Database for a small business - OOBase, Filemaker or Access

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by Robhth, May 14, 2009.

  1. Robhth macrumors newbie

    Mar 5, 2009
    We run a small travel company, and are trying to create a relational database or something that will help with producing an itinerary for quotes/invoices and manage the bookings (ie: paid, confirmed etc).

    I have the design all mapped out on a lovely piece of paper, and I know exactly what needs to happen... However.... I can't get this into computer speak!! SQL etc are beyond me, but am pretty nifty on most Office type applications.

    Initially the plan was MS Access... but this can't be used on a Mac...
    Then I tried Open Office Base, but am finding it very different to Access - not sure if the limitations are within Base or within my knowledge (I am trying to learn).

    Filemaker may be an option, but it looks as if it may get a bit expensive as we would probably need Advanced (Pro 10 looks a bit basic?) - and hence why I used OOBase...

    Any advice, comments or hints would be welcome.... I have done a lot of searching for this, but am really stuggling to come to an answer.

    Many thanks...keep smiling...

  2. ksmith80209 macrumors 6502a

    Aug 15, 2007
    Just a question - why are you looking to use a standalone database vs. one of the new "cloud-based" systems? I was in the same place you were once, but ended up build my app on TeamDesk. It's like Access/Bento/Filemaker, etc but completely web-based. QuickBase, Zoho Creator, Perfect Forms, Iceberg, Dabble DB, Longjump and are all other alternatives you might consider.

    Just an option.
  3. BertyBoy macrumors 6502

    Feb 1, 2009
    It looks like your primary objectives are ease of use and cost.

    There's more than a few options for a local database,

    - MySQL - although you have made clear your preference not to get into SQL to achieve your goals. But if you're savvy enough to have designed a full ERD with process workflows, you're going to find using MySQL, which is extremely well documented, no more irritating than having to read a lot of documentation. It's easy to read, but if you're inclined to get into record-locking and transactions and auditing, it will get a little heavy. It's also not free for business use. You would also need some other web programming skills to build the front end on the system you have designed.

    - FileMaker Pro - as mentioned. Could definitely be the easiest to use, if you can stomach the cost it will give you the most satisfying results.

    - ACI 4th Dimension - a very steep learning curve compared to FileMaker Pro, but has infinite more flexibility. It too, is a complete solution. Cost depends on how many seats you want to use it on. FileMaker is the same, but you may get away with just one copy of FileMaker if your staff use the web interface to the database.

    - SuperCard - maybe the developer version. I've not used something like this since my OS9 days and HyperCard (which I loved). It's certainly possible, easy and cheaper than most of the others. But it'll be an inelegant solution, where you're more likely to come up against the limits of the product very quickly as you try to enhance your solution. FileMaker may be the same, but you will get further before hitting limits.

    Have you designed your backup (and restore) processes ? And "archival of obsolete data" process ? Data Protection Act in the UK (and you may have something similar in your locale) means data identifying clients must be removed after a period of time (28 days, 1 year, 7 years, etc). I'm guessing that the travel business also has rules under some anti-terrorism legislation that means you must keep client data (archived or not) available for the authorities for a period of time too.

    Best advice may be to try the FileMaker demo, you'll be able to build your system in a few hours and that should sell it to you. There's also an enormous amount of help available at the filemaker cafe forums:

    Or go with one of the online solutions, but as a business solution you're leaving your company systems at the mercy of your ISP and another web-based company. Although your data may be safe, they may fold, giving you little notice to get your company data off their servers and into another usable system.
  4. RedTomato macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    I have exactly the same query, and I was just about to open a new thread, but I think I'll post in this one instead.

    We are a small theatre company, with 5 or 6 apple laptops. I need to create a new database to track actors, venues, industry contacts, interpreters, volunteers, technical crew etc. Very small-fry stuff.

    Probably less than 200 contacts total, but we need to keep track of who does what, with comments. A single contact often fits into several categories e.g. a student interpreter who is also a part time actor and sometimes does volunteer work.

    I have pretty much the same choice as Robhth above - Access, Filemaker, OOBase, Bento.

    Access is out as we're all Apple.

    FileMaker is very expensive for our limited needs, and a bit difficult to set up. We already have a single licence for FM8 and maybe using that on a single computer is one way to go. We'll lose the ease of everyone being able to access the db from their computers.

    Bento seems perfect, as it's cheap, colourful (the staff here aren't technically minded) and can include photos etc (not essential, but nice for mugshots of actors). One snag - it's single user only, though I've heard rumors that there *might* be a multi-user version in v3. Either we install it on a single computer, or try to hack it to store its database file on our Time Capsule (apparently possible but buggy and unsupported) or server (which is actually a spare ibook).

