Many of us started out with database software with something like Microsoft Access. It was part of the Office suite, fairly easy to get started and infinitely customizable. However, it might be time to look elsewhere for alternatives, especially for citizen developers who want to build more sophisticated online databases. Here are some ways to recognize the warning signs and to start thinking about its replacement.
First, Access was designed as a personal product, where one developer creates an entire application from scratch. If your need are more collaborative, or where you have a database where multiple people input information, Access isn’t the best solution and this is where having a SaaS-based app shines. Using an online product 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.
Second, when non-Windows computers are using your database it also might be time to switch. 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 might 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.
And when your users span the globe and are working on the same app, it also might be time to retire that Access project and find something more flexible and more comfortable working in a distributed environment.
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. Now Microsoft touts a “feature” that helps you find your favorite command.