How It Works
We usually start with a specification of your requirements. In an ideal world this would give us enough information to be able to quote you for the work but in practice we usually need to visit you, both to clarify what it is that you want and to let you meet us so you can be reassured that we are competent, capable and reliable.
We then issue a fixed price quotation. This will define what it is that we will develop for you, what technical environment we expect to be developing for, what the costs and timescales will be, etc. Once you have accepted the quote we will usually have a further discussion with you following which we will produce an initial database design. We then walk through this with you to ensure that we have correctly understood the relationships between all of the different data entities.
The next delivery will be a preliminary version. This will not be fully functional but will include a basic framework allowing you to fire up your application and to start seeing what it will look like. This will be followed by regular (1-2 week intervals) updates, each filling out more and more of the application. These will generally be placed on a ‘virtual server’ set up in our offices. This will enable you to connect to the virtual server via the Internet and run the application more or less as if it were installed on your local PC (with a few restrictions such as printing and saving files).
This iterative approach, which is a variant of the DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method) methodology, has many advantages over the old ‘waterfall’ method. It lets you see the application as it is developing, allows you to influence the design, enables you to correct any misunderstandings at an early stage, lets you check that we are keeping to the agreed timescale and ensures that, at the end of the day, the application that we deliver to you is the same, or better, than the one that you were originally expecting!
We then deliver to you the feature complete version after which you undertake your final acceptance testing before the application ‘goes live’ (i.e. starts to be used for real work). Inevitably some teething issues may occur in the first few weeks – which is why we include free support for the first three months! Also don’t forget our unique software guarantee; any bugs that are down to us will be fixed free of charge for the lifetime of your application!
Our Credentials & Facilities
We are professional developers with in-depth technical expertise as well as many years of practical business experience. All of our developers are highly experienced, each having a minimum of seven years hands-on database development experience and some much more! We do not employ trainees or inexperienced staff and nor do we subcontract work out, either in this country or abroad.
However our best credentials are the recommendations of our customers. Take a look at our clients, cast your eye over the variety of projects that we have undertaken, have a look at some of our case studies and finally take a look at what our clients say about us. Software development is not a regulated industry, there are many incompetents and one or two sharks out there, the only real way of finding out if a developer is as good as they say they are is to talk to their previous clients.
We regularly contribute to computing publications and on-line forums; for example we have written a series of articles for Smart Access magazine and Keyhole magazine. We are Editorial Advisors to DNJ (Developer Network Journal) magazine. We also give talks (such as ‘Developing Commercial Grade Database Applications’ and ‘Performance Tuning Your Database Application’) at events such as the Access User Group’s National Seminar.
We have a wide range of highly specified PC’s, servers, applications and operating systems hooked up over our office network so that we can test your application in the environment in which it is going to be used. As well as all the current versions we also keep a number of old computers/operating systems as we know that not all our clients have the latest state-of-the-art machines!
Over the years (we have been in business for over 20 years) we have created an extensive in-house VB, VB.NET and SQL code and algorithm library containing thousands of proven routines and components… this allows us to complete your job faster and cheaper as well as helping us to keep to our goal of delivering to you a robust, high quality, product in a reasonable timescale.
We also keep a very extensive library of reference books, magazines, articles, support tools and software utilities. We are Microsoft MSDN Universal subscribers and are members of Microsoft’s Direct Access for Developers organisation; which gives us copies of all of Microsoft’s Office products, operating systems, servers, applications, etc. so that we can develop and test your application in the correct environment.
We also have a Digital Certificate from Thawte meaning that you can be sure that software that purports to come from us really does come from us and has not been altered or modified since.
Of course we also have all the standard software tools, hardware peripherals, business broadband Internet connectivity, office equipment and such like that you might expect to find in a well-equipped software house.
Our Design & Coding Practices
All of our software is developed to the highest professional standards and we follow ‘Best Practice’ principles throughout the development cycle. From the many examples of work we have seen that have been written by other ‘professional’ developers we know that very few developers adhere to these quality standards!
Pricing & Quality
We can either work on a Fixed Price or a Time & Materials basis as you wish, although most of our work is done on a Fixed Price basis.
Are You Cheap?
No, we are not cheap, but we do offer good value for money. We aim to deliver high quality, robust, professional solutions to you and therefore we do not cut corners. This would normally make our solutions more expensive; however our code libraries (a wide range of routines and functions that we have built up over many years and which have been designed to be re-used in different projects) allow us to bring the costs back down to the industry average, or even below, – so you get a very high quality solution without paying extra for it…. and don’t forget that, unlike most other developers, our software also comes complete with source code and a lifetime guarantee!
