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Is FileMaker Just Microsoft Access on Steroids?

Strangely enough, every few years some well-meaning IT professional asks us this question, and to be completely honest, we can understand why. Eons ago, in the early days of the FileMaker product, this comparison made sense, as both FileMaker and Access let a user author databases that were self-contained and for individual users. Since then, a lot has changed.

The short answer to the title question is: NO.

A slightly longer answer would be something like this: FileMaker is a development platform that supports modern standards, native servers on Windows and Mac OS, and hundreds of simultaneous users on both native and web-based clients across multiple operating systems and device types. Microsoft Access, on the other hand, is a database application for building locally-hosted databases for very small teams of Windows users only.

So is FileMaker right for your organization? Here are some points worth knowing if you are considering FileMaker vs. Access:

  • FileMaker provides both a client-server architecture (for widespread deployment of a solution), as well as the ability to launch the very same solution locally on a standalone workstation or supported mobile device. This allows for both greater flexibility during the solution development lifecycle, as well as a hedge against interruptions to business continuity.
  • FileMaker offers native clients for Windows, macOS and iOS, and offers a browser-based client for several brands of supported browsers on virtually any workstation, tablet or mobile device, independent of the operating system.
  • FileMaker offers Encryption at Rest (EAR), Encryption in Transit (EIT), role-based security, field-level security,  conditional access and validation based on calculations, Active Directory integration, and OAUTH integration as native features of the platform.
  • FileMaker supports live integration with a variety of SQL sources within both the server and the native client. Supported SQL sources include Microsoft SQL, ORACLE, MySQL, PostgreSQL and Db2. This integration allows tables and views from those data sources to be commingled in the FileMaker data schema, along with native FileMaker data, and to be expressed in FileMaker layouts and manipulated by FileMaker scripts.
  • FileMaker offers a native REST API, and can integrate with third-party systems using REST, JSON, JavaScript and cURL.
  • On iOS, the FileMaker platform also offers camera, gesture, GPS and sensor integration.
  • The server and workstation components of the platform also support an extensible plug-in architecture with a rich eco-system of plug-in developers.
  • FileMaker can easily scale to support hundreds of simultaneous users on a single instance of FileMaker Server. FileMaker Server is available in the AWS Marketplace as FileMaker Cloud for AWS and now as FileMaker Cloud (Standard and Essentials), which offer secure and scalable cloud-based options for hosting solutions with high availability and an extra layer of security.
  • FileMaker, Inc. has been a consistently profitable business for decades and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Apple. The platform has seen a growth in R&D in the past decade, with dramatic investments in the technology, annual releases of new versions, and a publicly visible roadmap that continues to embrace modern standards, additional enhancements to security, further scalability, additional integrations, etc.