We are Web Developers!
We write web applications, typically database-driven. We use either FileMaker and its WebDirect technology, FileMaker and PHP to create custom web solutions or MySQL and PHP. The technology mix that we use depends entirely on what will work best for the client.
As FileMaker developers, we are highly experienced in FileMaker technologies such as WebDirect. WebDirect is a great way of taking the same rich layouts that you can see and use within the FileMaker application and displaying them in a web browser, with the same richness and degree of interactivity. A user of your FileMaker database that is using WebDirect does not need a copy of FileMaker on their computer.
So WebDirect can be a cheaper way of enabling a group of users to access a FileMaker database because instead of incurring the expense of buying individual FileMaker application licences, you will need to buy concurrent connections to your database (as part of a licence for FileMaker Server). At the moment (as of version 14) a concurrent connection licence is slightly cheaper than a licence for FileMaker Pro. In addition, the maximum number of concurrent connections you may need may well be less than the number of users, so you can save money there. For example, if two users will be accessing the database through WebDirect at different, non-overlapping times, you will only need one connection.
Other Web Technologies
If you noticed the phrase ‘slightly cheaper’ and did some basic mental arithmetic when reading that last paragraph, you will have quickly surmised that using FileMaker WebDirect can become an expensive way of deploying a FileMaker database to a large group of people, or to a smaller group of people who all tend to access the database briefly but at the same time. This is where custom web development using PHP, AJAX and other web technologies comes in.
For example, one of our customers runs a manufacturing plant with a lot of equipment, fixtures and fittings that need maintaining. Items to be maintained range from large injection machinery at one end of the spectrum to the fire exit signs in corridors at the other end of the spectrum. We needed to come up with the most cost effective way for our customer to manage a proactive and reactive maintenance regime.
We created a FileMaker maintenance database that has a FileMaker back-end that can be used for scheduling maintenance events, creating maintenance checklists and reporting on events. So far, so simple. But we needed to find a way in which multiple engineers could understand where they needed to be and what they needed to do without having to visit a specific computer on site; and we needed to provide a wider group of staff with the ability to report things that needed repair.
When we looked at the options, it was obvious that installing FileMaker on every possible computer that the engineers might access would be too costly. In addition, purchasing enough concurrent connection licences to accommodate every potential person needing to access the system at any one time would also be too costly. So we developed a web front-end that interacts with the FileMaker database using PHP and JSON. The web layouts have been optimised for tablet devices and include the ability to capture signatures. FileMaker Go and WebDirect have not been used.
The Internet of Things
Following successful deployment of the plant maintenance system, version 2 will be completed. Version 2 involves the installation of remote sensors on some of the critical machinery on the site. This is the machinery which, when it is down, causes a lot of expense in lost production. The remote sensors feed back to a central monitoring mechanism built into the FileMaker database, enabling real-time analysis of indicators that can be used to predict potential problems (for example, gauges showing the temperature going out of range, or the frequency of machine events slowing down or the use of water going up).