Besides offering a slew of financial apps online for the SMB such as its Quickbooks solution, Intuit also offers QuickBase—an online database for smaller businesses and personal users who may not be database gurus. We last reviewed Quickbase in 2009. In 2013, QuickBase remains a quick and easy-to-use tool for a single user or small business to create an efficient well-organized database that is not subject to a heavy volume of transactions.
QuickBase is still a very good option as a database solution for SMBs, but, since our last review, the cloud app space has gotten far more competitive and there are areas where QuickBase lags behind its competition.
Database Low Down
QuickBase is a cloud platform that allows you to create custom databases (fashionably called apps these days) on the fly. You can create an app as simple as one that keeps track of the progress of your daily jog to a more complex one to track your business sales. We use Quickbase at PCMag to keep track of dozens of pieces of information about all the thousands of reviews we do each year, for example.
Since the entire platform is online there’s no software to deploy or database server to manage, making QuickBase ideal for smaller businesses and personal users who don’t have dedicated database administrators on-hand. In fact, QuickBase is tailored to those who aren’t database developers, in much the same way as FileMaker Pro is. Like FileMaker, QuickBase has guided steps and ready-made templates to allow users to get up and running in creating a database.
Getting Started and What’s New in QuickBase
Since our last review of QuickBase, the services had several updates and enhancements. The latest release was pushed out this past December. Improvements have been made in several features including the way users manage emails within an app—you can now see a single list for all emails in a table. In addition, Intuit has made it easier for customers to view QuickBase subscription bills and billing history. Rules created in forms are now supported in QuickBase mobile. There have also been very specific bug fixes, which are documented on the QuickBase site .
You can try out QuickBase for 30 days as a free trial. Getting started with QuickBase is easy. A wizard helps you create your app either from scratch or with a template. You can also import a spreadsheet to enter data on which to base an app.
I wanted to create a database app based on data I collect from networking devices I test. I keep the data in an Excel spreadsheet. As we found when we last reviewed QuickBase, there still are some limitations to importing data from Excel into QuickBase.
The spreadsheet has to be stripped of any extraneous formatting like column titles, or notes, because QuickBase, understandably, can’t do a clean import of such data.
Help instructions provide useful information on how to prepare a spreadsheet for import. Of course, you can also covert the spreadsheet to a comma or tab delimited file, or copy and paste right into QuickBase.
After formatting my spreadsheet for import, I found the import process overall, pretty efficient. I am working off a fairly simple spreadsheet. If you have a more complex file, such as one with formulas or data totals, you may find the import messier if you don’t properly format the spreadsheet beforehand.
Once done, QuickBase displays the imported data and lets you edit fields, opt to not bring in specific data, and change the orientation of the chart the data is displayed in, before creating the app.
Working With QuickBase Apps
QuickBase does a good job of breaking down database concepts and designs for average users—very much on par with FileMaker Pro 12′s wizards and help resources (although FileMaker has a more visually stimulating and aesthetically-pleasing interface).
Navigating the QuickBase interface to get tasks done is easy if you follow the steps and tutorials. I was able to create filters against my data to pull into several charts and reports. For example, I created a report to show all routers I’ve tested that gave over 100 Mbps throughput at a specific distance.
Once you navigate away from the wizards, orienting yourself is a bit tricky. I find the QuickBase interface rather cluttered and the menu and toolbars items buried. For instance, I want to create another report against my imported networking device data.
I’m in my app’s Home Page and looking to click a button that will allow me to create a new chart or report. Instead, I have options to take a tour, customize my form, create a new record, go into settings, but no way to quickly launch the screen where I can create a new report. I have to go into Records–>Reports and Charts and then I see a button for “New” for creating a new report or chart. This is what I mean by some options being a bit buried in the interface.
As with most database solutions, you can add objects to databases in QuickBase such as images. Adding objects like images is also not as easy as doing so in FileMaker which lets you drag and drop pictures, video, and sound clips into container fields. In QuickBase you have to create forms that are Rich Text and add images that way, or as file attachments. It’s just not as simple as in FileMaker.
I also did not see a way to make an ODBC connection to external databases but there’s a third-party solution called Qunect that will help you do so. FileMaker feature support for ODBC and jDbC connection to eternal data, another way in which FileMaker may be more of a robust database system for some. Quickbase does offer an API kit for developers to integrate with external data sources and further customize apps.
Fast and Lightweight Cloud Database
QuickBase remains a good way for businesses to create lightweight apps without need for deploying and managing on-premise servers and database software. Working within QuickBase gives fast and responsive performance, even creating charts and reports.
However, some businesses may be wary of having their business processes and apps residing in the cloud, and as we witnessed when Intuit suffered wide-spread outages, if the service goes down, you don’t have access to your database. For that reason, some businesses may prefer a hybrid Web/on-premise solution like FileMaker, which also has a more elegant and navigable interface. FileMaker also offers more features for enterprises with its Server edition such as Wan optimization to boost performance and 640-bit support.
Still, for lighter business database needs QuickBase remains a very good database solution. As part of Intuit’s suite of cloud apps for small business, QuickBase is super convenient to get started with and there’s a wealth of help available for users from on-the-spot Live Chat to a vast knowledge base.
While FileMaker Pro 12 is our Editor’s Choice for databases QuickBase is a solid database service that earns four stars as an SMB database; it’s especially handy for those who want an all-cloud solution.
|Type||Business, Personal, Professional|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc