There’s a common joke in the business world that goes along the lines of “the entire world runs on Excel”. And while it always gets a few chuckles out of those hearing it, there is a frightening degree of truth to that phrase. So much that the situation has become quite bad for some businesses, which rely on Microsoft’s spreadsheet solution or something equivalent to extreme degrees.
Sure, when you look at it in a certain way, Excel does act like a database in many aspects. But it’s not meant to be used as one, and definitely doesn’t perform as well as a more specialized solution in heavier cases.
On the other hand, it does have the benefit of bringing simplicity to the table, allowing pretty much any member of the company to contribute to the collection of information and development of internal processes. But this should not be a reason to limit the whole organization to Excel, certainly not when you have better alternatives available.
FileMaker is a good middle ground
FileMaker is a relational database solution that aims to make the process of working with a “real” database easier and more streamlined by adding a nice graphical interface layer on top of it. While it takes a while to get used to, and it’s certainly more complicated than Excel once you dig deep beneath its surface, it’s often a much more optimal solution for those who want a good balance between productivity, features, and simplicity.
One of the strong aspects of FileMaker is that it can be easy to develop a custom interface for your internal databases, complete with custom control elements that can allow for the input of various kinds of information with a reduced error rate. The capabilities of FileMaker in this regard are miles above what Excel could ever offer you, and learning to use it should be your top priority if your organization still relies on Excel to a large extent.
Increased accessibility and security
On top of that, FileMaker has several extra features that can make it a much more attractive choice than Excel for more complicated needs. First, it can be hosted in a centralized spot, allowing your employees to connect to a common database from anywhere within the organization, instead of having to exchange spreadsheets that are maintained locally.
The potential for reducing human error should be obvious, which is why FileMaker hosting has evolved into its own industry, with various companies offering specialized deals on FileMaker applications. If you can’t afford the infrastructure to run your tools locally, there are some surprisingly affordable solutions out there, and you just have to reach out and search. It doesn’t take long to find a good deal, and the reliability of most hosts is quite good.
Last but definitely not least, FileMaker adds something that Excel lacks severely, security. You won’t have to worry about the legitimacy of scripts running in your sheets. There are various ways for someone to exploit your organization through applications that don’t run any security checks, and this is something that will never be a factor when using FileMaker, as long as you’re careful about following the correct practices.
There are lots of guides out there about how to correctly secure your FileMaker application, and it doesn’t take long to research the topic. Plus, if you’re ever feeling unconfident and need some additional guidance, you just have to look up some experts for hire and you should find plenty of options.
All in all, there is little reason nowadays to use Excel for any serious business purposes, unless you have a large legacy system that’s expensive to convert at the moment. Even then, you should always be on the lookout for conversion opportunities, and get your business running on FileMaker – or at least something equivalent – as quickly as possible. The suite is always getting updated with new additions and improvements to the core structure too, so you won’t have to worry about its long-term prospects. Not to mention that getting involved in the community can be an exciting experience, which has gotten many people to stick around after trying out what FileMaker has to offer just once. There’s nothing to lose from trying it out, so give it a go.