There are millions of businesses today that hold tonnes of data! This data is kept in file cabinets, local data stores like Excel spreadsheets, Microsoft Access or Relational databases while the others have it synchronized to the Cloud. These and even more are some of the various ways institutions keep track of their valuable data.
To allow for better organization and fast retrieval of information, it’s generally acceptable that the best way would be to store the information in some form of relational database. Microsoft office applications are very popular in all institutional setup and there’s a known argument that staff are able to easily adapt as well as accept the use Microsoft Access for their internal database applications – Inventory, HR, Accounting & Billing, Customer Care, Project Management and so on.
Microsoft Access is a very powerful database based on the Access Jet Database Engine. It’s an all in one tool that allows you create and analyze large amounts of information. The business or institution is able to organize related information and have it accessible by staff in various formats.
To date, there are many known reputable institutions, big business, non-profits and financial institutions that have intimate attachment to solutions built on Microsoft Access Database. For many of such institutions, these legacy databases have been in operation for decades and users are comfortable with the results.
I personally love Access. I know for a fact that a majority of the education institutions use this tool to introduce Database Management Systems to students. It’s a good feeling when with just a few clicks, you have a Table and in it a few records which you can search, sort and filter. All of a sudden, it feels like you are a software engineer. Every one wants a “feel good” moment!
With all the beauty that Access comes with, the question is – How much does it cost? Is it right for you? When is it the best option for use in your business or institution?
First, Access ticks at;
a) Cost – MS Access is totally free
b) Simplicity – This tool is damn simple to use. With minimal computer skills, you can build up a simple database in minutes – without a single SQL script or code.
c) Feature rich – There is free pre-built features like Import/Output, Reporting and Analytics all available out of the box.
d) Management – Managing Access is so simple even when it comes to writing SQL (Structured Query Language) scripts. You may opt to simply tick off, drag-and-drop items to generate complex queries.
e) Stability – I love Access for it’s stability, there’s minimal bugs in the application and that’s why institutions have managed to rely on it for decades without any plans for change or upgrades.
That said, there are times when it’s not the best fit for your back-end database and this is especially with the Mid-sized and Large Companies/institutions. Some of the points that could get you to reconsider or upgrade your database could be:
a) Windows dependency – Access is so tightly coupled Microsoft Operating system and Microsoft Office.
b) Slow Access – Platform gets terribly slow with multiple user access over the network.
c) Corruption – MS Access files are prone to corruption when they get larger (> 100MB per MDB).
d) Performance – Because it executes its tasks on the client side, it gets bitterly slow when performing computational tasks.
It’s worth noting that Access was never designed to be a large Enterprise solution where the database is getting hit with hundreds of updates and commits at a time, like the big banking transaction databases you’ll see at places like banks.
Its beauty once again is, Access can easily connect to other database engines like SQL Server (or SQL Server Express), oracle, MySQL and many others. You can therefore choose to setup your application with an MS Access front-end that your users are more familiar with and then one of the database engines mentioned for the back-end, querying and the like. In that, you will have side-stepped the limitations such as the 2GB file size limit.
Recommended Option: You can choose to implement your database driven applications using the more popular databases together with a modern technology stack for example;
– SQL Server/Oracle/MySQL/PostgreSQL with C# (ASP.NET Core) or Python (Django/Flask) or PHP (Laravel/CI) or Java (Spring)
When you use modern technologies, it can help you go a long way into improving your operational efficiency and security. The applications will be easy to upgrade and offer extended functionality and features such as data synchronization, advanced analytics and Business Intelligence.
What are your database systems seated on? Are you happy with their features, security control and performance? When did you last do an upgrade? If you still use Microsoft Access Databases, let me hear you on how well it’s serving you or even if you have any pains.
Even if you feel happy about your current database application, it’s worth taking a moment to review and find-out if you are up-to speed with the current technologies. I am well aware that often times, you need support and upgrades for your legacy MS access applications but the original developer is long gone! And, there’s little to no documentation. It’s always a puzzling moment however, you can always hire a reputable IT firm to help you out. With the right collaboration and input, you will yet again be happy, with the software and features you like – plus with easy to reach technical personnel to support you whenever you need to.
Note: I haven’t mentioned many more cool things about Access such as Mail merge, these and more shall be for later. Be sure to like our page if you don’t want to miss-out.
If you find this post insightful, feel free to share with your colleagues, workmates, line manager or even your IT Manager.
Disclaimer: This post has personal opinions and whatever is shared does not formulate as a position for the parties in picture.