Multiple User Options

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Multiple User Options

There are several ways to allow users on multiple computers to run DONATION for the same organization (i.e. on the same database). Each option lists pros and cons of that option after describing the option.

 

1. Multiple Standalone Installs, Copy the Database Around

Prior to the release of the Cloud Storage Service, which builds on this way, the most common way was for each user to install the normal Standalone (or free Lite) version, and to pass around copies of the database, via backup and restore. (Email or Internet backups can be used if it is not the Lite version). That way, each user has a local copy of the database, and everything runs at full speed. However, only one user can be modifying the database in any way (data entry, receipting etc.) at a time, and you have to have a clear agreement who that is. There is no way to merge changes made by two or more users on their own copies of the database if they do not keep track of who has control of the database at any one time. Full details about this are in the topic Transfer your Data between Computers.

A variation of this setup is to have each computer use the database on a USB memory key, and bring your single USB memory key containing the database around to each computer that needs to use it. That way there is only copy of the one database, and there is no danger of modifying different copies of the database on different computers.

There is no additional charge for installing the Standalone version on multiple computers and using it in this way.

Pros: No extra cost, runs quickly.

Cons: Danger of two users making changes on their own copies of the database, which can't be merged. Some delays when you switch to using the program on one computer (have to restore a backup from somewhere) and when you prepare to switch to another computer (have to make a backup).

2. Cloud Storage Service

This method is similar to the previous method, but it ensures that only one user can use the database at a time. It is only advised to use this if you have consistently reliable high-speed Internet on all of the computers that you want to use DONATION on. It is not available to users of the Lite version.

A quick explanation of this service is that the official copy of the database is always an Internet Backup. When any user starts DONATION, the program takes control of the database, and downloads it to their computer. The user does the work on their computer, then when they exit DONATION, the program uploads the database back to the Internet storage, and releases control. When any one user has control, no other user can get control. This prevents the sort of problems that can come up with the previous solution, if the users don't keep track of who has control of the database.

See Cloud Storage Service for full details.

There is no additional charge for installing the Standalone version on multiple computers and using it with the Cloud Storage Service.

If all of the computers that you want to share the same DONATION database on are on the same local network (connected to the same modem or router via direct cables or WiFi) we would strongly recommend that you consider the Network version of DONATION instead. (See below for details.)

Pros: No extra cost, runs quickly, no danger of two users making changes on their own copies of the database, which can't be merged.

Cons: Problems can occur if your Internet goes down when you want to run DONATION, or during your running of DONATION, up to and including causing the loss of your work during that session (though that would be uncommon). Some delays starting and exiting DONATION, as it downloads and uploads the backup at that point, though if your computer was the last user, no download on startup is required.

3. Using the Database on a USB Memory Key

This is quite similar to the first option above, but you have each computer use the database on a USB memory key, and bring your single USB memory key containing the database around to each computer that needs to use it. That way there is only copy of the one database, and as with the Cloud Storage Service, there is no danger of modifying different copies of the database on different computers.

This is probably most appropriate for the situation where there is really one one user, who needs to use the program on more than one computer (perhaps at home and at the organization's offices).

There is no additional charge for installing the Standalone version on multiple computers and using it in this way.

Pros: Fairly simple to set up, no extra cost, runs quickly, no danger of two users making changes on their own copies of the database, which can't be merged. No delays starting or exiting DONATION, except for having to first put in the USB memory key, and safely remove it afterwards.

Cons: You always have to have that USB memory key with you to run DONATION. Problems can occur if your computer gets confused and the key shows up with a different drive letter from where it normally shows up.

4. Network Version

The Network Version of DONATION is designed to be used on a local-area network (several computers within your office, connected to the same modem or router via direct cables or WiFi). In this case, there is only one copy of the database, on the computer running the Network Server version of DONATION, and all of the other computers run the Network Client version of DONATION and access the database that is on the Network Server version's computer.

Multiple users can access the program simultaneously with the Network Versions, though there are a few limitations as to what they can do when there are simultaneous users, explained in its Help topic. The most notable limitation is that you can only create official charitable receipts when only one user is running DONATION.

The advantage of using the Network Versions over multiple Standalone or Lite versions using the first two options above (particularly the first option) is that there is only one copy of the database. Thus there is no chance of having problems with multiple people making changes on multiple copies at once, and being unable to merge those changes. The disadvantages are that it is somewhat more expensive, and the initial setup is a bit more complex.

