“No Code, Just Caspio” – that’s what Caspio, a popular online database solution, promises to its users. In this article, we will put the company’s slogan to the test, and see how Caspio stacks up against two popular Caspio alternatives Five and Knack.
This article is for you if you’re looking for an affordable Caspio alternative to rapidly build and launch database-driven applications, such as custom business apps, customer relationship management or membership systems, for example.
Caspio, Five, and Knack are all “apps that built apps”: they give users access to a hosted, relational database, provide front-end user interface design capabilities, and host applications on behalf of their users online. Let’s check out each platform and find out how they compare.
|Starts from US$100 per Month
|Starts from US$27.49 per Month
|Starts from US$39 per Month
|Storage & Records
|Type of Application
|Embeddable Web Widgets Only
|Full-Stack, Responsive Web App
|Full-Stack, Responsive Web App
|No- and Low-Code
|Microsoft SQL Server
|Ability to Write SQL
|Full-Featured Free Download
Caspio is a model-driven, low-code web application platform, created in 2000 by software entrepreneur Frank Zamani.
Caspio combines familiar elements of Microsoft Access, a desktop database builder, with web application development. The solution covers the entire process from database creation to application deployment.
Caspio is made for tech-savvy business users. The solution does not presume prior knowledge of programming, but an understanding of relational databases is a plus when getting started.
It is a popular solution for small- and medium-sized businesses that require web-based database applications, online forms connected to a database, or data visualizations (charts and dashboards).
Caspio has a loyal user community who praise the product for its intuitiveness, its visual application development features, and comprehensiveness. Its more than 20 years of history gives the company a foothold in many different industries, and its marketplace provides users with pre-built templates, extensions, and data sets to get started quickly. The company is also one of the pioneers in low-code application development.
However, the company’s slogan – “No Code, Just Caspio” – seems to suggest that Caspio is a solution for everyone and that no background in software development is required to build applications with Caspio. This is true to a certain extent, but some users report that the learning curve for using Caspio can be steep.
Negative reviews of Caspio usually concern three things: its pricing, its limitations, and its deployment model. Let’s start with pricing first.
Caspio’s most affordable plan – the Starter plan – starts at a regular price of US$100 per month. This makes Caspio relatively expensive to start with. The company does offer promotions to new customers, who can benefit from a 50% discount, but it is not clear how long the discount is valid.
Caspio offers a free trial that is time-limited to 14 days.
When buying something, it is usually helpful to compare alternatives. For example, one laptop may offer 256GB of storage, another 512 GB. Gigabytes are easily understood, easily comparable, and standard across all laptops. This is unfortunately not the case when evaluating Caspio. Caspio uses its own metric, something called data pages, to limit application complexity.
Now you may wonder: what is a data page?
Here is Caspio’s definition of a data page: “DataPages are user interfaces of your application, such as web forms and search/display interfaces. Apps are for the most part a collection of DataPages that are designed to provide the functionality of the app for the end users.”
To evaluate how much Caspio will cost you, you need to make an assessment of how many data pages your application will have. First-time users of Caspio dislike this concept, as even with Caspio’s definition of a data page, it is almost impossible to make a precise estimate upfront.
A useful workaround is to check out Caspio’s existing app templates. For example, the CRM system demoed in this Caspio walkthrough has 24 data pages. Caspio’s Starter Plan, however, includes only 20 data pages.
Once your application has more than 20 data pages, you’ll need to upgrade to Caspio’s higher Professional plan at US$600 per month.
To sum up: before using Caspio, it is worth understanding what data pages are and how this will affect the cost of running your application.
Last, let’s speak about application deployment, or how to get your application in front of your end-users.
This means that:
The image above explains the concept of embeddable data pages. They are web elements published onto an existing web page, blog, or canvas and they are connected to your Caspio-managed database.
Note that data stored in an application built with Caspio resides in a SQL Server database, hosted on AWS.
Caspio’s focus on embeddable web widgets is not necessarily a disadvantage and can be a good option for all those who want to leverage an existing website. However, be aware that embedding external widgets into an existing website can lead to slower loading speeds and penalize your search rankings.
Now that we’ve analyzed Caspio from a technology and commercial point of view, let’s move on and explore two powerful Caspio alternatives, Five and Knack.
