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April 15, 2015

Switching from Desktop Database Programs to Custom Database Software

Desktop database applications like Microsoft Access, Excel and FileMaker Pro are wonderful tools that allow people with no formal training in software development to track vital data and get business done.  However, this strength can also be a weakness.  The more proficient someone is with these tools, the more likely it is that they will build a system that your business relies on.  The issue is that these software packages are simply not designed to be robust systems that you can count on.

Microsoft Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, and OpenOffice Calc are spreadsheet programs but are frequently used as databases instead.  Microsoft Access, FileMaker Pro, Paradox, and Lotus Approach are desktop applications and are just not intended to be robust databases that support many concurrent users.  Access files in particular can be corrupted from time to time, which can render the data inaccessible.  And because the people who implement these tools lack the proper training, the end result is all too often a solution that can’t grow with your business.  The solution also relies on the person who created the system to continue to maintain it.  Most often the system falls into disrepair as soon as that key person leaves the organization, which can be traumatic for the company overall.

So how is a business leader to respond?  Excel, Access and FileMaker Pro should be viewed as a quick and easy solution to a problem.  In the right hands, your staff can use these tools to quickly solve problems without burdening an IT department or outside consultants.  Desktop database applications absolutely have a place in business.  However, business leaders should be asking what would happen if the person who created the file or application was no longer able to support it.  Would your business suffer?  Is the solution they built critical to your success?  If so, then it’s time to view the original solution as a prototype for a professionally built solution: custom database software based on a modern platform, like Microsoft SQL Server.  Anything done in Access, Excel or Filemaker Pro can be converted into a secure web application that implements business rules and allows users to login and be productive from anywhere in the world, or on the go.

Contact Xeo today if you have a “homegrown” system that is vital to your company’s success.