FileMaker is a very popular and easy to use database. It owes it's popularity to it's ease of use. It is the starting point for many a database developement company including this one. We started using it in the early 1990's to catalog shareware at the Boston Computer Society. FileMaker let's you quickly develop a database that provides a good solution for a set of needs.
FileMaker tends to be used by those who have a sense of comfort with it’s perceived ease of use. Quite often those who originally purchased the software and are the users of it cease to be the developers of their system as their needs become more detailed and complex. At that point they seek the services of a professional developer.
Database development is a chess game and the goal is to be in a position at the end of the game to make critical moves. FileMaker generally is not good at that. It’s good at getting something simple done quickly. If you plan your database from the beginning then there are much better choices for a database system and for a lot less cost.
What we like about FileMaker:
- Easy to learn and build a database. FileMaker has a very intuitive graphical interface for building a database. The database engine and the UI are bound together so you don’t have to worry about the engine for the most part.
- Solid network of qualified consultants. There is a strong network of professional consultants who support FileMaker installations as a business.
- Supports ODBC connectivity. This lets us build applications to get data into and out of a FileMaker database without having to use FileMaker thus saving on the cost licensing.
- Strong support through forums, groups, and email lists.
What we don't like about FileMaker:
- Easy to learn and build a database. FileMaker may create a false belief that database development is simple. It's not but it can be for simple applications. If a database is not well planned then it can be a big problem down the road.
- Solid network of qualified consultants. If FileMaker were so simple why would there be a need for consultants? We believe this is mostly due to the first point. Because FileMaker is so quick to get up and running with a good database you will need the benefits of professional database development strategies as your system grows. Whether you take the time to learn them yourself or hire someone is a decision you may face. Most people hire someone. FileMaker consulting is generally on the expensive side of the spectrum.
- FileMaker is not taught in any college or university in the US that we know of. Most database systems can be learned in college. This provides a good source of potential candidates who can work on your database.
- Cost of ownership. FileMaker is expensive. It can be quite expensive by comparison to alternatives. Per seat costs, server costs, concurrent server connection costs, and support costs are all above average.
- Annual upgrade program. FileMaker, like most software, needs to continue to generate revenue. The do that by releasing updates. The cost of these updates are also on the expensive side of the range.