[Haifux] FOSS alternatives to an Access-based organizational software solution
eyalroz at technion.ac.il
Sat Dec 4 13:57:49 MSK 2010
I would like some advice regarding a possible upgrade of an
organizational software application we use at the Graduate Student
In fact, while initially what I need is advice and directions, we may
soon be interested in contracting a single developer or a (small?)
development company to entirely replace our existing system with
something nice and FOSSy.
To describe things briefly, our system:
- Keeps grad student personal data.
- Records payments and debts.
- Communicates directly or via imported/exported data files with some
Technion and non-Technion systems: The listserv, ANAM, the student
tuition people etc.
- Records non-financial operations such as collecting a gift,
joining/leaving the organization etc.
- Is used simultaneously by more than one person on a network (although
it is extremely rare for two people to try to add or modify db records
at the same time)
The number of people handled by the system at any given time can range
upto 5,000 (let's make it 10,000 to be on the safe side), and if we keep
info about people active in the past and don't only maintain a snapshot
of the present, then we need to be able to handle, say, 10,000 as a real
estimate for the next several years and 30,000 to be on the safe side.
There isn't any heavy calculation going on, it's all pretty routine and
Before talking about our currently operating solution, here are some
Q1: What software platforms/toolkits/etc. would you recommend for this
kind of a system? Be specific, not "make it LAMP-based".
Q2: Do you know of specific software apps, already written, which cover
this functionality and may be easily adapted to our needs (or would not
need any adapting)?
Q3: Do you know people/organizations who run such systems with FOSS
solutions, and would be willing to share their experiences?
Our system as you may probably have guessed is based on MS Access, with
a Frontend-Backend split to ease multi-user use. While it is working
well enough today, it is an endless patch-work, not well documented,
without proper specs for anything, and showing signs of aging with every
operation becoming slower as features are added and the number of people
grows. There are also some foundational architectural assumptions which
we want to change (e.g. the present snapshot vs. full history I
Q4: Not a list-relevant question, but are more recent versions of
Access, or Access + a full-blown SQL server, options which allow better
scaling? Perhaps with careful coding?
Q5: Does any of you know people we could consult regarding migrating
away from MS-Access to a more capable platform which is both FOSS and is
easy to extend in the way Access-based apps are?
Q6: Is it or is it not worth thinking in the direction of web-based
frontends to databases, rather than plain vanilla apps?
Any other thoughts/comments are welcome.
PS - We're an organization of mostly non-Technically-oriented people,
bear that in mind.
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