    OOBase is worth a look and I'm in the middle of looking at it. It appears possible to host the monolithic database file on a network drive and have one networked user at a time work with it, which is fine for our needs. Not sure how easy it will be to set up.

    I haven't thought about web-based databases, but it's the usual issues that put me off - concerned about slow speeds, lack of off-line access, ownership of data, what happens if company closes down, don't want to pay monthly fees.

    Any thoughts on which one is best? Obviously my needs are more low end than Robhth above.

    Many thanks
  5. Robhth thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 5, 2009
    Thanks all - going to have a look at TeamDesk first and see how that goes. Then try other 'cloud-based' systems....

    If that fails, will give Filemaker a go, but I think I downloaded a trial a few months back do it may be over...

    Will report back....
  6. Robhth thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 5, 2009
    Teamdesk looks great, and it is almost exactly what we need. Low cost, and incredibly easy to use....

    Unfortunately you need to have IExp version 6 and MS word... and there is not IE for Mac beyond version 5!!!

    Will look for alternatives...
  7. redwarrior macrumors 603


    Apr 7, 2008
    in the Dawg house
    I've started using vtigerCRM on my own server. It's free and very customizable. So far, I'm pretty happy with it.

    My database consists of real estate leads, prospects, and customers. You can add your own fields and field values and change what is already there. I create invoices through Quicken (Windows), and email campaigns through iContact, but vtigerCRM will let you build and customize your own reports so I see no reason why you couldn't invoice through it. And report data is exportable.

    Hope this helps.
  8. iShater macrumors 604


    Aug 13, 2002
    I'll try to throw in some of my thoughts.

    I would stay away from Access because you would be locked into windows, vs. FMP allows you to run on both OSX or Windows so you have an option for your servers and your desktops if you ever decide to mix and match.

    For "cloud computing", you need to consider the company behind the software, the security of your data (hackers, backups, etc), future costs, and accessibility. If you need to check info for example on the go and you don't have a tethered laptop, you are SOL.

    Both request seem like common business database request, and I bet there are either applications or database implementations that manage that. You might have to do a bit more research to find the right application.

    In terms of writing your own. Think about what your primary business and your job is. Is it to be a database application developer and spend hours coding, implementing, testing, fixing, etc? or to focus on your business and pay for a product or someone to get it ready for you? If you value your time at say $20/hr and you are going to spend a full week (40 hours) just getting the application written, is that $800 cheaper or more expensive than buying something ready made? and how much of your time will be to enhance/support/fix it? and how much time to write some documents so other people your hire/work with can learn it?

    Just my thoughts. :)
  9. Robhth thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 5, 2009
    So far.... eliminating a lot of options... but not getting solutions!

    iShater, I am happy to throw some money at the design problem, but from then on I want to be able to manage relationships and add on some functionality.

    Thanks redwarrior - looks Tiger looks like a possibility.

    Out of all those suggested:
    • TeamDesk is great but doesn't work on Mac OS
    • Filemaker not tried yet
    • ACI 4D and Dabble DB are undergoing further analysis
    • vTigerCRM - possibly, but concerned about lack of support
    The rest of the others are too costly or user unfriendly (either too technical or not technical enough).

    Hope to have an answer later this week!!!
  10. redwarrior macrumors 603


    Apr 7, 2008
    in the Dawg house
    Thanks, Robhth, for posting your results so far.

    I have been working with vtigerCRM more, a lot more.

    I have managed to send email campaigns and changed the email and email template editor to allow for both html and WYSIWYG editing. It uses FCKeditor, and after tweaking the js, is working for me very well now.

    I'm working on invoicing and I have to tell you they look really good "right out of the box." I will tweak them a bit to get some info off that I don't need.

    The support forums have all the info you need to make it work for you, but it does require a bit of searching.
  11. Robhth thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 5, 2009

    Hi all,

    We have settled on Dabble DB
    It has some really easy to use functions and some nifty features - and is allowing us some progress. Like any solution there are some hassles to it, but we are making headway.
    Hopefully we will have a fully functional CRM, invoicing, credit control web based application running in a few weeks....

  12. platypus63 macrumors regular

    Feb 28, 2006
    Zanzibar Land
    I would highly recommend Filemaker. Cross platform, and also you can make it act like a "cloud" database, since it has a web functionality, so people can just log on to an IP address if you don't want to install a copy of the software on each computer.
  13. Taximan macrumors newbie

    Mar 26, 2009
    Look at Panorama

    I would look at Panorama it is one of the oldest mac database's. Ram based extremely fast and comes with a lot of demo databases. They have a free demo which you can get at They have a great graphic interface to include pictures. I have built databases in most mac programs for over 20 years this is onee of the easiest with great feature that make it stand out from the crowd. I think this is the one that will solve your problems. The demo is fully operational so give it a try.

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