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Don_Macaroni

Affordable Filemaker Layout-less License for small businesses

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What do you think about an affordable Filemaker Pro Layout-less license? I explain: As a developer, and small business owner, I often run into problems selling 4+ $299 Filemaker licenses on top of my developer fee. The $299 x 4+ equals big bucks for a small business. And 10 out of 10 times, the people working with my database, never go to Layout mode. I am suggesting an affordable layout-less license for small business office use. (You would still need a regular license to update the database)

I am convinced fellow-developers run in to this as well. Please sign the petition to see if this can be accomplished.

Official Petition to be sent to Filemaker Inc.

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Wim Decorte    443

What you are suggesting is often referred to as a 'thin client'.

To some extent FMI is trying to address the licensing aspect of this with their FLT (FileMaker Licensing for Teams).  Under that licensing you get an FMS and a # of connections that you can consume with either Pro, Go or WebD.

Not quite at the 50-100 USD range that you are suggesting, more like closer to 200 per user at that lower range of 5 users.  But FMS is part of that.

I must admit that I don't really get the "$299 x 4" is big bucks for a small business.  The cost is never a standalone factor; it is compared to the value of your solution.  Either the solution provides value over and beyond the total cost (your fee + licensing) or it doesn't.  The size of the company does not really matter; it is the value that they think they can get out of it.  It is not an expense but an investment, calculating the ROI is important before buying any system.

Perhaps the conversation would go easier if you present it as a total cost without breaking it down into your fee and "oh, here's an additional cost"?  Or help them calculate the ROI?

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If only most small business owners were as rational as you're being here.

Unfortunately, I, too, have seen business owners blanch at the upfront cost. It's just a reality. A lot of us smaller consultants are techies, not salesmen, and can't afford our own marketing departments to clinch the sale. We do our best—and two decades at this has certainly taught me a few things—but to expect small business owners to always be reasonable about parting with money is just not realistic. My experience just hasn't borne it out. And as you said: Either the solution provides value over and beyond the total cost or it doesn't. The more expensive FileMaker is, the more that equation will tip over into the "doesn't" column.

I actually have a corporate client right now who has completely hobbled their solution by loading more services onto what started as solely their FileMaker Server machine. Performance has been dragged down almost to unusability. They've spent thousands on me developing these databases, and yet their IT department won't release a few hundred dollars of budget more for a dedicated machine to keep things running usably. People just can't be relied upon to be rational, especially where money is concerned. "Penny wise and dollar foolish" is a well-known saying for good reason.

Larger companies do tend to be quicker to recognize long-term value, but for many years my bread and butter was small businesses and nonprofits - a large chunk of business that I still feel the loss of as FileMaker demand has tapered in those sectors in recent years. There's more to that phenomenon than sticker-shock, I'm sure, but the I'm likewise sure the pricetag doesn't help. An appreciably low-cost entry point would make a huge difference. 

EDIT: I should add, though, that they're essentially already doing what is being requested here, just not for desktop. FM Go actually could fill the "thin client" void nicely. They should release "FM Go for Desktop".

EDIT 2: Though only tangentially relevant, it was just after I posted this that I discovered that FileMaker Server 15's new EULA terms prohibit resellers running shared FileMaker Server hosting... all commercial resellers must host on one dedicated server per customer, pushing the costs of FileMaker hosting much further out of reach of most small businesses. We're ok while the latest file format is still compatible with FileMaker Server 14, but that's going to change at some point. Taken together with other moves they've made, it really seems like FileMaker is making a concerted effort to raise the barriers for entry up past the affordability that originally made it attractive to small business. Why in the world they're doing that, I have no idea, but it certainly seems like that's what they're doing.  The reason I came back to mention it here is, I think it's a bellwether. If you read the signs and portents, unfortunately I don't think an affordable FileMaker "thin client"-type package is likely to be considered (nor any change aimed at making FileMaker adoption more affordable or attractive to small business). 

