A lot of the differences you mention can be worked around (or should work seamlessly anyway). How many work-stations need to access the file (as opposed to the number of employees)? With the feature-rich tools of Filemaker and the develpment path you will doubtless go along, I wouldn't be too quick about discounting the idea of spending some money on FM Clients. Doubtless your time isn't cheap, and denying your staff key features isn't costless, either.
You could consider a few copies of FM Client for some workstations and employees, and some (even managers, actually) who only need to see or amend limited data or who use a limited range of functions, could use web access.
Well can I just create multiple runtime apps that all look at one database (one .fp7 file) located on a server? For example, I can develop the database on the server using a copy of filemaker advanced, and then distribute the runtimes to my employees. This way, they can access one database file through each of their runtimes.
If not, what's the point of making runtimes if each runtime has a built in database that only one user can interact with and use at a time? Databases are supposed to be shared between multiple users afterall. If I wanted a one-user only personal database, why not just get Bento and save hundreds of bucks?
Filemaker is in business to make money. Most multiuser database programs require a copy purchased for each user.
Filemaker runtimes do not have networking capabilities, they are one user applications. There are clunky work arounds for syncing the data on multiple copies, but the results are less than optimal. Syncing two copies is doable, syncing multiple copies becomes exponentially more complex. The same sync workaround COULD be done with Bento, but the cost benefit of saving dollars on software compared to more complex developement expense has to be compared.
CWP (Custom Web Publishing) is another option and information about it can be found at http://fmwebschool.com
Without two copies of Filemaker, so you can evaluate the ease of use vs software cost is hard to visualize. Download a 30 day demo to two or three computers and test the ease of db sharing?
Could I user FM Server to share off one database to multiple runtimes on different machines? So not using a single runtime and networking that, but using one database and having multiple runtimes access that? Because I understand FM needs money, as we all do, but having multiple copies of FM all over the place just to view and edit one database file seems like using a bazooka when all you need is a pellet gun...
"Could I user FM Server to share off one database to multiple runtimes on different machines?"
David's answer is still valid: "Filemaker runtimes do not have networking capabilities, they are one user applications"
"What's the point of making runtimes" For example: to run a fully-functioning single point-of-access database. To let people try fully-functioning databases before buying Filemaker Clients and then going instantly multi-user. To run a database that only uses reasonably-static info on as many work-stations as you want, at no cost.
How many work-stations (not users) do you need to have shared access to your database? If the answer is 'only a few', then you're right: you only need a pellet-gun. That's cheap: just buy a couple of FM licenses, then, and you're away, with no-holds-barred. If the answer is 'dozens' then I have to wonder if you don't need a bazooka after all - sounds to me like your business would be dependent upon the DB. In which case: it's worth the investment. If only a few workstations need all of the high-end features, buy Clients for them, and let the lower-end users log on via IWP.
(And If I sound like an FM Sales Guy; I'm not. But I still think I have a valid point. But yes, I will take any commission going.)
Ok gotchya, thanks for the help anyway.