Why does my IT department frown when I mentioned MS Access? What are the limitations people talk about? RRS feed

  • Question

  • Hey guys,

    I provide some agile tool development for a large company. We have been trying to get some support from our IT department to help store our data to keep it more secure, etc. We have been having a lot of push-back from our IT executives and I never really get an answer as to why?

    Why is MS Access viewed as an inferior tool? What are the limitations people keep mentioning? Is there an issue with security?

    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 3:53 PM

All replies

  • When you don't know something its easier to blame/make fun ....etc that to spend some little time...to get knowing it.

    Its up to you to prove them wrong but only if you have someone solid to back you up...if not you cannot do much.

    Take note that although if you search for a job these days ... Ms Access jobs are almost extinct..but in whatever company you "land" its almost certain that you will find an Ms Access application playing key role...but its something companies feel hard to admit...after all is a simple desktop database....... :)

    Also another note...A LOT of stupid problems we find in everything work related could be resolved with some little Access...while Excel its fine ..for everything..even it takes eons to resolve due to Excel's being a spreadsheet.

    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 4:05 PM
  • Oh boy, you didn't just go there did you!

    This is a huge question and I could write a brick to answer your question.

    A lot of the push back, from what I've experienced, has to do with IT simply not being experts (or even knowledgeable) with Access and not wanting to be the ones supporting yet another tool.  Most don't even understand that a database needs to be split and blame Access for corruption and performance issues, yet the entire issue is a development one, not an Access one.

    That said, like with all tools, there are limits, and Access is an exceptional tool for many scenario, but not appropriate for others.  Access is meant to be run over a wired LAN connection.  Access can theoretically support 255 simultaneous users, but the reality is more like 40-80 depending on the network ...  Access ' security is limited and thus not appropriate for storing credit card, SIN, ... information.   Access is also not appropriate for web development.  There also the fact that Access is a file, so a user can simply copy the file and walk away with the entire database, which isn't the case with other enterprise RDMS.  That said, this can be addressed through proper setup (permissions) though.

    So when you are looking at needing true security, 100s or 1000s of users, need to display it on a WAN... then you need to turn towards other options: SQL Server, ORACLE, MySQL ... C++, .Net, ... but these will require servers, db Admins, ...

    But for the average business, Access is unparalleled.  It is an all in one solution, RDMS and GUI development platform which can fully integrate with the rest of Office application in a way no other application can!  It can be customized in manners no other application can!  Access can run as a stand alone application and doesn't need any server just a shared folder.  Then there is the Cost considerations, not only of the software itself, but also of development.  Access is typically faster to develop when compared to other technologies, making it cheaper.  User don't even need to pay for the software as they can simply use the free Runtime edition, only the developer need pay to purchase the full edition.

    I'm going to stop here, as I could go on and on, but it always comes back to the same thing, your need.  Access fits a need extremely well.  As for IT departments they aren't there to dictate even though many do.  They are supposed to facilitate.  Ignorance, misconception, inexperience often are at fault.  When shown, explained properly, most have no issue in my experience.  Try not to have a adversarial role with them but rather a complimentary one.  You are there to help.

    Good luck.

    Daniel Pineault, 2010-2019 Microsoft MVP
    Professional Support: http://www.cardaconsultants.com
    MS Access Tips and Code Samples: http://www.devhut.net

    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 4:40 PM
  • Interesting points Daniel...i really would like to test a scenario about the 255 users limit..in my previous job there were more than 100 users but i didn't count the simultaneous connections...i find it that even with a busy company on a carefully designed system with a separation among Departments it could serve a lot of users.
    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 4:51 PM
  • I'll never forget being asked to review a database that a company had spent over 20k on and took over 2 years to finalize and deliver to them.  The issue was, generating simple client labels was taking 2-10 minutes!  The company that they hired was now saying it was Access' fault and the entire thing needed to be redone in another language (I believe they were pushing C++).

    I was asked to look things over and give them my advice.  Within a minute or two of just glancing at the table structure and VBA code, I knew it was a mess.  I rewrote the code being used to generate the labels, and got it down to 1-2 seconds to generate.

    All of this to say, it is easy to blame a technology, ie Access, when you don't have a clue as to what you are doing, or have another agenda!

    Back to the original question, from experience in a similar situation.  I demonstrated that by implementing an Access database I was going to save the company upwards of $50k a year (it actually ended up being far more of a savings), show that to management and IT fell in line very quickly.  Sometimes you need to show them the benefits, and the $$$ benefit is always the one that they listen to the most.

    Daniel Pineault, 2010-2019 Microsoft MVP
    Professional Support: http://www.cardaconsultants.com
    MS Access Tips and Code Samples: http://www.devhut.net

    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 5:12 PM
  • Hey InnVis -

    Yeah, What Daniel said.

    Does your IT department frown on your choice of text editor? Why or why not? How about your choice of web browser? Spreadsheet? Dev language? OS? Keyboard layout?

    How has it been shown that Access is inferior? Inferior to what?

    And no, you won’t get a knowledgeable answer from someone without knowledge.

    It all comes down to the $$$.

    peter n roth - http://PNR1.com, Maybe some useful stuff

    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 5:47 PM
  • I must say ...this..sorry ...my bitter story...

    Because everything is about the Boss and $$$ ... if the Boss likes what you present...then go ahead and move on you have support...if don't ...then you can keep going on your own ....hoping that someday you get some reward because you saved $$$ of the company.

    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 6:04 PM
  • Is the term Database Administrator (DBA) now archaic? I will assume that when you say IT Department you mean DBA or at least what a DBA does.

