Why Not Excel?

Excel is a great application for analyzing and presenting data. But it is not so good at managing data (i.e. adding new data, changing existing data) except at the most basic level. 

Only one user at a time can update the file. Other users can make changes but have to save them to a different file.

With Excel, data is not normalised (at its most basic level, normalised means that data is stored only once). This can be a problem if for example a customer changes their address. In Access you would change it in one place. In Excel, this may have to be done in a multitude of places.

As the spreadsheet grows and becomes more complex to handle the exceptions or additional functionality it becomes harder to manage.

It is also difficult to make Excel secure. Anyone can open the file and change or delete some data or a formula by accident and not necessarily realise it. Access has much higher security levels available to it.

Why Microsoft Access?

Microsoft Access is actually two different products bound together in one solution. It consists of the database itself (known as the Back End) which stores the data; and the forms, reports etc. (known as the Front End) which is what the user uses to manipulate and display the data in the back end. In addition Access can export data to Excel or a myriad of other file formats.

This provides a good start for an upgrade path as your business grows because the back end does not have to be Microsoft Access, it could be SQL Server, MySQL or pretty much any other database provider and the back end can be upgraded to these at a later date if required. You can also use SQL Server Express which is free and suitable for many requirements, or for a scalable solution available on the cloud for a modest cost there is SQL Azure.

Microsoft Access comes as standard with any professional level of Microsoft Office and if you don’t happen to be using Microsoft Office, a runtime version can be downloaded for free from Microsoft or supplied by SME Data Solutions.

For smaller companies Access provides a flexible database solution to streamline your processes without the added expense of servers. For larger companies who have these facilities Access can help by providing tactical solutions at much lower cost and faster delivery than their existing strategic systems.

Microsoft Access provides one of the most cost effective ways to develop a database to help manage your business. 

In Summary

Both applications have their advantages and disadvantages, strengths and weaknesses and can often work well together. Many processes may start in Excel, but as the task grows there comes a point where it is beneficial to migrate to Access.

Why not contact us to see how we can help you to migrate to a database solution?