preview works well and centralised shared sets are very helpful. However, the client could have more methods for font and glyph comparison, e.g. a grid view for better screen use. In general, the server software seems to work without any problems, but the UI could be improved.

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