Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Access Excess?

Fast upon the heels of my article "Addicted to Excel", I now scrutinise another microsoft office tool - Access. When I started using databases, my first weapon of choice was Access.

Access has a very user-friendly graphical user interface that allows you to develop databases. You can drag and drop objects and build quick databases in no time at all. In my view, this is one of the most enabling applications I have ever used. It allowed me to learn about databases, relational models, macro functions, forms, queries, reports, visual basic, and many other concepts that I now take for granted. 

I owe my present career to MS Access.

But there is a point in your career when you have to 'step away from the access'.

Why? For a start, it has some serious limitations:
  • Access databases are limited to the size of 2Gb. Try to put more than 2Gb of data into them, and they will become corrupt.
  • Access is prone to corruption.
  • Access does not handle multiple users updating the same record well.
  • It is hard to make an access database secure.
  • It is hard to get access to recognise different users correctly.
  • Access is not optimised to handle the bulk loading or querying of large data sets.
  • Error handling is not good.
But the real problem comes when your try to govern and control your data. Access is so easy to use that  in a medium to large sized organisation there could possibly be hundreds of unsupported databases being developed. Unless you are insisting on full documentation and consistent development standards, your operations are at the mercy of the access developers. Access can also act like a front-end and connect to other databases via microsoft's ODBC framework. This makes it a security risk for anyone wanting to steal data.

Don't get me wrong... for an average start-up in a small business, Access is a little gem. It's suite of simple yet powerful tools are a great enabler. But for a large company, it brings too many operational and governance risks to be a serious prospect.

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