On a local area network, the program should run very quickly regardless of whether you are on a computer running the Network Server version of DONATION, or the Network Client version. It may be just a bit slower with the Network Client version, because it is accessing the database on another computer, but this should seldom be very noticeable because local area network connections are generally very fast.

The Network version can also optionally be used across the Internet (though the setup is more complex). However, if you do that, users on the computers running the Network Client version will observe noticeably slower response times for all actions that access the database significantly, like the initial startup of the program, which loads the entire Donor List, or large reports. However, unless you absolutely have to have multiple users accessing the same database simultaneously, we would strongly recommend that you consider using the Cloud Storage Service described in point (2) above if your computers are not on the same local network.

Pros: There is really only one copy of the database file, so there are no real dangers. Multiple users can use the program simultaneously, all making changes to the data. Works very quickly when used on a local network, with no delays on startup or exit.

Cons: More expensive, more complex initial setup and maintenance, much slower if run over the Internet instead of a local network, computer running the Network Server version has to always be turned on (though not necessarily logged in) for the Network Client versions to work.

5. Remote Access to One Computer running DONATION

Another way to do this is with a remote access solution, such as Windows Remote Desktop connections, or a web-based approach such as LogMeIn (which has a free version). With this setup, there would only be one installation of the Standalone (or Lite) version of DONATION. With remote access, a user on another computer can view and work on the desktop (screen) of another computer, so if you can set this up, remote users can access the computer running DONATION and run it remotely. Of course, this would only be one user at a time, and that computer has to be left on at all times that other users might need to access it remotely. And also, this is exposing everything on that computer running DONATION to the remote user, not just the DONATION program itself.
 
Setting up Windows Remote Desktop for use over the Internet can be tricky - like the solution for using the Network version of DONATION over the Internet, it requires that the computer running DONATION have an Internet-accessible static IP address or hostname. Also, the port it uses (3389) must be opened up on your firewall, and for port forwarding in any router. (See the instructions under Network Versions for how to set that up, for its port number, and then you can use the same basic idea for this port number.)
 
However, there are a number of other remote access products out there, such as the LogMeIn free edition, that are much easier to set up, and do not require the computer running DONATION to have an Internet-accessible static IP address or hostname, or for you to open any ports on your router or firewall.
 
What remote access solutions do is transfer your keystrokes and mouse actions to the remote computer, and its screen to your computer. While they are usable over the Internet for limited amounts of work, they are always somewhat slow, so you would have to test this and see whether it really seemed suitable for regular use.

Pros: There is only one copy of the program and its database file, so there are no real dangers. Most remote access solutions only allow a single user to be accessing the computer, so there are no dangers related to multiple users.

Cons: Depending on the speed of your Internet connection and the quality of your remote access software, will generally be noticeably slower that running on your own computer. Requires reliable high-speed Internet. Somewhat complex to set up.

WARNING: Do not try to use DONATION with a remote access solution that allows multiple users to access the program on the same computer at the same time - this could cause serious problems!

6. Sharing the Database with Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive etc.

This is just listed here as something you absolutely should not do! Do not try to move the database file itself to a 3rd-party cloud storage location such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Sync.com etc. It is just a recipe for disaster, because there is no way to prevent multiple users from accessing it at the same time, and there is a real potential for damaging your database because of the way those services work.

There is nothing wrong with using a shared cloud storage location as a place to save your database backups, though, and you could use this with the techniques in option (1) above, Transfer your Data between Computers.

Multiple Users with Multiple Databases

The program allows you to have multiple databases for multiple organizations, through the Database ⇒ Switch Databases menu option, with no extra charge. If you have multiple people using the program (which we call "users"), all of whom regularly use the multiple databases, that is fine.

However, if there really is just one main person using each database, who is different from the main person using each other database, and other users never (or only rarely) access that database, that is not the intention of our allowing this to be done with no extra charge. In that case, we would expect that the main user for each organization / database would register and pay for the program separately.

For instance, if one user uses DONATION for two churches, but occasionally another user needs to look at both of those databases, or take over while the first user is away on vacation, that's fine.

But suppose you have one primary user using DONATION for one church, and a different primary user using DONATION for another church, with perhaps occasional switching places while one or the other is on vacation. If they have only one registration and payment, and they are using multiple databases through Database ⇒ Switch Databases and using one of the multiple user options discussed above, that would not be considered to be a reasonable application of our pricing structure. They should register and pay separately.