Filemaker Pro allows 9 users to access a shared database at the same time using Filemaker Pro.
Filemaker Pro allows 5 users at the same time to access the database with a web browser.
The default is on the same network.
If you want to access it from remote locations, settings in your router must be made. http://portforward.com
FMGo is free for iPhones and iPads, no android, at this time.
Filemaker Server allows 100 users, Filemaker Server Advanced allows 100 web brower users.
Filemaker Pro is $300 per seat, 5 user discounts are available http://www.filemaker.com/purchase/resellers/pricing_licensing.html
One choice would be to pay to have the databased hosted by a Filemaker Hosting Service - $20 tp $40 per month
So this is closer... I want a DB on my computer. I want the rest of us to be able to have resident on our iphones or ipads, a synced copy of the data on my laptop. Then I want each iphone or ipad to have resident the data from the laptop, be able to update it, and then sync it back to the laptop when we meet up again. This has a future with us in doing research projects in my field where students to interviewing.
Sorry I didn't finish. So what combination of products does this cheapest and best for 5 people? for 9 people?
I think you'll need to research the costs for yourself as there are a lot of variables.
360Works and SeedCode offer synch solutions for syncing data from an iOS device back to the central database. But what you describe is not a simple undertaking for any system that synchs data in this fashion. Consider this scenario:
You take your copy of the DB on your iPad and meet with a customer. He gives you a new cell phone number so you put it in the cell phone field in the customer's record--replacing a number the customer no longer uses. Another user is working with their copy of the database and notice that the street name on that same customer record is mispelled and corrects the mispelling.
An effective "synch" system would need to merge both your changes and the coworker's changes back into the same record and that's not a simple undertaking. Many synch systems would keep whatever version of this record is last synched. If you synch last, the cell phone number is kept but the street name error is kept. If your coworker synchs last, the street name is corrected but the cell phone number is lost.
If you have a decent wireless connection, it would be far simpler to connect as clients of the hosted database so that any changes made are immediately saved back to the host database. FileMaker then uses Record Locking to keep two users from modifying the same record at the same time and this avoids the above issue.
A 30 day trial of Filemaker is available. http://filemakertrial.com
Downloading, installing, and creating your first database from the included templates should not take longer than an hour.
FMGo 12 is free for iPhone and iPad. The templates in Filemaker 12 have layouts for iPad and iPhone display builtin.
Rather than waving arms, I would do the installs and see for yourself. Only cost you some time.
How do I share my files with FileMaker Go? (with pictures)