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FileMaker vs QuickBase

Today is the day, it is time to look for a technology that fits your needs, but where do you begin? You realize you need a more powerful tool then a spreadsheet and there must be a better way to manage your workflow. You're ready for a custom application. We will compare FileMaker by Apple with QuickBase by Intuit, to help manage your custom workflow.

I'd like to first off say that we are a FileMaker partner, and that it was difficult doing the comparison of the two platforms. I spent many hours learning QuickBase, viewing webinars, and using the trial to be as accurate as possible.

Watch on YouTube FileMaker vs QuickBase


FileMaker Overview

FileMaker logo

FileMaker is cross platform technology that runs on Windows, Macs, iOS, and a Browser and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. In most cases FileMaker requires you to install their client software and in return you have more flexibility to tailor the application compared to the limitations of a browser. Your custom FileMaker application can be run locally or be shared via FileMaker Server. You can even build a custom iOS application or laptop version and then sync your data to a server with some custom application development.

Pricing is significantly better compared to QuickBase. For starters, FileMaker doesn’t have tiered pricing in the sense that the more expensive it is, the more features you’ll have. Pricing starts at $105/year per user with annual licensing for FileMaker Pro. FileMaker Pro Advanced starts at $175/year. We always suggest at least one person per organization have a copy of Advanced as it has the full developer toolkit, though you can still create and build out a solution with Pro. Additionally, FileMaker provides a 40% discount to 501(c)3 non-profit organizations. As opposed to Quickbase's pricing, with FileMaker, you can actually receive discounts with the more seats you purchase, with the first tier being at 25 seats!

With the pricing structure of FileMaker, it benefits the small business users that only need a handful of seats, as oppose to QuickBase which has a minimum requirement for each level of the product, which can get expensive quickly if you are wanting the fully customizable QuickBase Premier.

Arguably the best attribute of FileMaker is that it is fully customizable out of the box! It is flexible in regards to screen design where you can make buttons, portals, popover menus, etc. to specifically fit your workflow. FileMaker also has a large community of developers where you can find different plugins and extensions to further customize your solution.

One asset of FileMaker is the ease of sharing information with others. With FileMaker Server, you can easily share a database with users across all platforms, that includes: Windows, Mac, iOS, Web and Android. Additionally, when you are hosting your server internally, you know where all your information is, and has great security features such as SSL Security, AES-256 bit encryption as well as setting up your database to have encryption at rest. You can also set up automated backups of your application to run hourly, daily, weekly, monthly etc. to insure your data is backed up should something happen.

Starting FileMaker is also easy. There are 16 FileMaker Starter Solutions which are templates already made by FileMaker. You can also check out our own template, FM Quickstart, if you are looking for a fined tuned CRM application. If you'd rather receive FileMaker training first there are a lot of different options to go. The FileMaker Training Series has two different downloadable ebooks and exercises. The FileMaker Training Series Basics is free while the FileMaker Training Series Advanced is $20, both training series is part of the staff training here at DB Services. We also provide instructor led FileMaker Training courses from anywhere from FileMaker Developer Basics, to wanting to become a certified developer via the FileMaker Developer Boot Camp. Additionally, FileMaker has a great developer community where you can find templates and solutions for free or to purchase, or you can contact us to receive a free consultation for a custom application.

Do you already have the data that you want to start sharing in FileMaker? FileMaker makes it easy to use right from the start if you have a spreadsheet with all of your information you’d like in an application. All you have to do is drag and drop the file into FileMaker and you are on your way to making a new database.

One of the great things about FileMaker is how easy it is to find partners and trainers from FileMaker's website. Additionally, FileMaker has held a FileMaker Developer Conference for over 20 years with great speakers, tracks and sessions from different industry leaders. In 2015 over 1,500 attendees were at the FileMaker Developer Conference.

QuickBase Overview

QuickBase logo

QuickBase is a cloud-based system that is made by Intuit, which of course makes the ever-popular QuickBooks that a lot of companies use, including us. This makes QuickBase a natural selection for many companies that are already familiar with the brand. The main features and benefits that users come to QuickBase is for team collaboration & management, custom business apps, workflow automation and different reporting tools.

With QuickBase being cloud-based, the pricing structure is very different to FileMaker’s.

QuickBase Essential: $15/user/month starts at 10 users. This is the lowest price they offer, and comes with a lot of limitations. For example, it limits 1 form per table, 1 customizable app home page, not able to code pages, no custom branding and Developer Sandbox is not available which lets you fully customize the platform.

QuickBase Premier: This is their most popular level, at $25/user/month starts at 20 users. This level also doesn’t allow for the Developer Sandbox or Custom Branding, but it does have considerably more features than the Essential, such as access to APIs, QuickBase Sync, testing as another role and some coding.

QuickBase Platform. This level seems to be the closest to FileMaker in what the capabilities are. The pricing is $40/user/month starts at 40 users. This, however, gives you full access and lets you use the Developer Sandbox for full customizations.

With Quickbase being a cloud hosted system, all of your information is stored in the cloud on their servers. This may be perfectly fine for some applications, but with security worries these days, this could be a big concern, where you aren’t fully in control of own your data, as it is on someone else’s servers, especially if you are holding sensitive information ie credit cards, social security numbers, etc. Additionally, with the application being all cloud-based, you cannot have a local copy to reference and use should their be an outage by your provider.

However, having the application in the cloud has strong advantages such as not having to run your own server internally to share the solution, as it is cloud based to share with other users. This saves a lot of headaches with IT and having to improve your hardware every few years. QuickBase is also great to hit the ground running with over 800 ready-to-use apps.

Another aspect of having a cloud hosted system is the performance. You simply can’t have the same performance of having an application internally as opposed to cloud based where you are having to fetch the data across the internet and retrieve it back to your location, which takes time.

With QuickBase, you are limited to the customizations you can make to your application. For example, the navigation for your application is always at the top, and to add different widgets, buttons, reports, can only be added vertically. This means, if you have significant data, it all can’t be at the top of your application, you may have to spend time scrolling to the bottom to find what you are looking for, as oppose to FileMaker where you can have different layouts and also customize the layout to have the information you need, where you need it.

QuickBase also has a community focused on the 'Citizen Developer'. It is also very easy to navigate QuickBase website to find different resources such as tutorials, webinars, ebooks, online support, etc. Similarly to FileMaker, QuickBase has a list of partners, however, I did not find any of the partners offer training dates to register for. The partners seems to primarily build new apps, or offer pre-made plugins to add-on to your current solution in place.

QuickBase also held their first annual 'User Conference' called EMPOWER in May of 2015. The conference included 30 sessions including educational workshops and customer stories. Though not as nailed down as FileMaker's DevCon which shows who is speaking at what track at what time, EMPOWER does have speakers and sessions similar to FileMaker. EMPOWER 2016 conference dates are already set and looking to add more content and speakers.

In Summary:

  • FileMaker is fully customizable and extremely flexible in regards to screen design.

  • FileMaker is significantly cheaper.

  • FileMaker has the flexibility of FileMaker hosting in the cloud or having your own internal servers.

  • QuickBase has over 800 ready-to-use apps to get started.

  • QuickBase isn’t fully customizable unless you purchase the top-tier plan and screen design is limited.

  • Both FileMaker and QuickBase have annual conferences and communities that have similarities but yet very different.

Planning is the most important aspect of any project, execution is the most visible.
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david happersberger headshot.
David Happersberger

David is our FileMaker Licensing specialist who enjoys talking to customers and explaining all the options available to get you the best licensing while saving you money. He is great at assisting customers with their custom FileMaker needs, all the while with a smile and positive can-do attitude.