1 2 Previous Next 17 Replies Latest reply on Jun 12, 2016 1:34 PM by user27280

    Is FileMaker the right product?

    user27280

      Hi all,

       

      Looking for some advice really before I make the leap into Filemaker.  I have used this product many years ago and it seems to have moved on significantly since then however I still have some concerns whether this would be the correct choice for my proposed solution.

       

      I am looking to make a salesmans analysis tool that can be used remotely (with no network connection in many cases) so that it can be taken to a customers site for salesman to use as tool for driving new opportunities and account reviews.  The industry is primarily trade related in the construction industry with salesman assigned to a range of customers across a branch network of shops/yards.

       

      We are talking around 500K sales transactions per month across all customers - getting the data out of the trading system is relatively straightforward - scheduled CSV exports can be created for the key tables.

       

      My concerns are as follows:

       

      • The cost of the solution - I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that server would be the best option for loading the data from the trading system. How do I get it onto the mobile device (FileMaker Go on iPads) - what if the salesman want to add notes, prepare quotes onsite in the future - how can I get these synced back to the master database.
      • The market is moving to SAAS solutions - how is FileMaker in this arena.  My clients will not typically be used to running and maintaining servers and databases.  The majority of them use hosted trading systems, Office 365 etc so are likely to want a similar solution.
      • Using Filemaker to create dashboard type interfaces - I have seen a couple of examples floating around - how good is FileMaker at graphs etc - can the graphs be drill down capable?
      • Can the imports from CSV files be scripted so this is not a manual process?

       

      I guess my main worry is that perhaps I should invest my time learning the new web technologies - I do have experience of database programming over the past 20 years but not in web related interfaces.  Is opting for FileMaker limiting my future options - could it be a dead end?

       

      Any help appreciated!

        • 1. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
          miler24

          In short, yes, FileMaker is the right solution for you.  We've focused heavily in the construction market vertical including suppliers, subcontractors, GCs, and field service firms, so I understand the issues you've mentioned.  Our existing solution does just about everything you're speaking of as is.  It can be customized (it's FileMaker!) if there are parts that are not.

           

          If you decide to build yourself, FileMaker will be by far the fastest tool to get your solution deployed.  With the new FileMaker iOS SDK, you can even create an iOS app that can be approved for App Store use or deployed using MDM.  As for syncing, pushing data through the FileMaker PHP API would allow you to deploy virtually unlimited offline apps and let them sync with a hosted FileMaker Server.  Staff can easily add notes, prepare detailed PDF quotes, capture signatures, take payment, store pictures, and much more.  Beautiful dashboards can be built in FileMaker with native tools and can show summary data based on user's role.  You can also use freely available javascript widgets to have additional dynamic UI elements too.

           

          Yes, the market is absolutely moving to SaaS.  Customers want very low prices, it needs to work on any device anywhere, super easy to use, includes training videos, help guides, be fully customizable, includes full-support, free upgrades, included hosting, backups, and licensing.

           

          So, that's what we did.  Our SaaS FileMaker solution "Kosmas" is only $49/month/user and includes everything.

           

          In any event, FileMaker can be a fun process to realize your dream from concept to reality quickly.

           

          Happy coding!

          Eric Miller

          DocuWrx

          • 2. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
            user27280

            Thanks Eric - the companies I work with already have full ERP systems in place from a company called Kerridge in the UK.  The missing link is the mobility aspect - they do not have any service offerings in this area.

            • 3. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
              Mike_Mitchell

              Eric is correct; FileMaker is a good tool for this use case. You will likely need some good advice regarding optimization for 500K transactions per month. That's the only bit of information you've told us that makes me take note. FileMaker can do it, but you'll need to optimize the database very carefully and structure it for good throughput. Perhaps multiple instances of the solution for different customers?

               

              You do not need to know web technologies for FileMaker to work. There are commercial syncing utilities that can go directly from FileMaker Go (or the SDK) to a FileMaker server. So I wouldn't worry about that too much. (I wouldn't go with CSV import / export, though. That will be cumbersome for the end users with the mobile devices.)

