Access is a database application that just won’t die, and it’s the subject of a short piece that discusses the reasons why the platform is still in use and thriving in some cases. I wonder how many of you still use, or support, databases that are built in Access and used by people in your organization to get work done.
Like many SQL Server pros, I’ve often dismissed Access as a poor tool for running an important database system. However, that’s been based on my experience with larger organizations that need to scale up a system for multiple people to use concurrently. Access doesn’t do that well, though it can certainly handle a small number of people easily.
Perhaps my disdain is also born from experience with Access being used to edit data in SQL Server and taking table locks. That usually builds a blocking chain that ends with my phone ringing, something I try to ensure doesn’t happen. However, that’s a broad brush against Access. I have a SQL Server DBA friend that used to use Access to edit lookup data. This person would even give a form in Access to a few employees to allow them to maintain some data in SQL Server. Without any issues.
Access is easy to get up and running, which isn’t something I’d say about SQL Server. I’ve used most versions of SQL and built applications on the platform. Getting going quickly, without overhead, isn’t something I think about. Even security, which I understand well, isn’t simple to explain or get right. I see plenty of people struggling with this constantly, which is likely why many vendors end up using the “sa” account.
There are lots of reasons why SQL Server (or some other server) is a better database platform for an application with any widespread usage. There are also reasons why Access is a good platform for small systems. I’ve run into a few Access MVPs that are still building and maintaining applications for small customers, with no shortage of work and plenty of accolades from their clients. Maybe the last part of the article says it the best why Access is still in use: ” the attraction of something that “just works” has turned many ordinary technologies into overnight sensations.” I couldn’t say it any better myself.