Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Databases Microsoft Software

Ask Slashdot: Easy-To-Use Alternative To MS Access For a Charity's Database? 281

Posted by timothy
from the take-your-best-shot dept.
New submitter danzvash (447536) writes "I'm doing some volunteering for a street kids charity in Senegal, West Africa, and they need a new database to store all their information for the kids, and to help the funding organizations like UNICEF. The charity staff have a few computers running Windows 7. Being a die-hard OSS geek I'm more inclined to knock up a MySQL backend with a Django (or similar) front-end and run the whole thing from a reliable VPS. But it needs to be understandable by the non-geeks in the charity — there is no IT expertise here. Is there anything that can allow me to design and edit databases, tables, and forms but doesn't require an MS license?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ask Slashdot: Easy-To-Use Alternative To MS Access For a Charity's Database?

Comments Filter:
  • by lesincompetent (2836253) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @12:50PM (#47010569)
    Do what you said you are inclined to do and then cook up a cunning web interface for your user(s).
    • by Noah Haders (3621429) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:02PM (#47010721)
      I assume that if the submitter is planning on building a MySQL and django database system for this charity where nobody else has tech experience, he will commit to moving to Senegal and working for the charity to maintain this db for the next decade+ while the db is in use. All for free.

      alternatively, he could build a tool nobody knows how to use, migrate critical data to it, then bail.

      my advice from being in similar positions? Just use excel. you can make a VBA form if you feel strongly about it. a single excel file can hold a million records on each tab and it's easy to pull data and summaries. If you're feeling fancy, you can write VBA reports as well. then you can gracefully step away with a clear conscience and let other people handle it.

      you say you don't want a ms license. Is this because of the cost or politics? you're running windows anyway. Just dig up some excel 2007 or 2010 licenses or buy off ebay. this way you don't need to do the subscription model that ms is doing now. you say you only have a few computers anyway.
      • Uhmm... Office 2013 is available as a standard license, like it's always been...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ShanghaiBill (739463)

        my advice from being in similar positions? Just use excel.

        Depending on the amount of data, and how it is used, a text file may also work well.

        There are way too many missing pieces of information:
        1. What are they using now?
        2. Do they think they need a "new database", or does the submitter think that? In either case, why is a change needed?
        3. How much data?
        4. How is it being used?
        5. Do they have a reliable internet connection? If so, Google Docs may be a good, and free, solution.
        6. How long is the submitter going to stick around? Can things be patched remot

        • Spreadsheet vs DB (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dowens81625 (2500160) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @05:25PM (#47013459)

          My general guidelines, for data storage, Fields A, B, through Z by $X records

          is $X > 10,000 records? - If Yes use a DB if No see Next Question

          Do I need separate out data by type or access, such as Joe can see Name, DOB, Telephone number, Address, Emergency contact info etc. But Jane should only see Name, and Emergency Contact? - If Yes use a DB if No see Next Question

          Will more than 1 user need to write data at to this at the same time? If Yes use a DB if No see Next Question

          Will more than have users need to read data from this at the same time or will anyone need to read real time changes data? If Yes use a DB if No see Next Question

          If you have answered No to all of the above questions, Then use a spreadsheet.

      • I assume that if the submitter is planning on building a MySQL and django database system for this charity where nobody else has tech experience, he will commit to moving to Senegal and working for the charity to maintain this db for the next decade+ while the db is in use. All for free.

        alternatively, he could build a tool nobody knows how to use, migrate critical data to it, then bail.

        Everyone here has an answer. But you seem to be the only one who is asking the right questions.

      • What about something like wagn [wagn.org]? Not much tech experience needed to mess around with it, once you set it up.

      • by greenfruitsalad (2008354) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @04:59PM (#47013203)

        libre/openoffice base can both be used as a frontend to a mysql database. i'm surprised so few people know about it.

        http://extensions.libreoffice.... [libreoffice.org]

    • by njnnja (2833511)

      Agreed. Between Django's built in admin interface and mysql editors like adminer [adminer.org] you can do an awful lot without any code at all. And a web interface has the advantages that it 1) is easy to run dev/production environments, 2) is easy to make changes and ensure that everyone is using them, 3) runs on obsolete equipment (anything that can run a browser), 4) mobile/tablet ready, and 5) scalable.

      But also important, while other people are arguing that spreadsheets and access and the like could be run better

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15, 2014 @12:51PM (#47010577)

    I'm surprised a die-hard OSS geek hasn't heard of OpenOffice or LibreOffice's Base.