    Some people might say that the DBAs should learn Access and they are against it just because they are unfamiliar with it. Well the reverse is true. Anyone that is against use of the tools that DBAs recommend that are inexperienced with them should learn them before judging them to be inefficient.

    For Access we have the actual database and we have the code, VBA.

    For the database, the SQL that Access uses does not have as much as SQL Server. And if the company wants to access data in Access using SQL and in the same query use SQL Server data then that cannot be done. And Access is more vulnerable to corruption. And yes, Access databases do not support as much security as SQL Server.

    VBA uses an older version of VB. Microsoft made some drastic improvements to VB when they designed VB.Net. VBA is not object-oriented; VB.Net is nearly as object-oriented as any other OO language. There are many other improvements in VB.Net; it has access to all of .Net. Anyone unfamiliar with VB.Net and .Net will consider them to be overwhelming (and they do take time to learn) but once you know them they can be more efficient than VBA and Access. The .Net environment has Entity Framework that can make DB programming efficient (for the programmer).

    The Access UI system is limited in comparison to what .Net offers and is capable of.

    One of the most important features that a large organization would require is a promotion / deployment / implementation system. Even small companies should have a way to lock up their production software. This is something that companies have been doing for about half a century. Currently one of the software systems used for that is Git. Access does not support a mechanism such as that. The fact that an entire Access application is in one or two files is considered an advantage but it is a disadvantage for professional applications that must be processed by a promotion system.

    Sam Hobbs

    • Edited by Simple Samples Wednesday, September 11, 2019 6:13 PM added parentheses
    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 6:11 PM
  • I inherited an Access database used for financial reporting to a foundation's board. It originally required 1 FTE to process the monthly data which took 40 hours every month, gathering data from several sources. The IT division hated the database. I re-wrote the entire thing and got the processing down to 20 minutes. Needless to say, the FTE lost her job because she had nothing to do for one week each month. Other analysts absorbed the remainder of her job.

    IT hates what it doesn't understand. IT contracts freelance developers without knowing what those developers are actually skilled at. 

    Bill Mosca

    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 6:12 PM
  • IT hates what it doesn't understand.

    I think people are too quick to use the word hate. But whatever words you want to use, the reverse is also a possibility. If you are inexperienced in SQL Server and VB.Net and related technologies then they are worth learning.

    Sam Hobbs

    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 6:45 PM
  • Thanks for insight everyone! I have to say, my backend is in a SQL server secured by my IT department. I believe my organization is touchy on the subject because our tools gather a LOT of sensitive information. To be specific, a lot of healthcare records in a company with 80k employees and facilities across the nation. My projects started in my department and expanded to the entire facility. We are trying to see how we can adapt my tools to spread it across different facilities now. We are in the process of proving the concept that agile tool development is the way to go in an ever-changing industry where other software tools just takes too long to develop and cannot adapt at our pace.

    We are making a lot of progress and I have the full back-up of the executives. Next is taking this to the board and making Access a standardized tool under a newly created department.

    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 7:31 PM
  • You might also look at Access as a Rapid Application Development tool, useful for prototyping what you want to show to management ...

    peter n roth - http://PNR1.com, Maybe some useful stuff

    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 7:53 PM
  • Why is MS Access viewed as an inferior tool?

    Hi InnVis,

    I don’t blame the IT people.

    I am in the lucky position that I do not work for organizations with an IT-department, but only for small scale “organizations” that even have no budget for commercial applications.

    Access is a tool with a low threshold to start with, and you can get some pretty results very fast. Many of  the Access applications are initiated by specialists, other than IT, that need a faster tool then the IT department could provide.

    Development proceeds prosperously, and many more tables, forms, reports, queries are added, and the application becomes essential to the local department. But then the developer leaves the company, and who will have to do the maintenance? IT?

    I love Access, but the maintenance can be a real problem. Essential elements are all scattered over the application, and in a growing application forms, reports and queries are copied and modified. You must be a real specialist in the applications to do any maintenance.

    The development is optimized to the normalization of data tables, but forms, reports, queries are copied and copied and copied. In my opinion you evenly well need “normalized” – or structured – code. Does the code fulfil the requirements of the IT department?

    This problem becomes more prominent with a second, or third application that must be kept synchronized on the same development level. Not to speak of application 100.

    Finally, believe in what you are doing. If it is better than IT can offer on this moment, I think IT has to follow.


    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 8:01 PM
  • My projects started in my department and expanded to the entire facility.

    That is the type of thing that is often mentioned in articles about the advantages and disadvantages of Access. I did research the subject before posting my previous reply but I was not sure how relevant that issue was. It is recognized as being typical that Access projects begin small then grow and might become less manageable than if it was developed using the tools that are more commonly used by professionals.

    I suggest going over the points I mentioned and have justification for why Access is the better choice for each point. Most important of all, determine what system your company uses to promote application software and keep it secure, then develop a solution for using it with your Access application.

    Many years ago, in about 1988, I was in a position comparable to what you call the IT Department. There was a separate User group that supported end-user tools such as Microsoft Word. I had strong opinions of using tools such as Word to do things like data entry. I know it was frustrating to try to explain why they should not do that. On the other hand, I was an application programmer and I disagreed with the technical people; back then we used the term Technical Support for the people that installed and supported software. I think it is important that you have clear and convincing responses to each of the issues they might have. Be pro-active. I really doubt you can be successful.

    Sam Hobbs

    • Edited by Simple Samples Wednesday, September 11, 2019 8:05 PM spelling
    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 8:04 PM
  • Question Daniel, when a database is split and the back end is store on a secured SQL server, is the database secured? In other words, as long as the front end has appropriate locks, is the back end safe for storing sensitive information, like credit cards, etc.?
    Thursday, September 12, 2019 1:16 AM