Is a custom database right for you?

Have you ever wished that a certain feature was available in the off-the-shelf software you are using? Or discovered that you purchased software that is not exactly suitable for your task? Or found dozens of screen-cluttering options useless in your particular situation? You are not alone - this will always happen because it is impossible to encompass every need in a canned software solution. But there always is a database that will definitely work for you: the one made for you based on your specifications.

Advantages of custom databases:
Some of the benefits you might consider when making a decision to have a custom database built are:

  • You probably already have Microsoft Access - a very capable database program - as part of your MS Office suite. This may result in substantial cost savings.
  • Custom database is made the way you want it to look and operate. This results in gentle, if any, learning curve. An off-the-shelf product can be very complex and take quite a bit of time to learn to use correctly.
  • You will not be paying for features that might be in the off-the-shelf software that you don't need.
  • You are guaranteed to have features you want that off-the-shelf software may lack.
  • You have direct contact with developers. This way, you can have them implement what you want, try the application and see if it really works well for you. Then, you can have changes made to make the software work even better.

Advantages of of-the-shelf software:
Some applications such as payroll or accounting databases have very well-defined set of features that are well covered by off the shelf software packages of all levels of complexity. We think it is a good idea to use an off-the-shelf software package to handle these applications.

Ask for detailed documentation.
The market for software developing is large, you have a choice of developers and may decide to hire another developer in the future. One thing that should be provided by a respectable developer is detailed documentation. In a custom product such as a database, it is preferable that the functionality also be documented with quite a bit of technical details. This, while may cost a little extra, will be a good insurance in case you change a developer. If your application is well documented, the new developer will be able to quickly understand what your custom program is doing.