    • by FalconZero (607567) <`FalconZero' `at' `Gmail.com'> on Thursday May 15, 2014 @12:58PM (#47010669)
      ^ This.
      MySQL is almost certainly overkill.
      It's probably also worth considering if any db is overkill - can you achieve your use cases with a spreadsheet (Calc)? If so - that's a much lower learning curve and less maintenance for you.
      • by jedidiah (1196)

        For anything you create, the data storage part should be completely transparent to the end users. Something that connects to a database of some kind should handle all the data manipulation they're interested in. The storage mechanism should pretty much run itself as should the application server if you are using that kind of component.

        There are plenty of apps that have database backends that don't require a great deal of IT skill to deal with.

        They should never have to worry about directly manipulating the d

        • Ideally, yes. But bearing in mind that the OP states that "there is no IT expertise here" - if their use case is simply a list of people and a couple of details then best practice system design may be less important than (trivial) ease of maintenance.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sorry, but base is a joke. by far the LEAST functional part of that suite. (And it's too bad. I'd use it for all kinds of stuff, if it were just a little more reliable...)

      • by asylumx (881307) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:53PM (#47011283)

        Sorry, but base is a joke. by far the LEAST functional part of that suite.

        How is that different from MS Access?

        • by cbhacking (979169)

          Access is a joke that's actually funny. Like, "Haha, that idiot did something important in Access! Oh my $DEITY, can you believe people are that dumb?!?"
          Base is like an attempted joke that makes people shuffle their feet and look away from you. "Um... did you have to talk about that? Like, really, dude, not cool..."

    • by bdam (1774922)
      Yea, I made one ... just one ... database in Base for Christmas cards which means it gets used/updated once a year. After two years it corrupted itself and was unrecoverable. Went to the forums, send the file off to some kind soul who confirmed it was borked. So yea ... hard to recommend Base as a serious contender.
    • I did a table-based setup for an electoral candidate, and could up- and down-load subsets to spreadsheets for major changes or offline work and it has a simple form for single-line changes. Much processing consisted of select, export, format and print, as many volunteers understood paper and pen (;-))
  • OpenOffice? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15, 2014 @12:52PM (#47010581)

    OpenOffice has a database thing similar to Access (at least on the surface). Dunno how well it fits the use case, but the product blurb sounds right up your alley: https://www.openoffice.org/product/base.html

  • I think the question might be asked backwards, here. If there is really no IT expertise there, then is Access actually going to get them anything? You might be better off setting them up with something much simpler (for example a spreadsheet) unless they need to be able to connect to it from multiple systems simultaneously or have other requirements that a spreadsheet cannot match.

    Don't make your problem more difficult than it needs to be... If you give them software that they can't use then most likely they will stop using it once you are on the plane.
    • +1 let's be realistic here.
    • by Keviniano (261786)

      Agreed. If there is truly no IT expertise and no budget, then I'd say a spreadsheet is what will serve them best. You can help them set it up, and they'll be much more likely to be able to manage it once your gone. No doubt it will be more error-prone and cumbersome than a relational database, but they'll understand how it works. They can set up organizational processes to make up for the lack of built-in data quality checking.

      A simple relational database with a simple front end is great if there's support.

      • >Agreed. If there is truly no IT expertise and _no budget_, then I'd say a spreadsheet is what will serve them best.

        Since they have no budget, I think they should steal a pencil from a no-tech bowling alley, and log their info on the backs of junk-mail. No one has to buy a computer or pay for Internet to D/L Libre/Open.
    • by Stargoat (658863)

      The back half of this comment is what needs to be paid attention to:

      If you give them software that they can't use then most likely they will stop using it once you are on the plane.

      Just bite the bullet and get Access. Everyone can use it. Training is fairly universal. The next guy through will be able to use it right off the bat with no effort. Do these folks a favor and future proof them with Access.

      • by El Rey (61125)

        ... and if you are a charity you can get it cheaply.

        http://www.techsoup.org/ [techsoup.org]

      • Just bite the bullet and get Access. Everyone can use it. Training is fairly universal. The next guy through will be able to use it right off the bat with no effort. Do these folks a favor and future proof them with Access.

        That is only true until Microsoft changes the UI for access completely again and then nobody can use it. Don't you remember what they did to the entire office suite not-too-many years ago? And if any software is never future proof, it is Office. Every time Microsoft releases a new version they muck up backwards compatibility in a new and exciting way.

