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  1. #1
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    Database help for a newbie...

    Not sure I'm in the right place, here goes anyway...

    I'm starting a business that deals in used auto body parts. I need to put the entire inventory on a website for customers to see, but they do not need to be able to buy items through the site (e-commerce) since the majority of them will pick up items in person. I need to keep the inventory list the same (up to date), both at the business site and on the website and would like to use some kind of program that makes it easy to load the data onto the web server. Hopefully I'm making sense. Basically, I need an online list of parts, some with pictures, that is easily manageable.

    Any suggestions? I'm an html guy and know next to nothing about server-side programs, although I have messed with oscommerce a little bit.

    www.antelopeauto.com/misc.htm <-- site should look kinda like this.

    Dan

  2. #2
    SitePoint Addict StephenBauer's Avatar
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    Is the part data already in a database (I suspect) or will this be created too?

    If it is already in a database, you can hit that directly with read-only queries (with a security scheme in place and tested) for your web site if the hosting environment is in-house (and supports that...ie. an actual DBMS system as opposed to an old specialty "auto parts" application).

    If it is hosting environment is remote or on an old "auto parts" application, then you may have to settle for periodic export files from the current system (if it supports that) being sent to the hosting environment via secure FTP and then loaded there...every 30 minutes or so depending on needs. You would then need a disclaimer on the web site stating that "quantities on hand are current as of the last data update at xxxPM/AM."

    I guess we need more details like if a DB exists already, what DBMS is used (if any), how is the data stored (flat-file or proprietary DBMS system), and whether or not the DBMS or the "auto parts" application (if it is one) supports outside access to the data or at least export of the data. Also, are you hosting the web server in-house or remotely and what sort of connectivity exists between the DBMS/"auto parts" application and the hosting environment if it is remote.

    Then we will give you a better answer!
    Last edited by StephenBauer; May 26, 2004 at 11:25.

  3. #3
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    There is no database yet. We're moving to a new location and now that I'm one of the partners I want as much of our inventory online. Right now they don't even have a list of what they have. A simple Excel spreadsheet would work fine as far as a local inventory list (at the yard). The updates would only take place about once a week, and if I could output a file from Excel that would keep the links to images I'd just do that and ftp them onto the server. I'm hosting through webhostingbuzz.com.

    At this point, the best (simplest) process I can come up with is to edit the html pages directly and upload them once a week. Since all I'm trying to do is have a list at the yard that matches a list that's on the web, I could probably use Frontpage extensions to make edits. Meaning, this doesn't need to be complicated by having a fancy program to do things automatically. The only thing I lose by editing the html directly is that the stock numbers I use are not in order (list is sorted my Manufacturer), so I'd have to track the stock number sequence seperately.

    So...

    - No existing database and probably not necessary to have one
    - Updates once a week
    - Needs to be able to link to at least one picture per line item

    Dan

  4. #4
    SitePoint Member rodin7's Avatar
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    You could also do the site dynamically using php and mysql
    That way when you update inventory it would build the pages on the fly so you wouldn't have to rewrite the pages. Just depends on how often you have to update data and how much you want to work.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Addict StephenBauer's Avatar
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    It sounds like you may not have boatloads of parts to deal with at this time (by your acceptance of hand editing HTML) and yes, I know we are not dealing with boats here!

    A few things to contemplate here are:
    1) Do you want this business to succeed? I think we know this answer.
    2) Do you expect to grow? I think we know this too.
    3) How much growth in the number of parts is anticipated?

    I only mention this to get you thinking in terms of growth. It may be easier to get a little something extra rolling right now then it will be to get it rolling when you are inundated with boatloads of parts to hand edit into HTML (not to mention all the time to actually do the selling, ordering, etc). This could be cancelled out by the fact that if you do skyrocket, you could afford to pay someone else to come in and quickly get that "little something extra rolling" in terms of a more automated online inventory system.

    If you, a partner, or even a friend/co-worker are able and have the resources now, I think it may be worth the time to sink a week or two into putting the parts into an actual database of some sort and a few ASP (or a dynamic web technology of your choice) pages to allow perusal of those parts online. This sort of functionality could almost be cut-n-pasted from book/online examples of web page code. You will thank yourself later for not having to hand alter the data all the time and it will be constantly up to date. You could even modify the 'perusal' pages to allow authenticated users (i.e. you and your partners/employees) to go in and add/update the database online. This will free up even more time in the long run from having to update the file periodically. I think you will find relatively soon that "once a week" may not be often enough. If you have walk-in customers, you may get a lot of "well your website said you had this part two days ago (or even this morning)".

    Since you have partners, you may have some time to devote to such an endeavor.

    I have not used a recent version of FrontPage in years but I would hope that it still allows the display of data from an Access table (or even an Excel spreadshee) to give you your perusal feature without a lot of headache. One thing to note about Access and Excel backend data storage...they do not scale well.

    If you do want to continue to do the Excel spreadsheet transfer route, then you will become very familiar with the search-n-replace feature of your favorite text editor (i.e. export comma or tab delimited from Excel and then replace with appropriate HTML table tags). To facilitate this, look into a text editor that supports "column" mode - such as UltraEdit. This will allow replacement of characters at a column level since you won't want to replace the comma or tab with the same HTML markup (i.e. some will be replaced with "<tr><td>" some with "</td><td>" and some with "</td></tr>" - of course this will be more complex if you add links or styles). Do you know any one with VB for applications experience that could work some Excel export wonders (although I still recommend a different route)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dino
    There is no database yet. We're moving to a new location and now that I'm one of the partners I want as much of our inventory online. Right now they don't even have a list of what they have. A simple Excel spreadsheet would work fine as far as a local inventory list (at the yard). The updates would only take place about once a week, and if I could output a file from Excel that would keep the links to images I'd just do that and ftp them onto the server. I'm hosting through webhostingbuzz.com.

    At this point, the best (simplest) process I can come up with is to edit the html pages directly and upload them once a week. Since all I'm trying to do is have a list at the yard that matches a list that's on the web, I could probably use Frontpage extensions to make edits. Meaning, this doesn't need to be complicated by having a fancy program to do things automatically. The only thing I lose by editing the html directly is that the stock numbers I use are not in order (list is sorted my Manufacturer), so I'd have to track the stock number sequence seperately.

    So...

    - No existing database and probably not necessary to have one
    - Updates once a week
    - Needs to be able to link to at least one picture per line item

    Dan
    Last edited by StephenBauer; May 26, 2004 at 11:24.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Enthusiast
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dino
    www.antelopeauto.com/misc.htm <-- site should look kinda like this.

    Dan
    Dan,
    osCommerce may be overkill for such a simple site. If you have a small budget I can do the website portion for you in a day with PHP+MySql and if you want a delphi application to update that data from your desktop give me another day. PM me if you want to go this route. You would build your html around this, or you can give me your HTML template and I will build around it.


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