Microsoft Access Development


red-key-button-250x250Microsoft Access has been arguably the most widely used and wildly successful personal database software products ever created. Although it has lost a lot of it’s popularity over the years, it still reigns supreme as one of the most powerful and full featured data-centric application development platforms in existence. It is inexpensive, can handle multiple users, and it has power and capabilities that can seem to rival it’s more professional and disciplined cousin Visual Studio. Access is where this business started and we will never stop working with it and supporting it. We can develop Microsoft Access applications for small businesses on a low budget, or use them to create quick prototypes for applications to be used as a “proof of concept” or specification to follow to build a managed code application using .NET and SQL Server.

While it’s recommended to develop line of business applications using a true client/server application architecture, such as Microsoft .NET and Microsoft SQL Server, the reality is that many small businesses that need a custom database and front end application simply cannot afford the costs of this type of Enterprise class development. We provide Microsoft Access Development services specifically to these small businesses with real custom application needs and smaller budgets. Microsoft Access Development, while not suited for large numbers of users and not very fault tolerant, can cost 25% to 50% to develop a similar application. It’s not for every application, but small businesses with only a few users in a single location might be a good candidate for Microsoft Access Development projects.

So depending on the number of users and the requirements of your specific application, it is possible that you can build and deploy a successful project built around Microsoft Access. There are two types of Access applications: Jet and Data Projects.

 

MS Access Jet Applications
  • Jet applications utilize a Microsft Access MDB database and should only be considered for prototyping or single users. While a small number of users can reasonably expect to be able to use a shared Access MDB database, it should only be done when the data is NOT critical for the business and you can live with the possibility of losing data. Access MDB’s cannot be backed up when in use since they are a file based database. Shadow Copy can get backups of Access MDB’s while they are open, but restoration of the MDB in a multi-user environment is problematic. The data can be corrupt, or the database may not function at all. You can read more about Access MDB’s and the reasons to never use them for mission-critical or sensitive data on the Conversions tab.
MS Access Data Project Applications
  • Data Projects utilize Access as a Front-End and SQL Server as a Back-End data source. Data Projects are much better than MDB’s for critical data because the database can be secured and backups can be done and trusted. Databases can be configured to allow for point-in-time restorations from backups. The front-end applications can be developed around data-centric types of applications where users must review, enter, and/or modify records and related records in a visual way with programmatic controls happening behind the scenes, but there are several issues to keep in mind when considering these types of applications:
    • Every User MUST have a license for Microsoft Access. The exception would be if you distribute the Access Runtime to users with no license for Microsoft Access. This is a deployment management issue and it requires a lot of extra steps in order to create and maintain deployments for new users as well as upgrades (your runtime should always be of the same version of Access that the application was built and compiled with).
    • Every user MUST have their own copy of the Access ADP (the front-end application). Sharing of ADP files is not possible. This becomes another deployment management issue because not only do you have to ensure that the new version of the database can work with the old version of the software for users that may be lazy or slow to upgrade, you must ensure that you have a mechanism by which users can easily upgrade their ADP file, which normally involves creating custom installers for this purpose to control what file is used and where it is placed on the user’s system.
    • When users have copies of an Access ADP and they have a license for Microsoft Access, they can potentially make changes to the design or programming behind the application. This is more common than you may think. Access is easy enough to use and build applications with that it has the unwanted effect of giving users a false sense of their ability to properly develop applications. It opens up a potential for users to make modifications to the database itself because putting an Access ADP file into design view exposes the Tables, Views, and Stored Procedures in the actual SQL Database itself. The only way to prevent this is to generate your application as a compiled ADE with certain parts of the file locked out so users can’t get into the database design. This requires great care and specialized knowledge to achieve the desired secure environment.
    • Whenever users upgrade their copy of Access, you have the potential that your application may not work properly.

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