FileMaker Pros and Cons: Is it Right for Your Business?

The FileMaker Platform is a product line of database management software that allows users to design and share relational databases, and even create custom applications. The core product in the lineup is FileMaker Pro, but there is also an advanced version, a server add-on, and an iOS app. Often called Microsoft Access for Macs, FileMaker is a data storage platform with a front-end user interface. This easy-to-use interface often appeals to businesses that may not want to use a back-end only database like SQL Server. Before selecting FileMaker as a database solution, however, organizations should be aware of its limitations.

Reasons to use FileMaker?

Compatible with Mac

FileMaker is great for a cross-platform environment, where users may be utilizing either Windows or Mac OS. In contrast, Microsoft Access is only compatible with Windows.

User friendly

FileMaker features a built-in graphical user interface, making it easy for users to work with, even if they lack programming expertise. A SQL database, on the other hand, is not accessible to the average user unless a front-end interface has been developed on top of the back-end database.

Reduced development time

Since no programming language is required, FileMaker has a low learning curve. Users can write scripts with a point & click scripting language and create reports with drag & drop tools. There are also built-in templates to help users get started. Tasks can be accomplished much more quickly than on other platforms, and with lower labor costs.

Mobile friendly

If your business wants employees to be able to remotely access databases anytime and anywhere, FileMaker offers a powerful mobile app. FileMaker Go is a free app for iPad and iPhone that allows users to connect to their data on-the-go.

Why shouldn't you use FileMaker

Cost

Licensing costs can add up quickly: businesses must pay for annual licenses per user, as well as for add-ons like FileMaker Server. These expenses make FileMaker a less viable solution for small businesses, especially when there are free open-source database systems available.

Limited Capabilities

For complex database structures and queries, FileMaker may not be able to fully meet your business’s needs. The user-friendly point & click programming can become a limitation when its simple predefined options fail to meet complex needs. This can lead to a reliance on convoluted workarounds and 3rd-party plugins to achieve desired functionality — a challenge that detracts from FileMaker’s usability.

Lack of Scalability

FileMaker Pro works best as a desktop application for a small number of users in a local area network, although you can add on FileMaker Server to allow more users to connect. Nonetheless, if you have a large number of simultaneous users, performance can suffer. Large data sets can also cause performance issues. Smaller organizations may not experience these issues in the short-term, but if you anticipate future growth in your business, you may reach a point at which FileMaker Pro is no longer practical.

When choosing a database management solution, your organization should take into account both short-term and long-term benefits, as well as any drawbacks. If your organization is small and has simple database needs, FileMaker can offer a great user experience for non-programmers. But if your organization is large, growing, or has more complex needs, FileMaker may be too limiting to be the right option for your company.

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