Use Access? Take advantage of Microsoft’s free version of SQL

Microsoft has a free version of SQL. It’s Microsoft SQL 2008R2 Express. It’s free, and more businesses should be taking advantage of it. Especially businesses using Access as their standalone database.

I’ve watched office workers build their day around a slow Access database. Their end users press a button in their database, then they get busy doing some other task to fill up their “wait time,” as it takes 2 minutes for the screen to come back. Crazy.

To be clear, Microsoft Access is a rapid application development (RAD) platform for databases. Access can be used as a standalone database, or as a front end to a larger database, such as Microsoft SQL Server. Using Microsoft Access as a front end and Microsoft SQL Server as the back end is an efficient and secure means of storing data; it is much more efficient that trying to use a file-based Access database by itself which can maybe support only 5 simultaneous users. Plus, since Microsoft SQL 2008R2 Express is free, why not take advantage of it? We have built applications that support more than 40 simultaneous users that connect to a server with Access, SQL, Exchange, file sharing, print sharing, and Active Directory installed on the same server. There are no performance problems. Many developers just do not fully understand its power and capabilities.

There are very few circumstances that I can think of where an Access backend database would be preferable over SQL. Only cases where there are 2 or less people or the portability of having everything in one file is desired. All other cases, a true database backend such as SQL should be used.