        • >That is only true until Microsoft changes the UI for access completely again and then nobody can use it.

          Newer versions of Office do not download themselves and screw up a business like smart-phone apps do to their users.
          The old version continues to work indefinitely. The user has to actually choose to buy the new version, and should understand any changes that will come with it.

          There are plenty of real problems in the world. No need to make up imaginary ones.
    • by brokenin2 (103006) *

      Google docs will let you connect multiple people to the same spreadsheet at the same time..

      It works pretty well too... as long as the slightly chaotic editing that this creates is OK (like you don't need multi-cell/multi-sheet locking to keep people out of each other's business)..

      • Google Forms will probably create enough of an access like experience to get the job done.

        • Probably, but it's extremely dangerous to depend on any Google product for even a charity. You don't control availability or the update cycle, so they're really only suitable for personal use unless you pay to operate the Google apps in-house from your own server.
      • by Noah Haders (3621429) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:55PM (#47011317)
        google docs may work well... if everybody in senegal has reliable internet connections...
        • Africa generally doesn't have reliable internet connections, unless they're via satellite, but those are very expensive and therefore only used for the really important things. It also depends whether the OP will be working in Senegal's capital or elsewhere.

          Best option: just ask local people where they get their software and use their versions (even if they are illegal). You can also consider using an older (secondhand) version of Access.

          • by mpe (36238)
            Africa generally doesn't have reliable internet connections, unless they're via satellite, but those are very expensive and therefore only used for the really important things.

            There's also the little matter of the speed of light delay being significent :)
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @12:53PM (#47010601) Homepage

    Take a look at the latest release works great.

    Otherwise use a real DB like mySQL and a nice User frontend.

  • by wezelboy (521844) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @12:53PM (#47010609)
    That's the way I like to dumb it down for myself.
  • by larry bagina (561269) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:04PM (#47010749) Journal
    use node.js -- it's javascript so you don't need to know any computer science bullshit to use it. But it's also twice as fast as C since it never blocks. Mongodb is also good because you don't need to understand databases or make sure your numbers are really numbers or your dates are valid or any of that bullshit DBA crap like consistency or transaction. That makes it faster than SQL.
  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:06PM (#47010775) Journal

    Just use PostgreSQL from the outset, and include some operational procedures for trailing in your project's requirements.

    The requirement to allow non-technical people to perform technical tasks without the knowledge and experience is a critical modern mistake. Cars are easy to drive, but we make you take driver's ed. We don't try to dumb down brain surgery or rocket science. Yet in computers and, horrifyingly, food, we often avoid providing proper training.

    Fast food businesses often use a dedicated grill operator. The sandwich line never interacts with raw meat, so nobody explains food handling safety to anyone. In part, we assume you know; in part, we just don't put people in that position. That's half-assed risk management.

    It's no more acceptable in computers, where you expect people to understand what they're doing yet not understand how to use OpenOffice.org Base to modify tables, or even the command line. People who can't use computers can't complete this task; you put an interface in front of them that does all the back-end work. If you're giving them direct back-end access, they're technical people.

    • Just use PostgreSQL from the outset

      There are lots of situations where this is simply not an option. You should be able to do simple real world database work without requiring the assistance of a DBA. The inability to do this speaks to the poor quality of the interfaces available for database creation.

      The requirement to allow non-technical people to perform technical tasks without the knowledge and experience is a critical modern mistake.

      I disagree. I think it is a deficiency in the quality of the tools that the technical people have made thus far. Hell I *am* a technical person and I would dearly love for a database that made it as easy to create a simple database as it is

      • Using PostgreSQL is the same as using Access. If you are plugging directly into a database, no fancy tools will prepare you for this.

        You either want people to understand what a table is, what rows and columns are, what indexes are, and how to use them; or you want to create an interface that provides an abstract concept (helpdesk tickets, accounting ledgers, whatever) and uses the database as a back-end. If you want people who don't know what the fuck tables and indexes are to create tables and indexes

  • OpenOffice + MySQL (Score:4, Interesting)

    by _hAZE_ (20054) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:07PM (#47010783) Homepage

    While I never did get around to implementing it (or really needing it), I was always intrigued by the fact that the OpenOffice "Base" application can connect to a MySQL database (and has been able to for many, many years). You may want to consider investigating that, as it may provide a fairly "user friendly" and "easily supported" interface to a solid database backend.