Edited by Michael E. Kupietz

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Wim Decorte    443

FM Cloud in combination with a 5-user FLT will cost around $120 per month (depending on the type of virtual machine you choose).  That includes the hosting (unlimited # of files), FMS and 5 licenses for any mix of FMP, FMGo and WebDirect.

$120 per month... if that is not affordable for a small business then I don't know what is.  And it removes the immediate need for a thin client since you get everything as one package deal.

I get your point about rationality etc.  But I would be looking for a minimum of rationality; I don't want to be in a position to have to defend the bills for my work the same way.  That's going to be more than $120 per month.

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Especially if you look at the cost of buying and hosting your own server, ie, in Australia you'll easily pay up to $3K for a half decent server, a license for Windows server will also set you back some $1k, and then there's the cost of managing/patching the server, ensuring backups happen, AV protection, networking kit etc that will all cost money. In the end, you'll end up paying more for a self hosted system than a cloud hosted. $120 for 5 users per month isn't such a bad deal.

Sure you can run without backups, keep using the server beyond 3 years, and there's a good chance you'll get away with it. But if it's an important server, one that the business depends on to make a profit, would you really want to endanger your company like that? That's the message you need to relay.

As of today, the Australian Taxation Office knows only too well what it feels like to no longer have access to an enormous amount of data. 1PB gone. s**t happens. I've been in a similar situation where two 55TB NAS's crashed at the same time.

https://www.pedestrian.tv/news/arts-and-culture/an-ato-server-crash-just-erased-1000tb-of-data-so-/c9b261ce-2250-4f4f-b20f-c00c12f9d5cb.htm

You can't make money if you're not willing to spend it. Most organizations that engage (FileMaker) devs do so because they see an opportunity to improve efficiency, reduce cost. And yes, they can demand a lower fee, but it's up to the dev to accept such. There's no point in developing an app for someone if it's going to cost you money.

Edited by OlgerDiekstra
amendment

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Good points, well-taken; but I can't shake the feeling that you're thinking like salesmen rather than like customers. Many people are "penny wise and pound foolish", whether we like it or not, and I used to make my living getting hired to cater to that and then guiding them to better decisions — but only if their decision to use FileMaker allowed me to get my foot in the door. It's nice if you can say, "Well, I really don't know if I want those people as clients" but I made a decent living off them, once, and now I'm not anymore.

I agree FileMaker Cloud is a step in the right direction (taking your calculations at face value - I have a cold right now and can't really think through the figures myself at the moment.) Thinking back to when my clients were mostly small mom & pop businesses and nonprofits (and I was much busier as a consultant than I am today) I'm sure about half of them would have seen your reasoning. But for half of them, the appeal was that they could host FM on the old mac mini they had sitting in the corner and never have to think about it. The conceptual hurdle of dealing with AWS & EC2, for the non-computer-literate clients that it used to seem to me were FileMaker's bread and butter, is much more immense than it is to you and me. For the same reason that clients still insist on onsite visits even after TeamViewer and Skype have made physical presence 99.9% unnecessary, mom & pop operations also aren't going to cotton to offsite virtual servers with complicated administrative interfaces that they have to learn (when they can just barely figure out how to use word.) It makes them feel like they're now dependent on more things outside their control, and they don't like that. I can't imagine selling a virtual-server-based 5-seat-minimum system with monthly licensing to a lot of the people who I used to survive off of. They just wouldn't bite. Even if it was free they'd still think it was too complicated for them, it's too weird and abstract, and they'd be too worried about perpetual dependence on me keeping the server running. Whether it was true or not.

The whole point was the FileMaker used to be for people who didn't want to have to become technically-adept computer geeks. AWS is precisely for technically-adept computer geeks, and it's a very beautiful thing for them, but that's who its for.

The thing that sucks, to me, is, FileMaker doesn't necessarily have to be one or the other. There can be both a monthly cloud-based licensing model for teams AND a FileMaker-Go-for-desktop-type "thin client". 

