I think you could probably try a FileMaker solution. Of course, every year you'd be tempted to updated to the newest version of FileMaker and you'd have to pay the yearly upgrade price!
Reading the most recent reviews, folks who had version 10 would have to think long and hard to see if the upgrade would hold good benefits for them. Folks who are upgrading from older versions of FileMaker would probably enjoy the massive upgrades in features and performance.
I think if you really had the time to burn to learn programming a database, then go for it. Unfortunately I don't have that kind of time and would have to go for one of the off-the-shelf solutions.
I tried my hand in 4D database development and wrapped my own personal solution but it was such a massive time drain. Sometimes I felt like I was re-inventing the wheel. Yes, I did get the workflow I wanted but it took a lot of experimenting with user interface design, workflow design, and putting my results in a real world environment only to watch it crash and burn. Then I'd have to approach the database from a different perspective until I finally got it right (usually after many attempts of putting the program out in the real world to see how it fared).
I can easily empathize with the Now Folks about how tough it is to develop a software package.
After spending time with database development, you'll learn to appreciate what a massive job it is to create your own solution.
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