What is a database?
Basically, a storehouse for information, organized in a structured manner. It can be something as simple as a grocery list in text file (Notepad) or as complex as the federal budget and beyond. A properly designed database will minimize duplication of data, enforce data integrity and enforce business rules.
What type of database should I use for my business?
There is no one single answer. Your needs must be properly evaluated and balanced against your budget. Two commonly used databases are MS Access and MS SQL Server.
What is MS Access?
There is a good deal of confusion over this question. Access is not simply a database. It is a relational database manager and much more. Out of the box, Access uses its own database (Jet) to store information. It also contains very powerful tools for data managing, editing and reporting. Access can use nearly any type of database (SQL Server, Oracle, MYSQL, text files, spreadsheets, etc.) to store the data and still provide the user interface.
I have heard that SQL Server (or Oracle or other) database is better that Access and Access is only useful for one user. Why would I want to use Access?
This is a common misconception.
Everything has its place and your needs must be properly evaluated in order to provide the best solution for your situation.
An Access database (Jet) can provide equal (or superior) performance when it is properly designed and applied on a LAN. It is not designed to be used over any type of WAN.
It also must be pointed out that other databases (SQL Server, etc.) provide no user interface. An application where users can edit, manage and report on the data must still be created, using Access or some other tool like Visual Basic, Powerbuilder, etc.
Ok, now I understand the data store better, isn't it preferable to build an application as a stand-alone executable, rather than Access?
Once again it depends on your needs, resources, etc.
Nearly anything that can be done in an executable (exe) can be done in Access, plus much more. Access contains one of the most powerful reporting engines around and an application can typically be built much quicker. Development time (therefore cost) of an executable is typically 2+ times longer.
An application built as an executable requires its own installation on each user's machine, but typically does not require any other software installations.
An application built in Access typically requires 'Access' to be installed on every user's machine. So, once again, there is no 'one size fits all'.
What is .NET?
Microsoft's latest technology for building desktop, intranet and internet applications.
Check out What is Microsoft .NET?.
How are projects priced?
Small projects/modifications are best handled on a per hour basis, with a 'guesstimate' provided if desired. It often takes more time to quote a small item than to complete it.
For larger projects, a fixed quote or estimate can be provided.
An estimate (approximation) is usually best for all concerned since it allows latitude.
While a fixed quote lets you know 'exactly' what your costs will be, it would usually be higher in order to insure profitability.
How are bugs handled?
No program is perfect and bugs do happen. A bug is a flaw in an application that causes something undesirable to happen which was not by design. The Windows 'blue screen of death' is the result of a bug. If an application mixed up addresses between your customers, that would be a bug.
A 'feature' that was NOT included in the specification/quote/estimate (therefore was not paid for) is NOT a bug and would not be covered. However, if the feature was left out and WAS included in the specification/quote/estimate (and was paid for), it would be covered.
Bugs in our design/code are typically covered for 90 days after delivery. Workarounds to bugs in Microsoft (or other) products are covered only at our discretion.