We develop .NET based solutions with Visual Studio 2010, for Microsoft's Windows platform and use Microsoft SQL Server for the back end database because
- virtually all businesses have PC's running Windows
- we believe that .NET and SQL Server allow us to offer the best possible solution to your problem.
Some will argue that 'Open Source' is the way to go because
- Open Source is free
- There are no licensing costs associated with MySQL (MySQL is approximately the open source equivalent of MS SQL Server)
- You'll be able to access your source code so won't be tied in to a single supplier
The fact that Open Source technologies are free is often used as an enticement but the reality is that developers using Open Source technologies want to be paid for their work just as much as any Microsoft developer. Your new application is going to cost money no matter what technologies are used.
When it comes to databases it was not uncommon in the past for MS Access to be used. Although not free it was and is widely available, therefore, many developers used it because this meant that their clients could avoid the licensing costs associated with more heavy weight options such as MS SQL Server. Indeed we produced a number of such applications ourselves. The problem lies in the fact that although technically capable of holding large amounts of data and supporting multiple users it is not really suitable for Enterprise level solutions. Additionally differing database formats in the differing versions of Microsoft Office have meant that some companies have found themselves with applications that no longer work on their newly purchased PC because, for example, the existing older systems have Office 2000 installed whereas the new computer has Office 2003 or 2007 installed. These problems can be reduced by replacing the MS Access based client application with an application developed in a language such as Visual Basic (part of Visual Studio .NET) but the underlying problems relating to database size and the number of concurrent users remain.
This is the point at which Open Source advocates would recommend MySQL because it is more robust than MS Access and it's free. Fortunately Microsoft has made available a version of SQL Server for which there are no licensing costs (SQL Server Express as part of SQL Server 2008). Whilst free open source technologies such as MySQL are available for use in data-based applications we do not believe that these have the level of commercial credibility, robustness and technical support infrastructure appropriate to the needs of a serious business end-user and, thanks to Microsoft, there is no longer a financial reason to consider such technologies. SQL Server Express databases are completely scaleable should you out grow their limitations but for most small to medium sized companies this probably won't happen.
The final argument listed above relating to the advantages of Open Source technologies relates to source code. It is common practice for solution providers to withhold the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and source code for an application. They will give you all sorts of reasons why they should do this but the truth is that it is a bargaining chip. If you want to have some modifications done you will have to go back to the original supplier and they can charge you whatever they like. At Acumen we have an entirely different attitude. Acumen always delivers the final source code of the solution to the client. This ensures that the client is never 'locked in' to using Acumen for ongoing support and development; that the client has full ownership of software that is key to the support and development of their business; that they can react to business change at any time in the future and still obtain best value from whatever solution providers are available or favoured at the time; that the client can obtain third-party quality assurance of our output. Our approach is that our clients should return to us because they want to and not because they have no other choice.
Please note, however, that although we give the source code to the client we still maintain a copy of the most recent source as additional backup and security, and to enable Acumen to rapidly react to any requests for change that might be made. Delivery of the source code does not mean that Acumen distances itself from the solution once it is delivered – we are always happy to quote for ongoing support or further work.