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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011

    Unanswered: Is This Possible?


    I do some volunteer work for a charity who currently have a ridiculous abundance of paper forms they fill in, scan and send to another company to enter on to a database which they then charge for and also charge for report generating. In my opinion the charity should cut out the expensive middle man and create their own database to save money. I currently volunteer for the charity but have a background in windows server IT administration so I have a bit of nous when it comes to techie stuff. I was wondering if this is possible and how 'easy' it would be to 'knock something up:'

    - Using Access (or suggest an alternative?) and hosted preferably hosted on the internet, perhaps via a secure area on their webpage?, so any user anywhere can log on and fill in the forms
    - a database of multiple forms which have a user friendly form based GUI
    - concurrent users to the database i.e. so one doesnt have to log out in order for someone else to fill in a form
    - generate reports based on data entered
    - preferably hosted on the internet, perhaps via a secure area on their webpage?, so any user anywhere can log on and fill in the forms.

    To me that looks like stuff any database should be able to do but although I'm confident I could figure it out in time (any tutorial links appreciated!) I'm not sure where to start?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    out on a limb
    Provided Answers: 59
    is what you want to possible.. most certainly.
    is it a wiuse thing to do... I don't know..
    theres several issues
    one is the experience of the developer
    one is the demands of the charity (is this a one off or is this the start of more things to do)
    one is any legal or other external requirements, whether that be for auditing, security, data protection and so on.

    Access like all the file server databases isn't the cleverest when it comes to security, traceability and so on. Access also doesn't scale to well for web use, and it can have problems once you get somewhere near the 15..30 concurrent users unless you use a different data backend (usually a server).

    It requires a licence for each copy of Access used.

    If you want to go down the internet route then you could use an ISP's data server and scripting language. the consistently cheaper ones are usually MySQL + PHP, but you can use other db servers and other scripting languages. one word of caution though I find PHP a hostile development environment, not a patch on the modern IDE's we have become used to. If you are going down the microsoft route then SQL server + ASP/ASP.NET would be a sensible choice.

    the one downside of web services is that it can be tricky to get printed output. Ive extracted stuff to PDF from within PHP which seems to work well, however it is nothing like the convenience of say Access at generating reports, however as you can connect to other data sources there's no reason why you couldn't use, say an Access front end to generate reports. if there is a limited number of fixed reports then you could dump 'em to PDF. its the one off 'could you just do....' reports that will trip you up using a PHP script writing to a PDF.

    one last final thought, you need to think very very carefully what you are trying to achieve. one of the bugbears of voluntary work done on behalf of charities and others is who maintains the package after you have gone. its the maintenance thats alwasy the bugbear, and its often overlooked int he rush to do something. Im not knocking your wish to help, I think its great that people do get involved, but you need to docuemnt everything exceptionally well. you need to exemplary in your design, if you do go down the PHP route deffo consider using the object orientated approach, use classes.

    PHP is in some ways like various forms of Basic, its easy to get code working and useable, but to get code that is readable and maintainable requires more effort and in many cases is ignored.

    good luck with your project
    I'd rather be riding on the Tiger 800 or the Norton

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    thats awesome and thank you for the quick reply!

    The charity has X number of forms which are filled in literally 50-100 times a week. They then pay for each of these to be entered into a database externally and again pay for reports. It's extraordinary volume in todays technology possibilities imo.

    I'd thought about the afterwork maintaining and as I'm volunteering for a career change I don't want to tie myself in to it. It may be a case that I design the project as a concept, find a company able to create it and present it to the charity documenting how this is a cheaper and far more efficient resource long term. That way I score brownie points, get noticed, contribute but aren't tied to the ongoing maintenance.

    Security will be paramount. Certainly I think I'd be in over my head to do this for them given my current knowledge and due to the sensitivity of the data I wouldn't feel comfortable with my curent knowledge to cobble something together.

    exporting reports to pdf format is just as good I think. I'm not sure how they're presented currently.

    Thanks for your super quick response though, it's given me loads to think about!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    If the users are co-located and you can eliminate the web based aspect of it. The Access solution becomes much cheaper, simpler and it is inherently more secure. It is very viable. Access2010 runtime can be deployed and they will achieve a significant productivity experience.

    Taking it to the web will increase significantly the issues to resolve, whether or not the solution uses Access or other technology. And there will be a recurring monthly hosting cost. In general, imo, being web based, secure & of good quality is not a "'knock something up' candidate.

    Hope this helps.
    www CahabaData com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    haha I would be inclined to agree with you!

    So far I'm looking at Office365 (they have other issues!) with the suggestion they contracted a professional developer for the database side of things.

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