The quality of developed software can vary significantly. Quality is difficult to quantify but all software should be developed to professional, Best Practice standards. Unfortunately much, and probably most, software is not!
The degree of support that you will get can also vary considerably. Make sure that your developer will still be around in a couple of years time and will still be able and willing to support you. Most importantly, make sure you will be supplied with the full source code of your finished application. Then, if your developer does disappear, at least you can hire someone else to make any modifications (and if it was developed to proper standards then this should involve you in considerably less grief than it would do otherwise!).
1) We can develop a complete system. For this we would need a fairly detailed specification and would then give you a fixed price quotation with interim deliverables (ie we would supply you with a gradually more and more complete system over time). A very simple system might cost £5,000. A more typical system will usually cost between £15,000 and £40,000. Complex requirements involving issues such as multiple sites, multiple languages, n-tier, SQL Server Replication, complicated interfaces to third party products or large numbers of forms or tables may push up the cost considerably.
These are only very rough guidelines but if you have something non-trivial and expect to be paying only a few thousand pounds then you need to reconsider.
2) We can migrate an existing Access database to SQL Server. This can cost anywhere from £2,000 to £50,000 but a ‘typical’ price would be £15,000. However there are a large number of variables (it’s not just a case of migrating the data) so this price does vary considerably.
3) If you have developed a database but are having trouble in getting it to work properly then we can audit it, identify any major problems or inconsistencies; advise you on what to change in the design of the database, tables, forms, etc. and give a guide as to how you should proceed from here. An audit will usually cost £1,000 for an ‘average’ database.
4) We can work on a time basis if you prefer. Please ask for details if you prefer this route (typically used when the requirements are not fully known or may change).
5) We can write a Functional Specification for your proposed system. Typically this would include one or more on-site visits, phone calls and e-mails and would normally cost from £5,000 upwards for a system of average complexity. Note that a proper specification will usually reduce the cost of the final system, so money spent up front is rarely wasted.
6) Regular Support. We can act as a support centre for an existing SQL Server database (we no longer offer support for other people’s Access databases due to the appalling quality of most that we see). Typically this would be an annual fee calculated according to the level of support required, the number of users involved, the size and complexity of the database(s) involved, whether development work is included in the support packages and the amount of on-site support required. This fee therefore varies widely and will need to be individually costed. All support is provided by ‘real’ developers with practical, ‘coal-face’, experience. For further details see our support page.
7) Ad Hoc Support or Timebank. If you don’t want or have a regular support contract but do have a problem which you’d like us to solve then we can undertake this on a one-off ad hoc basis. Another variation on this theme that we often use is a timebank. You pre-purchase a block of time, say 20 hours, from us which you can then call-off against as required. We will log all work undertaken against your timebank and provide you with a detailed breakdown of work undertaken on a regular basis. We will also inform you if the timebank is close to being used up so you can top it up if required. Again for further details see our support page.
8) Technical Management Support. If you have in-house developers writing Access or SQL Server applications and would like some objective assessment that they are undertaking the work to appropriate standards, then we can review the existing work and provide recommendations for changes. If required we can also supply documented standards for future developments.
9) We can undertake specific items of work to an existing Access or SQL database. Some areas where this might apply include:
Database design. Design/Redesign you database using the relational model and normalise it to the third normal form (this just means making sure that the basic design of the database follows a proper relational model, thus making it easier to code and easier to maintain).
Security. Setting up User and Group accounts, defining different access permissions, back-end/front-end table access rights, RWOP queries, locking down applications, adding audit trails, etc.
Upgrading of an existing database, eg from Access to SQL Server.
Addition of a web based Internet/Intranet interface to an existing database (depending upon circumstances this may also require the setting up of a web server as well).
Queries. Developing complex queries, adding functions to queries, union queries, subqueries, etc.
Performance. Optimizing queries, forms, stored procedures, code, etc. to make your application run faster.
Multi-User. Convert a single user system into a multi-user, networked one including front-end/back-end split, table attachment checks and reattachments, access rights, etc.
Extending the existing functionality. For example by adding in automated address lookup from Post Codes.
Functions. Developing specific functions (date related, mathematical, validation, string parsing, etc.).
Conversion. Conversion from one version of Access to another, from FoxPro to Access, Paradox to SQL Server, etc.
Replication. Enabling replication in a SQL Server database or fixing problems that you may be having with replication.
Import Routines. Writing custom routines to import and validate data from other systems (eg mainframes, csv files, etc.).
What To Do Next…
If you are interested in having some software developed or if you need some support then please get in touch with us.