Also, I know I've seen people cringe when I mention the software subscription model. I know it's worth it, and you know it's worth it, but Mr. McGintee whose little heath food store could improve its narrow margins running much more efficiently on on FMP only hears "I want you to keep paying forever and ever for something you used to only have to pay for once". Yes, I know the flaws in that reasoning. But that's what people hear. And I, for one, would really just rather be developing databases than trying to sell Mr. McGintee on whatever licensing model FMI has decided to adopt this year. 

Sucks dealing with human quirks, but until I can reliably score consulting gigs on planet Vulcan, these are the things we have to think about. 

If FM could find a way to increase their penetration in the enterprise realm, and I could get steady enough corporate gigs not to miss the small businesses who used to call me all the time, I'd have no complaint.  And the funny thing is, I still get a fair number of calls for help from solitary users using one-person databases. It's that small business, the 3-5 person companies that used to be a rich vein for me, are where the demand seems to have completely been hollowed out. I hope to be pleasantly surprised, but I just don't see FileMaker Cloud bringing those kind of people back to the platform. And there used to be a lot of them. 

I've posted this elsewhere, but look at this Google Trends graph for search interest in FileMaker: 


Screen Shot 2017-01-02 at 5.13.39 PM.png

Despite vast improvements in the program, interest (as expressed in google searches for information ) has dropped by 50% every 4 years. It's now declined to about 1/10th of its peak. That should scare the bejeezus out of anyone who makes their living this way, and I just don't think that decline was because of lack of a technically abstruse (to non-IT-professionals) monthly cloud-based licensing option. I firmly believe, based solely on my own experience then and now, that 10 years ago there was a huge, solid base of very small, funky business users that just aren't there anymore, and I would really like FMI to try to find a way to get them back. Not a way that sounds good to you or to me, but to THEM, something simple and uncomplicated yet still powerful under the hood (just like FileMaker used to be.) AWS support isn't that, regardless of price. And, again, it doesn't have to come at the expense of other options. They could offer thin clients on the bottom and all kinds of fancy licensing at the top, broaden their appeal on both ends. 

Oops, looks like I've ranted again. Apologies, I didn't mean to harangue you. But that graph above is what it all comes down to for me, and I find it very frustrating, because FMI's product marketing strategy seems to be alienating a formerly lucrative segment of their former user base, as if they must be sacrificed to attract a new segment - one which isn't proving itself at the same rate. It baffles me. I just think "FileMaker Go For Desktop" is a good step towards getting those lost customers back in the fold.

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I don't think Google search requests are especially relevant here. A thing to realize is that people or businesses are looking for solutions and couldn't give a rat's ass if they run on FileMaker or on some other platform. For that reason I believe it's important to charge for the development of a solution as a whole. The software necessary just happens to be FileMaker. This doesn't deserve more than a line item on an invoice. Also all this assumes the purchaser will NEVER have full access to the solution. Spoken from the point of view of a non professional developer . . .  but a pretty good one.

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Wim Decorte    443
10 hours ago, Rick Whitelaw said:

 A thing to realize is that people or businesses are looking for solutions and couldn't give a rat's ass if they run on FileMaker or on some other platform. For that reason I believe it's important to charge for the development of a solution as a whole. The software necessary just happens to be FileMaker. This doesn't deserve more than a line item on an invoice. 

 

Amen.

As a developer you pick the platform that you want to use to build solutions.  Unless the client has already invested heavily in a particular technology and has a rigid policy of only allowing their approved technology stack.

When we chose FM we knew that we chose a:

- premium platform (it's never been cheap so it is not realistic to expect that it will ever be).  It promises quick-to-market features and they charge for that.

- a proprietary platform: the skill set is fairly unique and not easily portable to other environments, nor is the code.

