Many of us started out with database software with something like Microsoft Access. It came included as part of the Office suite, was fairly easy to get started and infinitely customizable for light database programming. But with all these advantages, it might be time to look elsewhere for alternatives, especially for citizen developers who want to build more sophisticated online database applications. Here are some ways to recognize the warning signs and to start thinking about whether or not you should replace your Access programs.
First, Access was originally designed as a personal product, where one developer creates an entire application from scratch. If your needs are more collaborative, or where you have a database where multiple people input information, Access isn’t really the best solution. Microsoft has tried to position Access as training wheels for more involved SQL Server apps, but that isn’t necessarily the best direction.
This is where having a SaaS-based database app shines. Using online database software like Quickbase means you don’t have to worry about setting up a server and worrying about when more than one person is inputting records: this is handled automatically for you.
And when your users span the globe and are working on the same app, it may also be time to retire that Access project and find something more flexible and more comfortable working in a distributed environment.
Next, when users on non-Windows computers are running your database it may makes sense to switch to something else. While there are now versions of Access for Macs and iOS, not everything that is developed for Windows versions works across platforms. It might make sense to build your app with something that natively speaks the Web, or that has the exact same look and interface across all versions.
Are you heavily involved in using Visual Basic? This was the underlying programming language for Access, and while it has a large ecosystem that Microsoft has done a great job cultivating, it can be costly to maintain and to hire the appropriate skilled staff to continue to build VB apps. Look at ways that you can build your apps without a lot of programming expertise, or that make use of Web-based forms and templates that can accomplish many of your tasks quicker, and with lower cost of ownership. As many Quickbase users can testify, you don’t need to come from a programming background or have a lot of coding skill to be able to develop a sophisticated app.
When you can’t find your favorite command or function, thanks to yet another UI “improvement.” Tired of Microsoft re-arranging the menu ribbon yet again? It seems every major upgrade of Office comes with a new interface. This is a reason that many of us have stuck with older versions of Office because we don’t need the new features or have gotten keyboard muscle memory on where these were located in the menu trees and ribbon bars. Now Microsoft touts a “feature” that helps you find your favorite command. If you are tired of hunting down where your function has been hidden, it might be time to look elsewhere than Access for your database needs.
As you can see, there isn’t any one big showstopper that will move you away from Access, but a combination of these elements might be the motivation that you need to start with your migration towards a better app ecosystem.