1 2 Previous Next 18 Replies Latest reply on Jun 5, 2015 5:17 PM by Mike_Mitchell

    questions for FileMaker Experts

    douglas168

      Hi FileMaker Experts,

       

      We are a non-profit organization and is considering doing a database driven web application for internal use.  We are evaluating to see if FileMaker 14 is right tool for us.  Below are questions we have...

       

      1- Though we have people who can do programming, by all means they are no programming experts nor web application developers.   How much coding does FileMaker need in order to produce fuctional application?

       

      2- We are concern about Filemaker cost.   Do we need a FMP license for each workstation running the FM app?

       

      3- We are also concren about FileMaker server cost.   Can we use open source database such as MySQL with FM?  Would that take away FM rapid development (how easy is it to use FM with MySQL? and would you recommend it?)

       

      4- Any other comparable database web application development tools similar that you may suggest we evaluate too?

       

      Appreciate all your help,

      NewComer

        • 1. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts
          JStars

          Hi, Douglas:

           

          You can find out about the costs of the software at FileMaker's website.

           

          As to how much it might cost to develop something for you, at this point you haven't defined what you need. It would be like you asking how much it will cost to build a house. I might tell you a very low number for a tar-paper shack, or a very large number for a mansion in San Diego. The discovery process to clarify your needs will take some time (and money) with the help of an expert developer. If your budget is very small (another relative phrase), you would have to depend on the help of generous people.

           

          Regarding MySQL (and others like it), you will spend more on the cost of development, because FileMaker is a much faster development tool. But again, it depends on how complex your needs are.

           

          J **

          • 2. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts
            CarstenLevin

            Hi Douglas,

             

            1- Though we have people who can do programming, by all means they are no programming experts nor web application developers.  How much coding does FileMaker need in order to produce fuctional application?

            The main issue is not how to build the solution in FileMaker. The main issue is to have a very strong understanding of what it is you want, your task, the business rules and the functionality and user interface and UX you vant.

            If you are strong on that you will probably succeed building a good solution with FileMaker.

            Could you tell a little bit more about what you want to achieve, the scope and the size of the solution, the number of users etc.

            Without knowing more I would advice you to start here: Begin with the "Basics" ... but the Advanced is very very good, so consider continuing with that.

             

            2- We are concern about Filemaker cost.  Do we need a FMP license for each workstation running the FM app?

            You will have to pay for FileMaker. But there are educational licences that may be available to you. Ask FileMaker.

            You can also consider using WebDirect with FileMaker 14, thereby getting easier deployment and no local software licenses. All depending on the solution and what it should do for you.

            The developer(s) should have FileMaker Pro, may I suggest the Advanced edition?

             

            3- We are also concren about FileMaker server cost.  Can we use open source database such as MySQL with FM?  Would that take away FM rapid development (how easy is it to use FM with MySQL? and would you recommend it?)

            Yes, MySQL is very capable and you can use MySQL with FileMaker clients, and if you are very competent you can use a MySQL server and have many of the advantages of a FileMaker Server ... but not all!

            And your devlopment will be hampered by not having a full FileMaker Server etc. etc.

             

            If the annual price of a FileMaker Server is a problem for you, even compared to the many hours you have to put into building your solution, you can consider having your databases hosted at a FileMaker hosting provider. There are many to choose from. This is cheaper than having our own server.

             

            But, please, if pricing is your main issue you may be in trouble. A FileMaker Server (or hosting) and the FileMaker Pro clients will cost you very few $ per day/monts if you choose an AVLA (Annual Volumen Licence Agreement). If this is a problem you will probably not have the time to build your solution?

             

            Best regards


            Carsten

            • 3. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts
              PeterWindle

              You may also want to consider the following:

               

              There may be many already made solutions that suit some of your needs.

               

              This is perhaps where FileMaker really shines. Why? Because if someone has built the framework for most of what you do in FileMaker, it would take little work to make it work for you. FileMaker is easier to customise than a lot of other platforms.

               

              Could save you time and money if you find a filemaker solution that comes close to fitting your needs, then customising it for your use.

              Building something from scratch (no matter what platform) is time consuming and requires careful thought and planning.

              • 4. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts
                Mike_Mitchell

                Douglas -

                 

                1) JStars is correct. It's like asking, "How long is a piece of string?" Without knowing how much functionality constitutes a "functional" application, it's impossible to say. However, programming a FileMaker application that does the same thing as, say, a .NET or PHP/mySQL application is considerably less burdensome.