  • phpMyAdmin? [phpmyadmin.net]

  • by SiggyRadiation (628651) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:10PM (#47010821) Homepage Journal
    For simple tables and forms that can have a lot of social interactions, i have found Podio [podio.com] to be great. Podio is something of a crossbreed between yammer and Access. I use it a lot for to-do lists within projects, small incident lists, notes, agendas and minutes. It's great for tables / forms that contain 10's to 1000's of records... not for millions. First 5 users within a domain are for free. It is a web application though, so your users need to be able to be on-line all the time.
  • Pff Good luck (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Billly Gates (198444) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:11PM (#47010833) Journal

    The problem is not the database. We all know Access is no PostGres or MySQL. It is the GUI to build forms and store them.

    For example you can create a car parts inventory system really quick and easy for a small shop. You do not have to be an expert developer and an average Joe who knows a tiny bit of sql can develop it and have a working solution within an hour or 2. I wish Access was more used than god aweful Excel to store data, but that and File Maker Pro have filled this market.

    I thought about starting a file maker/access clone a few years ago that would be simple and could backend to a SQL database of choice. I never got around to it because I knew it would never compete.

    It would be nice to a a gui like Access that can work with a web browser too easily. Until that time there is no replacement for File Maker or Office. (Does Apple even make File Maker anymore ?)

    • by e4liberty (537089)
      Kexi and Glom look like nice starts in this direction, but are Linux only. The last Glom release for Windows is several years old.
    • Even with access, it takes a lot of know how to get what you really want done on the forms, even diving into vba.
      There are fields who only access excel, and there are many levels of expertise within excel from macros to vba to complete what you're trying to do. Someone who's not familiar won't be able to use it. Zero experience in databases doesn't mean they can't learn the basics to support it.

  • SQLite Studio (Score:5, Informative)

    by e4liberty (537089) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:12PM (#47010837)
    Take a look at http://sqlitestudio.pl/ [sqlitestudio.pl]
  • civicrm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:16PM (#47010873)

    CiviCRM.org

    CiviCRM is web-based, open source, Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) software geared toward meeting the needs of non-profit and other civic-sector organizations.

    As a non profit committed to the public good itself, CiviCRM understands that forging and growing strong relationships with constituents is about more than collecting and tracking constituent data - it is about sustaining relationships with supporters over time.

    To this end, CiviCRM has created a robust web-based, open source, highly customizable, CRM to meet organizations’ highest expectations right out-of-the box. Unlike proprietary software, each new release of this open source software reflects the very real needs of its users as enhancements are continually given back to the community.

    With CiviCRM's robust feature set, organizations can further their mission through contact management, fundraising, event management, member management, mass e-mail marketing, peer-to-peer campaigns, case management, and much more.

  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:16PM (#47010879) Journal

    There is too little information given to decide what product solution is "best' for this situation.

    Note cards work, Spreadsheet is often enough for "simple" databases. Access and similar are good for designing a good front end (not for the database) and so on.

    From the sounds of it (reading between the lines), a good CRM like SugarCRM might actually be a better solution. However without more information, any recommendation is pure guessing at this point.

  • Who is going to maintain this after you leave? Are you making a firm commitment to provide maintenance in the long term? If so, your off-site VPS solution with a web front end may be appropriate. If not, and there is no local IT expertise at the charity, something self-contained that needs only a single consumer software package to work (Access, Libreoffice Base, even an Excel or Calc workbook) has a better chance of remaining useful when you're gone. Since this is personal data, have you considered how the

  • Microsoft Access is designed for people with good intuition in computing but little technical knowhow to be able to build simple databases and database related applications by themself. This is not to say that the systems built are easier to use than something built using a competing system or the databases are easier to maintain, but simply that it takes less learning to build them.

    So, if you already know how to use Django/MySQL, then why not? Take the time you didn't spend learning a different platform an

  • A lot of details missing on what the end-user environment is.
    I am assuming they have internet access? Dial-up or faster?

    If so, why not consider building a BaaS (Kinvey, Parse, Azure, Amazon) with a simple webapp served up using WAMP or equivalent? I can't imagine this app will run over the limits of the free account providers such as Kinvey and Parse offer. And, you could probably talk to the provider see if they have discounts or willing to donate services.

    Wrap everything up in a nice Windows installer.

  • If the whole goal is to avoid MS, FileMaker is pretty similar to Access from a feature standpoint.
  • Well, I don't know what you want to use it for.
    I'm going to take a wild guess and say you're trying to manage work, tickets, or something to that effect.