I have no problem with either of those because it is a decision I re-make almost every day.  And I've always played / dabbled / used other technologies just because of this: *I* am responsible for my business and for my livelihood, not FM.  All the eggs in one basket and all that.

Over the holiday break I was brushing up on my C# skills and playing with the new .NET Core and Visual Studio for Mac, writing a small cross-platform application (iOS and Android) that uses a FM backend.  A couple of thoughts:

- most of what you need is free, up to and including using visualstudio.com for version control and agile project management

- none of this is proprietary

- but holy crap you have to spend a lot of time on the learning curve.  Writing something for one platform is bad enough but for two or three?  This is exactly why FM is a premium platform.  You have to invest in something: either in the time and aggravation to get through the long learning curve and not pay for much licensing, or pay for the licensing and enjoy the short learning curve.

And in the end it is all about value: is the time + money you need to spend on a problem worth the solution to the problem?  Our biggest asset is not our chosen technology but our own skills; the ability to relate to a customer, understand what they are after and being able to dissect it and come up with a solution.

It's not the car that gets you from A to B, it's the fact that you can drive the car.

 

 

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Josh Ormond    89
On 1/2/2017 at 8:55 PM, Michael E. Kupietz said:

I've posted this elsewhere, but look at this Google Trends graph for search interest in FileMaker: 

I have responded to similar posts before. Google Search Trends don't always tell the story you think they do. If you compare MySQL "Interest Over Time" with FileMaker...you see that the decline in interest in MySQL is significantly worse. And FM is fairly flat overall. So what does that say? That less people are using MySQL? That Oracle isn't making tons of money from it? I'm sure you get the idea. :)

I've worked with and around marketing companies my entire working career. Searches don't = sales. Interest Over Time doesn't ( up or down ) doesn't indicate a successful/failed company or product. The last company I worked for saw that first hand. They were purchased by a company that showed amazing graphs about the amazing search results and hits they get. In reality, the numbers were extremely padded from SEM, and highly deceptive. The company's practices and overall business approach caused them to lose millions of dollars of business in the first year of taking over. But their Google Trends graph looked great!!!

Screen Shot 2017-01-04 at 10.17.17 AM.png

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I have a customer that uses 4 stations and still uses FMP 11 (database was created in version 9, I believe somewhere around 2008)... They (still) do not want to spent 4x $299 to upgrade to the latest versions. One, because everything works, so why? Second, because in their view they use the database, not the app with all of it's features they don't use and never will. Adobe made Elements, basically a limited version of Photoshop. I still believe a non-layout version would be a great addition to the line up. It would sell like hot cakes and for sure be appreciated by developers and (small business) end-users alike... FileMaker Go for Desktop indeed sounds nice, did not thought of that before.

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BruceR    151
Quote

- a proprietary platform: the skill set is fairly unique and not easily portable to other environments, nor is the code.

In some ways, I agree with you here. But - I wonder. 

Certainly, regarding specific coding skills this is obviously true. But in other ways - I think FileMaker gives us so many great opportunities to learn to make clear definitions of data structures, relational concepts, interface design, scripted workflows, interpretation of customer needs, and the connections between these things.

I think this generalized knowledge and skill can be really helpful but I suspect that isn't a widely adopted perspective.

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Josh Ormond    89
1 hour ago, Don_Macaroni said:

I have a customer that uses 4 stations and still uses FMP 11 (database was created in version 9, I believe somewhere around 2008)... They (still) do not want to spent 4x $299 to upgrade to the latest versions. One, because everything works, so why? Second, because in their view they use the database, not the app with all of it's features they don't use and never will. Adobe made Elements, basically a limited version of Photoshop. I still believe a non-layout version would be a great addition to the line up. It would sell like hot cakes and for sure be appreciated by developers and (small business) end-users alike... FileMaker Go for Desktop indeed sounds nice, did not thought of that before.

No argument from me. I have long thought something like that would make FM more attractive. At some point, companies will need to upgrade. All it takes is one computer that goes down, or is upgraded. 

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