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Stick with FileMaker or Choose a FileMaker Alternative?

So it is interesting to consider why that is? What is it about the FileMaker Platform that keeps developers coming back when there are so many newer products around that may claim to offer a similar range of features, or better?

So, why do people use FileMaker?

For many years, FileMaker Pro has been a trusted database and custom application development environment for small and medium-sized workgroups and organizations. However, whether you are a business owner, administrator or IT professional, you may find yourself looking at a FileMaker alternative and wondering whether FileMaker is still right for your organization.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the landscape of alternatives to FileMaker Pro, delve into the risks, discuss how they can be managed, and highlight why FileMaker Pro remains the stable choice for many businesses.

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Considering Alternatives to FileMaker Pro?

While FileMaker Pro’s primary current alternatives are point-and-click, cloud-based systems that offer ease of use, they may lack the control and flexibility provided by FileMaker as a development platform. These alternatives include various no-code and low-code platforms, often used for custom app development and database management, and while the merits are obvious, they may not suit all business needs.

Let’s address some questions that have been asked about FileMaker Pro’s capabilities:

Will I be Locked into Using Only One Vendor?

FileMaker Pro is a proprietary software application, so you must develop within their ecosystem. Concerns of limited flexibility or higher licensing costs can arise.

But while FileMaker Pro is proprietary, it offers a powerful, flexible ability to integrate with any number of third-party systems such as Quickbooks, Salesforce, Fedex or Shopify. By adding custom connectors with Claris Connect, the integration options are virtually limitless.

FileMaker also offers robust export options, allowing you to export your data in various formats at any time. You can then utilize a standalone instance of FileMaker to access archival or legacy data. This option makes it easier to migrate to a different platform if needed. 

A vendor-supported solution like FileMaker Pro gives you an assured path to application support and continuous security patching. An open-source option may not have licensing costs, but it will nonetheless have support costs to ensure that your software is up-to-date and secure. Those costs are likely equal to or greater than potential licensing costs, plus any multiple layers of cost if you are using multiple open-source options.

The newer cloud-based systems on the market such as AirTable or QuickBase have vendor lock-in issues that exceed any similar concern related to FileMaker.

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Can FileMaker Handle a Large Number of Users?

This concern is a bit of a red herring for FileMaker, as it was never intended as an enterprise-scale solution. For use cases where thousands of concurrent users are expected, there are better choices than FileMaker. But for a multitude of other situations, FileMaker scales extremely well

Design is an important consideration in any system where the ability to scale is a significant requirement. It is just as possible to create a well-designed FileMaker solution that smoothly handles hundreds of users as it is to create a poor solution that becomes bogged down with a mere handful.

FileMaker is in use at many Fortune 500 companies, playing key roles at organizations such as Apple, the University of Washington and Nike, companies that depend on the strength and agility of FileMaker to seamlessly manage their business details.

My IT Department Wants a Cloud-Based Solution

In the current age of cloud-based software-as-a-service applications (SaaS), many IT departments aim to reduce risk and cost by not hosting custom applications in-house (also referred to as on premise).

Fortunately, Claris FileMaker Cloud and many third-party FileMaker cloud hosting options make external hosting easy to accomplish while keeping security at the forefront. FileMaker Cloud has ISO and SOC2 security certifications and is hosted worldwide utilizing Amazon Web Services infrastructure.

If an on-premise solution is preferred, FileMaker has a history of stability in that realm as well. Licenses for hosting start at five users and Claris provides plenty of updated documentation to assist in setting up and managing your server.

You can review your questions with their support representatives, review discussions in their community forum, or hire a software development company such as Portage Bay Solutions to set up and maintain the FileMaker aspects of your server for you. We are also authorized resellers for Claris and can handle all of your licensing needs.

Photo of a hand pointing to a graphic overlay showing neon icons for mobile, watch, wifi, and more. FileMaker runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, and is compatible with Docker.

Why Choose to Pay for Licensing when Open-Source is Free?

FileMaker does indeed have licensing costs that some other platforms avoid by using open-source tools. But when you compare per-user account fees for services such as AirTable and Quickbase, or the support programs typically needed for open-source platforms, FileMaker’s licensing costs are very competitive.

Open source can be an excellent option in certain situations. We use open-source libraries in several of our programs, where the tailored fit enhances what our clients’ FileMaker solution is designed to do. Keep in mind, however, that there is a learning curve associated with open-source options – in both their installation and their maintenance – and you may need to have a plan for managing this across multiple add-ons.

Doesn’t FileMaker Only Run on Macs?

While it was a Macintosh-only solution in the distant past, FileMaker Server has long run on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. Claris is also recently supporting Docker for FileMaker Server, significantly improving cloud deployment and driving down cloud hosting costs.

FileMaker WebDirect allows deployment of your FileMaker solution across other platforms as well, such as Chromebooks, where access is provided via the web browser.

Why FileMaker Pro Remains a Proven &  Excellent Choice

You have several options for crafting software for your unique business needs – each one with pros and cons. FileMaker Pro has been a robust option for over three decades and continues to be used daily by thousands of companies and millions of people worldwide, for several reasons:

  • Ease of Use: Known for its user-friendly interface, making it accessible to individuals with varying levels of technical expertise. 
  • Rapid Development: Enables rapid application development, allowing businesses to create custom solutions in a fraction of the time needed for traditional development methods.
  • Customizability: Offers excellent customizability, making it possible to create tailored solutions that precisely meet your business needs.
  • Integration: Supports integration with other popular software and services, making it easy to connect with existing tools and databases.
  • Security: Places a strong emphasis on data security, offering features like encryption, user authentication, and access controls to protect sensitive information.
  • Community and Support: Has a thriving community of developers and users, making it easy to find resources, templates and expert advice when needed.

FileMaker Continues to Offer Numerous Benefits over FileMaker Alternatives

FileMaker Pro is a robust database and development environment that offers numerous benefits for workgroups and organizations of any size. While there are many alternatives, they may lack the control and flexibility offered by FileMaker as a development platform. The potential risks associated with FileMaker Pro – which also exist in any option you choose – can be effectively managed and mitigated with planning and the right expertise.

Ultimately, FileMaker Pro’s ease of use, customizability, and strong support make it an excellent choice for businesses looking to streamline their data management and application development processes.

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So, Why Do People Use FileMaker?

An excellent article of the same name, by Nick Lightbody, captures quotes from 27 skilled FileMaker developers, with a combined 536 years of experience, highlighting what keeps them coming back to FileMaker amidst the newer alternatives that appear from time to time.

I develop in FileMaker because it makes sense; it adds more value than it costs for the problem at hand. (it = the total cost, licensing + development + deployment + support).

19-year developer

FileMaker is a tool that is so powerful that I create things that other development platforms could not do in time, price and without having to learn many different programming languages.

17-year developer

Have More Questions? Send Them Our Way

We are delighted to talk with you about the best choice for your business. Send us a comment or schedule a call so we can help devise a plan for streamlining and modernizing the work processes you follow each day.

About the Author

John Newhoff’s business background and years of database design, computer, and network configuration, and troubleshooting experience allow him to see beyond the immediate problem to the long-term solution. John is the business manager of Portage Bay and our lead 4th Dimension developer, creating sophisticated cross-platform solutions.

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