    I'd try SugarCRM http://www.sugarcrm.com/ [sugarcrm.com]
    It's open source and free (without support)
    It's the biggest open source CRM I know of.

    Every alternative to Access I've seen is terrible. So I'd stop looking for something that replicates Access and start looking for something that does what you're wanting access to do. You might even settle on several applications if

  • by aerivus (1658465) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:36PM (#47011091)
    Filemaker Pro [filemaker.com] is the major alternative to Microsoft Access for small business. When you need to hand off this project to the staff members who don't do development full-time, its critical to that the system be as simple to learn for the layperson as possible. I'm guessing this is why you're asking as opposed to going with the pure OSS solutions that you are most familiar with. Like Access, both frontend UI and the backend database are managed from one integrated IDE. Unlike Access, Filemaker Inc. is wholly owned by Apple (its been around for over 20 years), has versions for both OSX and Windows, can be used with a MySQL backend, and doesn't tie you into Microsoft's web of licensing. Also, there is a free app for IOS devices (Filemaker Go) that makes it easy to add iPhones and iPads to the mix. The mobile copies of the database can be designed to sync over USB or WIFI, enabling usage without relying on Senegal's probably spotty 3G coverage. Disclaimer: I've developed several custom Filemaker solutions for small business and then trained the end users on how to use the solution and modify it their needs change. Good luck!
  • web2py [web2py.com], multi platform, well documented, non mandatory web based IDE, good security practices, out of the box has a db admin interface and many facilities for auto generating forms, with relationships, that mind validation rules. It can use sqlite3, mysql, postgres, and a lot other db. It has an integrated webserver for low traffic sites. Backwards compatibility is a design goal, so upgrading is easy.
    IMHO it is well worth the little additional work over an access like RAD tool because it has a web client/se

  • I have done extensive work with Access, but almost never used it as the actual storage. Instead, the back-end was on a MySQL, MSSQL, or Postgres server and Access just used as a quick-development environment in the same manner as VB6 would have been.

    Nowadays, I usually use MSSQL or Postgres as the backend, and build the front-end in VB.NET or C#. Once your tables are designed, just add a function that has the appropriate bunch of CREATE TABLE statements and initial INSERTs to set up a default schema, and

  • FileMaker Pro...charity license...done. That'll be $800 of consulting time please :) open source access alternative just isn't worth the man hours to use. Unless you set up a MySQL database and maintain it, Base is not useful as a front end, and definitely not a stand alone alternative to Access.

  • The charity staff have a few computers running Windows 7

    why on earth does a charity run w7? were those computers a gift?

    But it needs to be understandable by the non-geeks in the charity

    average computer illiterate users can do absolutely nothing with ms-access. specially smart average computer illiterate users can do utter crap with ms-access in which they themselves will get lost very soon. geeks can use ms-access as they would use any other relational engine (just a very limited one). in short: ms-acces offers zero, it's not really an alternative in this case.

    developing something for them (the cited mysql/django approach) i

    • by znrt (2424692)

      developing something for them (the cited mysql/django approach) is cool but will make them dependent on you. do it only if you reasonably expect you'll be around for a while and are up for the compromise :-)

      some ideas just to not rule this option completely out:
      - make it public, host it in github or similar. someone might volunteer to help maintain it. i could.
      - contact unicef. as a peer in the workflow they might be able to help with resources, tools, knowhow or specifications.

    • Dunno, if their DB needs can be met by access -- then the level of db skills and complexity of the db itself is pretty minimal. We're not talking about load balancing, replication or anything of that nature. would it even be relational, or just a single table? :(

      You could probably write a PHP front-end in about 20 minutes to handle the data input/retrieval.

      If you ever needed to modify the database throw in something like workbench or navicat, and basically like modifying a spreadsheet -- they might need a

  • by drew30319 (828970) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @02:03PM (#47011383) Homepage Journal
    Rather than discuss alternatives I wanted to let you know that many charities are eligible for deep discounts on MS products. Techsoup.org is a clearinghouse (of sorts) for charities and tech companies, allowing for very deep discounts on hardware and software. For example Office Professional Plus 2013 is $32 and Windows 8.1 is $12. In the past I've paid around $125 for Adobe Creative Suite 6.

    In addition to discounts techsoup also has a wealth of articles on tech-related issues for nonprofit management. http://techsoup.org/ [techsoup.org]
  • If they know and use Windows now, don't be a zealous wanker and force them to spend their resources learning something completely different. Microsoft offers Windows and Office for free to non-profits.

