|Sample page from ‘Starting an Online Tutoring Business’ (pages 23 & 24)
Keeping Track of Tutors, Students and Sessions:
To keep track of tutors, students, sessions and the myriad other details involved in running you company, you will need a database that accomplishes a number of critical tasks. Following is a list of some of the key tasks that your database must be able to handle:
Hosted Solution: You can either host your own database or you can have someone else host it for you. Hosting your own database is more complicated because you have to provide the software and the server, as well as someone to implement and support it.
A far simpler solution is to use a full-featured database application that is hosted online by a third-party company. An example of such a company is Caspio (www.caspio.com), which provides a database solution called ‘Caspio Bridge’ that is based upon Microsoft Access database which is a software standard that is used by many companies worldwide.
There are many advantages of using a hosted solution like Caspio Bridge including little or no up-front development costs, no software or server costs, no support costs, automatic backup & security features, and easy-to-use development interfaces which enable almost anyone to design and change their own customized solution.
Simple to Build: A hosted database solution should be easy to design, so that you don’t need to be a software developer to be able to build a customized solution for your company. A good hosted solution should have a simple to use customer interface or design wizard to help guide you through the process of designing the required tables, forms, reports and other components that will make up your database.
Easy to Use: Once your database has been set up properly, it should be easy for your customers, tutors and administrators to access the database to fill in forms, schedule appointments, change their profiles, or extract information as required.
Seamless Website Integration: Database applications must seamlessly integrate with any website with a variety of deployment models to satisfy any customer requirements. You should be able to easily embed features like fill-in forms or data pages within the content of any webpage.
Customer Interface: Every activity your business performs starts with a customer, so your database needs to be able to easily interface with your customers. This means easy-to-fill-in forms and customer profiles, username and password security, automatic e-mail responses and other features.
Tutor Interface: The database should also be able to support all the functionality required for the tutor to interface with the database, their students and your company. They should be able to easily log-in, view or change their tutoring schedules, tutor profiles, billing information or make any other changes they require. As well, tutors should be able to query the system to retrieve any information they require such as their tutoring hours, payment history, client profiles etc.
Billing Interface: A good hosted database solution should be able to support a built-in billing system, to keep track of all tutoring sessions, customer accounts and payments, tutor payroll, billing and payment contact information and all the other myriad of information required to keep track of accounts receivable and payable. If your database provider does not have a ready-made billing solution, they may be able to custom design one for you for an additional charge.
Alternately, if you wish to use a billing system outside your database, you should be able to accomplish this by creating links between your database and billing system so that information can be shared and updated between the two on a real-time basis.
Multiple Security Levels: While your database must be accessible to tutors, students, administrators and others, you must be able to define exactly what information is accessible to what people, whether or not they have to login with username & password, and whether they can edit or just read that information.
Automatic Response & Notification: You should be able to easily program automatic responses and notifications whenever certain actions are initiated in the database. For example whenever a new customer signs up and submits their profile, the database will automatically send them an e-mail confirming their registration and thank them for signing up. You may also want an e-mail to be sent to the database administrator to notify him that a new customer has been added to the database. There are many other important uses for these features, so be sure that your database can accommodate many of these to be programmed into your database.
Unlimited Web Users: Your database should be able to accommodate unlimited anonymous web users as well as authenticated web users, so that your database will easily expand as your company and database requirements grow.
Cost Efficient: Your database should provide you with all the functionality described in this section for one low fixed monthly price, typically no more than $50 - $100 per month. I do not recommend any database application where you are required to pay a charge per user, as this will quickly become very expensive.