                 

                2) You said you wanted a web-based application. If that's what you're set on, then your cost is reduced, since each workstation won't need a license. However, that means you'll either need to program a web-based front-end using PHP (this is called Custom Web Publishing), or use FileMaker's WebDirect technology. WebDirect is a good technology, with a couple of caveats: First, it's demanding of server resources, so you'll either need to pony up for some good server hardware, or use a hosting service. Second, you kinda have to know how to optimize it properly to get good performance. The good news is that there are resources available through this forum and FileMaker's documentation to help you with that, and since you said you're working with a nonprofit, I'm guessing you have a small user base (your concern about cost gives me another clue in that direction).

                 

                The flip side is, if you just bite the bullet and purchase the FileMaker licenses (and as Peter has pointed out, you can get steep discounts for being a nonprofit and buying volume licenses), your programming chores go way down and your user experience will be greatly improved.

                 

                3) As others have said, yes, you can use an open source database such as mySQL with FileMaker, but there's really no point in doing so. You still have to have a FileMaker server available to interact with it, and your programmers have to be able to run not only FileMaker, but mySQL as well. If your folks don't have a lot of programming chops, I'd avoid trying to use a traditional SQL database. You'll give yourself migraines.

                 

                FileMaker is largely aimed at precisely the sort of customer you are: A small organization without a dedicated programming staff with a need to keep costs and time investment low. Just based on what you've told us, I think it's a good fit.

                 

                HTH

                 

                Mike

                • 5. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts
                  StephenWonfor

                  Douglas

                   

                  You would do well to take a look at FMStartingPoint as a template on which to explore Filemaker capabilities.  Totally free and it works "right out of the box".  I work with a number of non-profits who have complete systems built from that template.  Also you can get non-profit pricing from Filemaker Inc. as well.

                   

                  Stephen

                   

                  "Unix was not designed to stop you from doing stupid things, because that would also stop you from doing clever things."  ~Doug Gwyn

                  • 6. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts
                    AllegroDataSolutions

                    Short answer (though it may not be what you want to hear):

                     

                    Databases typically take longer to build and cost more than most people who have never used a serious one expect. The advantage to using FileMaker is that you get more for your money, and quicker results, than anything else. You will appreciate this even more once your first build is up and running and you need to make changes.

                     

                    Most people who are new to databases don't appreciate that the really useful ones are built incrementally, over time. I usually try to get my clients up and running with just their core functions right away, so they can use it in their daily operations and get real world feedback from their staff, rather than spending a lot of time and resources on features they THOUGHT they needed but may not be necessary in practice.

                     

                    You definitely want to use a professional FileMaker developer. I'm not saying you couldn't develop a solution yourself. It's hard to build a really bad database in FileMaker. But I can't tell you how many clients come to me with solutions they built and used for years until they painted themselves into a corner and needed someone to sort out the mess. Often it's easier to start from scratch at that point than to try to fix what they have done.

                     

                    So, the best advice I can give is to keep your goals for your first build very modest and prioritize them for your developer. A good one will work with you, and try to complete the features in order of your preference, if possible. That way you can stop before you go over your budget and postpone additional features until you can afford them.

                     

                    Before you talk to a developer, work out your budget with your board, your donors, or whoever is funding you. For a first database, you want to think in terms of it taking several years and doing some work on it each year. This makes it easier to manage the budget, employee training, etc. It's also easier to get funding for subsequent years when you can show them the results of what you have done so far.

                     

                    FWIW - I have a client who spent a lot of money hiring a consulting firm to research all this. Their final recommendation was pretty much as I have described above (including the recommendation to use FileMaker).

                     

                    Best of luck,

                     

                    Allegro Data Solutions

                    • 7. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts
                      siplus

                      How true... but remember what mothership advertising sez :

                       

                      • Easily create custom solutions that transform your business.

                       

                      Have you ever considered creating your own solution — one that does exactly what you need — but thought it would be too difficult or time consuming? Then the FileMaker Platform is right for you.

                       

                      The FileMaker Platform is ideally suited for your unique needs. Quickly create and run solutions that work seamlessly across iPad, iPhone, Windows, Mac and the web— no programming skills needed. It’s easy and affordable to get started — so you can see the immediate results and instantly transform your business.


                      Breaking news: some ppl actually believe it. (The "you" implicit or explicit part, that is).

                      • 8. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts
                        taylorsharpe

                        siplus: 

                        How true... but remember what mothership advertising sez :

                         

                        • Easily......

