- Microsoft Access is a good database application but it has its limitations and could affect the growth of an SMB – it isn’t truly an online database
- The only way an SMB can really call itself a global player is if it moves its database online and into the cloud – something that Microsoft Access can’t offer
This year saw the retirement of Microsoft’s “cloud” version of its Access application. As of April 2018, the online database version of the application – which featured in Office 365 and was enhanced by SharePoint Online – was discontinued.
“…This feature will be retired from Office 365 and SharePoint Online. We will stop creation of new Access-based web apps and Access web databases in Office 365 and SharePoint Online starting in June, 2017 and shut down any remaining web apps and web databases by April, 2018.” –Microsoft Inc.
The first reaction most people would have, when they hear they will no longer have their MS Access online data available to them is to try to move to the offline (PC- or local server-dependent version) of the application. And so, it seems, Microsoft decided to release detailed instructions on how to safely migrate the data between the two versions.
Once they know that their data is “safe,” many small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) will then go on to make the mistake of thinking the job was all done and that they had nothing more to worry about.
They are wrong.
We mustn’t forget that the previous version of MS Access was in the cloud and accessible from any place where there was an Internet connection. As long as users were authorized to do so, the data was accessible to them from anywhere in the world. This location-independent data access feature is something that the offline version of the database application wasn’t optimally built for.
In other words: businesses can opt to use the offline version of MS Access, but they must be prepared to accept shoddy performances as well as data-synchronization issues that come with databases that require direct, live connections (think LAN) before they can be updated.
What are the drawbacks of using MS Access offline?
Simply put, there will always be a drawback when using an application for a purpose that it wasn’t created for. An SMB using the offline version of MS Access in an environment that requires an online database is no exception. The problems they will encounter, sooner or later, include:
- Syncing issues: as we’ve mentioned above, data that is stored on multiple, offline devices will take time before it is merged and synced on the main, central MS Access database which causes delays and errors. The records’ inaccessibility to more than one user at a time is a major cause of such errors (despite a fix that is available, i.e.).
- Limited storage: as of going to post, MS Access only has a maximum total storage capacity of just 2GB – a ridiculously tiny amount of storage space by even the “tiny” SMBs’ data requirement standards of today.
- Fewer users: again, at the publishing of this post and in theory, MS Access allows about 255 people to concurrently connect to the database. In reality, though, that number is much lesser without having to resort to some complex configurations and adding an SQL Server as a back-end storage system. At the end of the day, it still won’t be the best candidate for a truly collaborative online working environment.
- Added costs, responsibilities: whether it is the cost of the server it is running on or the salary of the administrator who is going to take care of it, a database always comes with a bill that the SMB owner has to foot – payment being in the form of time, money or energy.
- License fees: also, Microsoft has a no-nonsense policy when it comes to its products’ licenses and usage rights – any business that would try to circumvent their policy will, sooner or later, pay the price. The best way to avoid a lawsuit? Opt for database software solutions that are as secure and reliable (If not more so) but cost a mere fraction of the price.
Now, this list could have been longer, but the points included in it should be enough to paint a clear picture: an offline database with limited features, unnecessary overhead costs, and the inability to be accessed over the Internet does not provide an upwardly-mobile SMB with a viable data storage solution.
When is it the time to move your database into the cloud?
There are quite a few clear signs that can serve as indications that it is time an SMB moved its database online. These signs include:
- Streamlining is required: when an SMB reaches a point where it realizes it needs to focus on its core processes, and not have to worry about the technologies that support it, it is then the time to hand the administration of all its servers to a third-party online database software company like Kohezion.
- Cost reduction: allowing online database software companies to take over the running of its servers will allow an SMB to save money as it is much cheaper than having to run an entire IT department of its own.
- Technology advancement: the best online database companies earn that status by remaining competent in their respective markets – this means they will always strive to provide the latest technologies to their clients and at the least possible price. This has an added advantage for the client SMBs as they will be able to remain more competitive with the help of the latest technologies that won’t drain their budgets.
- Business expansion: a mom-and-pop store that runs out of a brick-and-mortar place of business will need an online database if it wants to grow into a global player. It is only with the help of a cloud database that an SMB can offer its services to clients located on the other side of the world. This applies double if the business intends to hire people living and working from another location (or even local ones who might need to go into the field to do their jobs).
- Data restructuring: as a business grows, so too will its data structure. There is only so much that can be done with database solutions like MS Access, which were meant to be used by small businesses with minimal data storage requirements. Once the businesses transform into medium ones, they will need to think about bigger, complex database structures too.
- Open source requirements: Microsoft doesn’t allow its users to tinker under the hood of their applications – Access, included. What the tech company sells is what the consumers get. When tweaking or customization of database relations or data types and their structures is required (as would be the case in an SMB that has grown to accommodate new data/reporting requirements, for example) these databases will need to be replaced with open source ones. Online database software companies become the go-to solutions in this scenario simply because they allow their clients to build their own databases exactly as they need them to be.
- Increased security demands: an SMB cannot guarantee the security of its data when it is stored on its own premises. Well, at least, they won’t be able to be as good at it as a database software company that has made it its bread and butter to keep all of its clients’ data secure. Updates, upgrades, backups, and monitoring of data usage are all taken care of as part of the deal once an SMB signs on; why have it any other way?
Here, it can be said that the main reason an SMB needs to make the move to cloud computing is that it has outgrown its database and finds it is being held back by a data storage/retrieval configuration that doesn’t cater to its expansion goals.
How can you move your Microsoft Access database into the cloud?
Many people think that moving data from an MS Access database to a cloud database is something that needs to be done by experts. But, with today’s online database software solutions that is simply not true.
Here, for example, are the steps required to move from an MS Access database to a custom online database that was created using Kohezion:
Step 1: Export MS Access data into MS Excel spreadsheet
Step 2: Clean up the data, make sure it meets the online database’s requirements
Step 3: Import the MS Excel data into new online database that has already been built or build a new database based on the structure and data saved in the spreadsheet
There you have it; it is that simple. With these three steps, an SMB can have a truly scalable database in the cloud ready to be accessed from anywhere.
Why not let the professionals handle it all?
If even these three steps appear to be a bit bothersome, there is always the option of simply handing the task over to professionals and letting them lose sleep over it! After all, that’s exactly what they are there for – so you can sleep better at night, knowing your data is in safe hands.