               

              Commercial hosting companies also exist that can handle the hosting chores for you and will make it "feel" more like a SAAS solution. You can set up an account with a hosting company yourself, set up FileMaker Server, and then just parcel it out to the users.

               

              One of FileMaker's biggest strengths is the mobility aspect. For very low development investment, you have mobility due to the presence of FileMaker Go and the SDK. So I would push on that point with the potential customers.

               

              HTH

               

              Mike

              • 4. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
                user27280

                Thank you for your reply - much appreciated.  I seem to remember reading that the recent changes to licensing in FM15 make it difficult for hosting companies to offer shared platforms at a lower cost.  Is this the case?

                • 5. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
                  Mike_Mitchell

                  You want a dedicated server for what you're suggesting. Licensing changes don't affect that.

                  • 6. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
                    miler24

                    This depends on your long-term objectives; i.e, are you going to create a vertical market solution that's identical for each of your clients.  If you feel you need to customize each one, or you don't feel there's a big enough market for what you want to do, then Mike is correct, a dedicated server will be required for each client.

                     

                    However, if you're making a solution you sell over and over or allow access to many customers and it does not require customization, then you can sell it via FileMaker's Solution Bundle Agreement (SBA) program.  You first have to be a FileMaker Business Alliance (FBA) firm and then submit your completed solution for review.  If authorized, you can receive special discounted licensing and have multi-tenant hosting under certain conditions.  This is what we do with our "Kosmas" solution and it's the foundation for our successful business.

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                    • 7. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
                      user27280

                      When you say 'dedicated server' do you mean from a hardware perspective or from a FM Server (software) perspective?  I assume you mean each instance of FM Server should be running on its own OS instance but that each instance could be on a VPS platform and as such at a lower cost than a fully dedicated hardware hosted platform which is very expensive?

                      • 8. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
                        Mike_Mitchell

                        FileMaker Server. A VM is fine.

                        • 9. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
                          Mike_Mitchell

                          I didn’t say “for each client”. Regardless of whether he provides the service (and is therefore the “customer” from the EULA perspective), or whether he provides a completely separate server for each client, it’s still a dedicated server.

                           

                          But yes, you can use a single dedicated server for multiple client databases - which is “multi-tenancy” from the point of his customers, but not from a EULA perspective, because there’s only one person who has access to the database design, ability to host files, etc.

                           

                          (Just wanted to clarify.)

                          • 10. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
                            miler24

                            My response was to "user27280", just to clarify.  SBA approval is one of the requirements in order to have multiple client databases hosted under one FileMaker Server 15 license.  It's important to mention that.

                            • 11. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
                              user27280

                              Just spent an hour reading into the FBA and the SBA - as a single person starting out the preconditions seem very onerous especially for the SBA.  Am I right in thinking too that the server licences (not legacy licensing) are only available in 5 user chunks - I can't expect my clients with 6 salesman to pay for 10 connections surely.  Have I misunderstood this?

                              • 12. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
                                Mike_Mitchell

                                Until you're a full-time day operation, you will not be able to join the FBA - which means the SBA will be off-limits. As a freelancer, then, this option is not available.

                                 

                                But to answer the question, yes, if you have 6 users (under FLT), you have to pay for 10. You may do better in these cases to look at one of the legacy options.

                                • 13. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
                                  Mike_Mitchell

                                  Also, consider: usually, businesses grow and end up needing additional people over time. Having the number of licenses you need now, and in the immediate future, means fewer trips back and forth with Sales. Your time is worth something, right?

                                  • 14. Re: Is FileMaker the right product?
                                    user27280

                                    On the licensing mechanism in 15 - how are the 5 licences managed. Is it 5 concurrent or is it more like a CAL licence in the Windows world I.e a licence is required for every possible user. If so how does it track the usage if on a daily basis only 2-3 users would typically connect - does it use device hardware details to control or is it basically an EULA trust agreement?

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