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  1. #1
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    Very General Question

    I just started with PHP. I read KY's book and a few others and finally feel like I am going to actually learn this. I have made a few sites with complete content management, mime mail, photogallery etc. and I would really love to use php for this next project.

    I work at nights freelancing as a night auditor for various hotels on Miami Beach. Many of the hotels are pretty antiquated as far as their systems are concerned. Some do everything by hand because the std 5K per year license fee does not appeal to them. Others use the cookie cutter software that gives them way more functionality than they need. Its a mess wading through the clutter on the screen.

    What I want to do is create an on-line service with PHP and MySQL and charge these hotels for using the system. I see certain advantages to having this thing on-line but some of the disadvantages might be what happens if they lose their connection for some reason or other. It seems like the only way to do this would be to keep it on the local machine in which case I don't know if its worth it.

    Another question - is it possible to take the nicely formatted data on the browser screen and print it out
    for example on a registration card so that it retains the correct format?

    Let me know if you think this is a totally impractical idea. I like the idea of using php and MySQL to continue learning. I'm not really concerned from a financial standpoint just the technical perpective

    Cheers

  2. #2
    No. Phil.Roberts's Avatar
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    Like you say, the basic problems of needing a permanent connection to the central server would probably make this kind of thing a lot more trouble than its worth. Then theres also the problem that running a local system would also require its own server, and would need to be accessed through a web browser. (Unless you plan on using PHP-GTK of course)


    As capable as it is, PHP simply isnt designed for applications such as this. There are already a stack of client apps designed for accountancy and financial management and general databasing, reinventing the wheel with a language simply not suited to it would be a bad idea.
    THE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW ARE OLD AND MAY BE INACCURATE.
    THIS INSTALL METHOD IS NOT RECOMMENDED, IT MAY RUN
    OVER YOUR DOG. <-- MediaWiki installation guide

  3. #3
    As the name suggests... trickie's Avatar
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    The language itself is a totally viable tool. It is the hardware constraints and logistics that probably make this a difficult task.

  4. #4
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    The more I think about it the connection is not such a big problem. They can back up their broadband connection with a dialup.

    Since they are only transferring very small amounts of information and doubtfully will have more than one simultaneous connection to the database I think it would be plenty fast even with the dialup.

    The reason I am particularirly interested in doing this on-line is that most of the hotels down here are now using the services of agencys like travelocity , hrn expedia, etc... At present a user makes his reservation online and that reservation gets printed out and faxed to the hotel who then re-enters the info manually and faxes back the confirmation #. Besides the cost of hundreds of faxes its really a pain and leaves room for error.

    Also I wanted to create a secure user profile section to facilitate checkin, reservations, checkouts mostly to encourage repeat business , you know like the "one click" deal.

    Many of the hotels are owned by the same people and it would be nice to be able to view availability of all hotels simultaneoulsy. What happens is that often one hotel may be overbooked but another have rooms available.

    As for the accounting, It's really pretty basic stuff. Some statistics, daily operations, balance checks etc. This I know PHP with MySQL would have no problem with and I could do my work from home ...Okay I would still have to go by to pick up the business for the day but then I could work at home do 4 times as many hotels.

    Viewing the content through a browser window is no problem. Maybe its even a plus as we are always also emailing confirmations. Most importantly though I could create very nice interfaces without any clutter for each hotels specific need.

    I can get a virtual server very affordable fully maintained with database backup for $60 per mo. I could put 6 hotels on each Host Domain, each with their own database and give them 50MB of space to boot.

    So those are some of the reasons I wanted to try this on-line. As for formating the data so that it would print correctly, (registration forms, guest lists, housekeeping forms) is there a way besides print screen to do this. Maybe the files could be made to PDF? What is the answer to this?

  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy Karl's Avatar
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    Hi,

    Please don't take offence at this post.

    To me, it seems like you're not all that confident in your program, hence profficient at programming. Something like this isn't the kind of system you program as your first foray in to online systems, sure it may seem pretty simple and self explanatory, but I can bet you $500 that once you get in to it you won't be thinking the same.

    It's definately a doable and interesting project, but it's not one for someone just starting out without any experience - you're dealing with other peoples business here, you're putting their livelyhood on the line with your programming and development skills. If it was your own business then I'd probably say go for it, but it's not, you've got to consider the larger picture here. Also it's not the kind of system you'd want to put on a virtual hosting account, you're going to be dealing with frequent potentially large transactions in terms of monetry value - it really isn't shared hosting territory. We now come to choice of tools, for a robust system, mySQL is not the way to go IMHO, it's not even a real RDBMS (No matter what they claim for the 3.x series it's not).

    Don't get me wrong, you may turn out to be (or may already be) a very profficient programmer and it may all go very well - but if it doesn't, there is a lot at stake. I don't suppose you've got insurance to cover yourself if it goes wrong and they sue?

    I'm not personally having a dig at you, more in generally a people who risk other peoples business by attempting projects that they can't obviously handle at this moment in time. Take things slow, start small, work your way to the top, learning as you go along.

    Thanks for reading (if you got this far),
    Karl Austin :: Profile :: KDA Web Services Ltd.
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    Call 0800 542 9764 today and ask how we can help your business grow.

  6. #6
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    Hi,

    No offense taken

    I understand your point of view. I have been self employed for over 19 years and am very aware of potential bad scenarios. I don't frivously put people at risk. In this case I of course would test test test before converting any system over, but this is much simpler than I think you are envisioning.

    These are small hotels (50 rooms each) and they really dont have that many transactions per day. I can not imagine MySQL not being able to keep up??

    Of course I am in no rush, I will take it step by step. I am not completely inept though, I have been working on the internet more than 11 years so I understand security concerns and would make sure I understand how they relate to PHP and MySQL fully before doing anything.

    Thanks for that point of view however, as I know many people do fall into that trap (perhaps me in my younger days) .

    cheers.

  7. #7
    As the name suggests... trickie's Avatar
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    This is how i would do it:

    1 engineer the system. By that i mean, it looks like you could break the system down in to smaller hot-pluggable sub-systems.

    2 Maybe talk to one of the hotels, gauge their interest, and suggest that you (without infringing on their current system) set up a dummy example of the sub-systems. That way you could develop the parts individually, get feedback indivdually, and if it isn't going to happen you haven't wasted the time building the entire app.

    3 as for the hosting, i don't think you are going to convince them without a dedicated secure host.

    4 Good Luck. As for the business insurance etc i don't really know about that. Especially in the US

  8. #8
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    Thanks,

    Most of the owners of the hotels are friends. I have already discussed this with them, they know I am not one to talk loosely so they pretty much give me freedom to do what I want.

    As for building it in modules, yes that was my idea. When you break it down as I have, it starts to look pretty much like the same kind of stuff I have covered so far.

    Security is definately an issue but I conduct secure transactions daily on my own site, I don't see the problem with a having a virtual server that has been set up properly.

    For a large hotel (Loews) I would not consider this but I am talking small boutique hotels that are already sort of rigged in one way or another.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard gold trophysilver trophy
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    Some quick thoughts - PHP / MySQL will definately handle it (although check out PostGreSQL as well if you'll be dealing with complex financial data, where preserving data relationships is important).

    Get a well respected provider for the site. IBM is providing Linux hosting these days for $300 / month (comparable to a dedicated server a rackspace) (see this) - might provide better fault tolerance than a dedicated server, as it's a "virtual" server running on a mainframe.

    Also check out eZ publish as a "framework" to build the PHP application in - might help you get started faster.


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