What is Microsoft Access?

If you’re experiencing issues with Microsoft Access in your organization and would like some answers, Comeau Software Solutions offers over 15 years of experience in application development with Microsoft Access and other tools. Please contact me through this website or call (352) 572-2997 for more information on how I can help.

Our modern world runs on stores of electronic data of one kind or another, whether it’s financial data transferred between banks and companies, medical data stored by physicians and health insurers or business and personal data used by individuals and companies. This data very often needs to be stored, analyzed and presented in a way that provides the answers its owners are looking for and that’s where database software like Microsoft Access comes in. Database software allows for data of various types to be entered into a system where it can be organized and selected for custom reports that will provide the right information to make whatever decisions are needed. Microsoft Access is one of many software titles designed to provide these analyses and reporting capabilities to desktop PC users.

The Good

Microsoft Access has been the most popular desktop PC database software for many years. Packaged with Microsoft Office and as a standalone product, it can be found on millions of business PCs around the world and it’s often a convenient resource for analyzing and reporting on small to medium amounts of data at the department level or even creating small reporting programs that can be used throughout a company. It’s benefits include:

  • Ease of data entry – Like many database software titles, Access enables users to create user-friendly custom forms with features that simplify ongoing data entry such as customer and order records, inventory receipts and address information.
  • Flexible reporting – The report designer within Access is easy to learn and enables casual users to quickly design presentable and informative charts and reports as needed.
  • Design wizards – Each version of Access has placed more emphasis on pre-defined templates and design assistants that will help the new user create everything from an input form to an entire database application. This and other features provide for rapid development of applications.
  • Access to many data formats – Access makes it very easy to import or link to data within many other programs such as Microsoft Excel or Outlook or network databases such as Microsoft SQL Server. Plain text data that has been exported from other programs can be easily imported into a new Access database for analysis. This effectively makes Access an all-purpose tool for data processing and analysis.
  • Macros and programming features – Microsoft Access includes its own macros and programming language so that intermediate and advanced users can create more sophisticated applications. Forms and reports can be organized in a single user interface with menus to make it easier for all users to access the necessary information. Complex tasks can be programmed into the application so that they can be carried out with the click of a button.

The Bad

Microsoft Access provides valuable tools for analyzing and reporting on data but every tools has it's appropriate use ... and its drawbacks.

Microsoft Access provides valuable tools for analyzing and reporting on data but every tools has it’s appropriate use … and its drawbacks.

While Microsoft Access provides some excellent data tools for the average business user, its common use also has some unintended consequences for companies and other organizations. Some of the benefits to users can, in fact, be double-edged swords.

  • Unsupported applications – The ability of users to quickly create useful data applications enables data needs to be met without involving I.T. departments which are frequently overloaded with other demands. The flip side of this is that when the users who created the applications leave the organization for whatever reason, I.T. often has to find a way to support these applications which might be completely undocumented.
  • Data conflicts – The ability to tap into network data stores such as SQL Server and Oracle with Access is very handy for quickly creating quick data applications. On the other hand, this can result in company data being changed through these applications in ways that are very hard for the organization to track. Access users with little or no actual I.T. and programming experience can also design applications which make inefficient use of company data, wasting resources on your company’s network.
  • Lack of security – Microsoft Access has no effective internal security on its database format which means that any data stored within an Access database is available through a single computer file, easily transferred to other computers and easily accessed by anyone who has access to any computer on which it’s stored. Access is not appropriate for the design of systems containing sensitive or confidential information. The file-based database format also makes data susceptible to deletion and corruption of the files involved.

The Solution

Like any tool, Microsoft Access has a legitimate place within organizations. It can help users quickly analyze large amounts of information, provide useful applications and even develop prototypes for needed functionality to assist in further development. Power users who are willing to put in the extra time and effort to learn to use the program effectively can contribute to the organization at large while increasing their own skills and experience. I.T. departments benefit when they partner with these users in order to provide the appropriate guidance in the use of Microsoft Access and other tools. This serves to reduce the demand on the I.T. department for new solutions while helping to avoid some of the pitfalls of rogue application development mentioned above. It can also enhance cooperation between departments as common information needs are recognized, benefiting the entire organization.

If you would like help with Microsoft Access in your organization, Comeau Software Solutions offers analysis of existing applications and development of new solutions according to your business needs. Please contact me through this website or call (352) 572-2997 for more information on how I can help.