  • by PhantomHarlock (189617) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @02:04PM (#47011395)

    Quickbase - it's a kind of expensive service but amazing.

    All online, no software or machine maintenance. Access from anywhere.

    The amount of flexibility it has is astonishing.

    Get a free demo - they'll set it up for you exactly how you want it. They've rarely said 'no' to anything I've asked if it could do, and then they implemented it, within minutes. It also has an API so you can add on to it all you want. There are a number of affiliated vendors that have ready made add ons for it as well.

    Quickbase can do very very quickly what would take hours or days to program into a custom SQL type app.

  • Do not role your own solution. You're effectively crippling your org once you leave. Which will eventually happen.

    I've done IT for small non-profits. Used both Access, FileMaker Pro. The third party apps targeting non profits range from okay to terrible. Biggest challenge is customizations and forward porting that crap. No different than orgs which customized bugzilla and then had rework when a new bugzilla comes out.

    What we're doing now is moving to SalesForce. It's free for small non-profits.

    http://www.sa [salesforcefoundation.org]

  • by clovis (4684) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @02:33PM (#47011665)

    "I'm doing some volunteering for a street kids charity in Senegal, West Africa, and they need a new database to store all their information for the kids, and to help the funding organizations like UNICEF"

    Suppose a department in the company you're working for came to you and said "We want a database to store information, and we want to do it with Lotus Notes". Would your first response be start implementing Lotus Notes, or would it be to say "Umm, just a sec here. Why do you think you need a database?" and "What kind of data, how much data will there be, what do you want to do with it?"

    Of course, that's one of the most annoying things that IT people do: ignore your question and try to help solve your actual problem. I apologize now.
    For one thing, your problem may already have been solved for someone else.

    Are we talking about committing to paying monthly fees for a VPS server? If so, I do not see why the problem with paying for MS Access licenses.

    My other question is, if we're talking about about a few PC's running Windows 7 and zero-tech knowledge, how are you going to handle backups and restores of the mysql database and the custom apps?

    With MS Access or Excel, you can do backups and restores to/from a CD-ROM, or to a USB stick with a trivially easy restore that anyone could assist with over the phone. With SQL Server Express and some other suggestions, not so easy.

  • Given this info you've given us:

    . . . it needs to be understandable by the non-geeks in the charity — there is no IT expertise here . . .

    you need to do the simplest possible solution. And by simple, I mean one flat file you can backup and restore and one application that needs to be (re)installed would not be overkill (or is that underkill for this situation?)*. The more you have to add to that in terms of re-creating the system after a failure, the more you've set up a "dead-man" system -- where the "dead man" is you. One out-of-control cement mixer with your name on it and your system is one dead hard drive

  • they need a new database to store all their information for the kids, and to help the funding organizations like UNICEF. The charity [has] a few computers running Windows 7. Being a die-hard OSS geek I'm more inclined to knock up a MySQL backend with a Django front-end and run the whole thing from a reliable VPS. But it needs to be understandable by the non-geeks in the charity--- there is no IT expertise here

    You might better begin by asking what local sponsors and organizations like UNICEF are using. What support they can offer. If Windows and MS Office are the de facto standards here, you may need to rethink your priorities.

    That the charity is running Win 7 is a significant clue. Top 7 OSs in Senegal [statcounter.com]

    a MySQL backend with a Django front-end and run the whole thing from a reliable VPS

    Does this really sound to you like something anyone but a geek would understand and be able to maintain?

  • Friends do not let friends suffer MySQL. Go for Glom or LibreOffice Base over PostgreSQL.

  • by tmarthal (998456) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @03:21PM (#47012205) Homepage

    Look into NationBuilder - they are exactly what you are looking for. http://nationbuilder.com/ [nationbuilder.com]

    Don't pay for web development of a one-off app.

  • If you are an official non profit (501 organization) Google provides free services including their App engine AND will provide up to $10,000 free adwords advertising a month. http://www.google.com/nonprofi... [google.com]
  • Excel makes a great database. But to avoid any possible confusion, be sure that there is only one copy of the spreadsheet file in existence.
  • you just ask on slashdor for people volunterring for the setting it up, knowing the specific requirements, and thinking about it.

    The real question is: is tehre already a MS Access DB?

    If yes, then dont touch a running system.

... when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. -- Fred Brooks

Working...