There are of course plenty of other Caspio alternatives that users can choose from, such as FileMaker, Zoho Creator, or any other online database builder.
With Five and Knack, we have chosen one low-code alternative (Five), and one no-code alternative (Knack) as a comparison. In case you’re not sure what the distinction between low-code and no-code is, read our article about no-code vs. low-code here.
Let’s start by analyzing Five.
Five is a low-code development environment that helps build and deploy online database applications.
To see how Five works, check out this video that converts a spreadsheet into a web-based database application.
Five builds applications on a standard MySQL database, which can be exported as a database dump from inside Five. This keeps data portable and reduces vendor lock-in.
Five has a simple and transparent pricing model. Developers pay a fixed fee per application and month. Running a single application in Five’s Basic Plan costs US$29.99 per month. Five’s next higher plan (which includes additional storage), is US$99.99 per month.
Five also offers a full-featured free download, that lets developers build and test their applications locally free of charge.
Most developers of data-driven web applications only really care about one question: how much data can my application store, expressed in GB?
Five offers three different plans for application hosting (all plans are for a single application with unlimited end-users). Its Basic Plan includes 3 GB, its Team plan includes 20 GB, and its Business Plan includes 100 GB of storage.
The concept of data pages doesn’t apply to Five. Applications can be as complex as necessary – the only thing that counts is storage.
Is your plan to build a standalone web application rather than just widgets? Then Five is the right solution for you. On the surface, both Caspio and Five seem very similar, as both are purpose-built for creating business applications: custom CRM systems, customer portals, inventory management systems, or customer registration forms.
However, unlike Caspio, Five lets its users build a standalone web application with its own unique URL, logins, and user management.
Knack is another popular, no-code Caspio alternative for building data-driven applications visually.
Unlike Five, Knack is primarily a no-code solution designed for use by people without any background in application development. Knack is a visual, WYSIWYG application builder that simplifies application development and deployment. Users praise Knack for its simplicity and useability, and its pixel-perfect front-end capabilities.
Unlike Caspio or Five, Knack lets users build applications on a proprietary, relational database that is hidden behind Knack’s visual database designer. Knack replaces programming terminology with more accessible language. For example, instead of speaking of relationships between tables, Knack lets users build connections. Instead of database tables, users build objects.
This language is unique to Knack and makes the solution more intuitive to non-programmers than Caspio or Five. For those who are already familiar with relational databases or SQL, Knack’s choice of words means re-learning what they know already.
Knack is generally considered to be an entry-level solution, and its data modeling capabilities are not as advanced as Caspio’s or Five’s.
One drawback of using Knack is that the solution doesn’t give users any kind of sandbox environment for their applications. This means that any changes to your application are directly pushed to your production version. This is usually not advisable. Five, on the other hand, lets users test their applications locally.
Knack is much more affordable than Caspio, but more expensive than Five on its cheapest plan. For US$39 per month, gives users 2B of storage or 20,000 records.
Knack’s entry-level plan includes three applications, which makes it cheaper on a per-application basis, but at just 20,000 records (or 6,666 records per application), there’s not much space for each application.
The company also offers a time-limited free trial (14 days).
Knack is generous when it comes to its inclusions regarding the number of applications: its US$39/month plan lets users build a maximum of 3 apps, and its Pro Plan at US$79 per month includes 8 apps already.
However, the Starter plan only includes 2 GB of storage, making Knack the stingiest online database provider amongst the three alternatives explored here. For US$79 per month, users get 10 GB of storage, a maximum of 50,000 records, and can build up to 8 apps.
Just like Five, Knack lets users build full-stack web applications that can be accessed from a custom URL. As explained above, this is different from Caspio’s concept of web widgets, which are not stand-alone apps.
In this article, we compared three popular online database application builders. We found out that one of the most important differences between these three solutions is what exactly they build. Caspio builds web widgets that can be embedded in existing websites. Five and Knack build full-stack web applications. Five does so in a low-code approach, giving users access to a MySQL database. Knack does so in a no-code approach using a proprietary relational database.
Next, we explored the question of pricing and limitations. Caspio limits applications by data pages. Five limits by storage (in GB), and Knack limits by records and storage.
Picking the right solution requires an in-depth evaluation of each platform’s technical capabilities and pricing models. As with so many things in life, the right choice must be the right choice for you, your background, and your use case.