                         

                        Siplus... yes... FM marketing has always touted it being easy.  And compared to big SQL iron and programming user interfaces, FM is easy.  But few of my clients would ever agree with that FM is easy. 

                         

                        Many of them over time gradually learn more about FM and it becomes an dispensable tool, but at first, it is a bit frustrating for new people to just jump in and learn with a lot of dependence on the consultant at first.  I do refer a lot of new people to Lynda.com and VTC.com for basic training.  Once they have that down, other places like RCConsulting and ISO FileMaker Magazine have some good video training as well as others out there.  But training staff takes a commitment of staff time by management. 

                         

                        I usually make a comparison that they can relate to.  I ask them how much it took for some of their staff to become experts at Excel.  It doesn't happen over night.  FileMaker is the next step up in complexity, but has a lot of basic foundational ideas of spreadsheets.  So I tell them double the time it took them to be experts in Excel and they will have a reasonably proficient in-house developer.  Not a certified one or a consultant, but a good in-house person that can do many things, but probably needs support of outside consultant here and there.  And it is not for all staff... I recommend focusing on staff that seem to have a nitch for Excel and other computer tools.  If someone doesn't even know spreadsheets well... I just tell them they are best as end users and not developers, and discourage them even taking time to do the training. 

                        • 9. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts
                          Stephen Huston

                          Taylor Sharpe wrote, in part:

                           

                          FM marketing has always touted it being easy.  And compared to big SQL iron and programming user interfaces, FM is easy.  But few of my clients would ever agree with that FM is easy.

                          Having used FM for about 30 years, and developing for others now about 20 years, I would agree with Taylor on this part completely. Each product version has improved, but part of the improvement has been new tools to learn before one can implement the new functionalities. FMP14 is nothing like the simplicity of what Nutshell and Claris released backed when.

                           

                          I now see FM-newbies completely stumped when trying dig through pre-built starter solutions to figure out how things work, and giving up or calling in expert help more often than not because they made the mistake of trying to adapt some Starter.FMP12 file to do what they personally want.

                           

                          If more newbies built something basic on their own, most of them would get something working sooner. One really can't take a prebuilt system with dozens of tables, hundreds of TOs and  layouts, and turn it into a simple custom solution. It is already way beyond simple — even to understand — especially if it's your first FM project ever.

                          • 10. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts
                            CarstenLevin

                            Hi newcomer,

                             

                            You are getting some good advice here, but we can not be very precise when we do not know anything about your requirements, the scope, the number of users, one type of users or many types (internal/administrative/only need to see information etc.).

                             

                            Give us some more and you will probably receive a lot of good advice.

                            • 11. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts

                              1) You can create usefull files with almost no scripting or advanced knowledge needed.

                              2) You can fall into a deep dark pit of trying to be a genius programmer and do wonderful things.

                              3) People here will be glad to help you with 2. 

                              • 12. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts
                                erolst

                                jackrodgers wrote:

                                1) You can create usefull files with almost no scripting or advanced knowledge needed.

                                 

                                But in that case, you might be better off with the good ship MS Excel …

                                 

                                jackrodgers wrote:

                                2) You can fall into a deep dark pit of trying to be a genius programmer and do wonderful things.

                                 

                                 

                                Why so negative? You may discover you like it and embark on a new career/passion …

                                 

                                jackrodgers wrote:

                                3) People here will be glad to help you with 2.

                                 

                                 

                                But of course – be it dark pit or bright passion!

                                • 13. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts
                                  AllegroDataSolutions

                                  You could also say "one can write a Pulitzer Prize winning novel with MS Word", but that doesn't mean every user can or will. I find that most novices get into trouble because they don't have a good grasp of relational theory or how to normalize a database. The problem is more with their concept than anything they do in FileMaker. I think development is one of those things that some people take to naturally, others can learn, while still others will always be hopeless (like me trying to learn to dance).

                                   

                                  I'm not saying that anyone couldn't knock off a solution that's appreciably better than using Excel (or Access, for that matter). But, in my experience, most small to mid-sized organizations that are doing any kind of serious work need a bit more than that to justify the time and expense of developing a single solution in-house. It's a different story for larger organizations. (I was an in-house developer for one myself, for a number of years, before I started my own company.)

                                   

                                  Allegro Data Solutions

                                  • 14. Re: questions for FileMaker Experts
                                    siplus

                                    amateurs fitting random solutions to their needs (Filemaker starter solutions included) and finding themselves with something they can't manage anymore are the bread and butter of our business, helping us constantly to step up from no profit, no loss to profit

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