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Developers charge most for databases

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Databases certainly aren't a new weapon for Web marketers' arsenals, and the trend toward dynamic, database-driven Web sites continues.

Still, this month's Web Price Index finds that database applications aren't cheap to develop. The median price for the project in this month's Web Price Index came to $158,950, with quotes ranging from $45,000 to $875,000.

MedianLowHigh
N. Filtrate & Steele$158,950$45,000$600,000
One of the biggest variables is the price of the hardware and software needed to power a database. Some of the expensive software packages for database development, such as those developed by Oracle Corp., Redwood City, Calif., also can require costlier hardware to run than "freeware" alternatives.

On the low end, it is possible to run a Web-based database on an off-the-shelf, Intel-based computer with a combination of free software such as the Apache Web server, a database package such as PostGres, and the Linux operating system.

Frank Clay, information systems manager for Gannett Off-set Telematch, a Springfield, Va., database management company, finds Red Hat's Linux robust enough for his needs, and "what we need is straight-ahead speed."

Some developers find the inexpensive solutions too good to be true.

"You're talking about systems that you want to have bullet-proof," said Kevin Mason, VP-technology in Agency.com's Chicago office. Agency.com has tested a number of free and low-cost programs, and "we don't have a lot of faith that they can take the pounding," Mr. Mason said.

Lower-cost alternatives

Low-end solutions are not for all marketers. "It depends on scale and stability that the client needs," said Robert Santos, director of strategic planning for CyberNation, Los Angeles.

Scalability is one of the features that drew Mr. Clay to Linux. "It's so easy to put in another server," he said.

For marketers whose businesses depend on providing fast and reliable service from their Web sites, the benefits of a robust and stable platform outweigh high costs.

According to a study by Input, a Mountain View, Calif., information-technology research company, Oracle's database software package is 62% more cost effective than similar software from Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., even though initial costs for Microsoft's SQL server are much less than Oracle's.

Mr. Santos said some marketers side with expensive options "out of anxiety that there's not going to be support for [the low-end] software."

Where do marketers find the return? Speed, flexibility and lower ongoing development costs.

Most content on the sites that Agency.com builds "is housed in a database and generated on the fly," Mr. Mason said. In many cases, that means developers can create tools for clients to update the sites themselves.

Web-based, content-creation tools "allow clients to update content without knowing HTML. It cuts down on the time needed to create content and allows clients to spread that workload out [so they] don't have to go through a central bottleneck of HTML programmers," Mr. Mason said.

For companies doing online catalogs, these types of tools are especially helpful in allowing them the utmost flexibility for their electronic commerce applications.

"Clients are getting tired of paying us high rates just to tweak the store," Mr. Santos said.

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