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Web Publishing an Access 2003 Database

Posted on 2005-03-02
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I need some insight here for those that have traveled down this road. We have an Access 2000/3 database that we distribute to our customers on a quarterly basis. The database has a user interface and an installation script.

We distribute this to them on a quarterly basis so they can have updates to the data which is what they really want. The database gets distributed to about 20 companies. Within those companies there are 10 or so users. We are considering moving to something that gets hosted on the web. We are considering the web hosting approach so that when a companies years subscription is up, we can cut them off. Right now we have some customers that only purchase every two years because we are actually giving them the database and they figure they can live without the data updates for a year.

A few people that we have mentioned it to suggest moving to SQL server and ASP.NET. I'm aware that you can publish Access forms pages to the web, which we have not attempted to do yet. We have concerns over security, stability and scalability of the application to more users and greater functionality. We are in the information gathering mode now before deciding on a path.

The current database application is about 15 MB, with 10 tables and over 60 forms, reports, and queries. We add about 2 MB worth of data a year. This is a core offering of our business so we want something that will continue to grow as our customer base does. Whatever we do, we also want to make it easy to use by our customers and not alienate them.

If you want a feel for what the database does, you can see a demonstration here:
www.ihlservices.com/IHLDatabaseDemo.exe

Also, I know nothing about ASP.NET and SQL server. I'm willing to learn, but feel very comfortable with the Access 2003 environment and VBA.

Advice from someone who has undertaken a similar effort would be appreciated, taking into account security, stability, and scalability. Thanks very much.
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Question by:sheldjer
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shanesuebsahakarn earned 375 total points
ID: 13440703
As for SQL Server, I would recommend using this if your site will be hit by many simultaneous users. Access is simply too inefficient to use for a high-usage website as it generates a very large memory footprint.

Regardless of whether you use Access or not as your front end, you will have to do considerable redevelopment of your front end. ASP or ASP.NET are good choices, but I would recommend against using Data Access Pages. They are limited in their functionality and a real pain to work with. Bog standard ASP is more than sufficient for many web-based applications. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to just translate an existing Access front end to a web-based format.
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by:sheldjer
ID: 13440790
Again, I know nothing about ASP, but what is Bog standard ASP? My programming experiences if VB6, VBA, and a little C. Do I have to learn a new language?
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by:shanesuebsahakarn
ID: 13440808
It's a British colloquialism, meaning "normal ASP".
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Author Comment

by:sheldjer
ID: 13440832
Within ASP, can we retain all of the VBA code which is behind the scenes making things work, or do we have to start over?
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by:shanesuebsahakarn
ID: 13440867
You can retain some of it, but since the programming model is not exactly equivalent, you will have to change some of it. For example, you will not have certain events that you may be relying on in your VBA forms. Most of the code that deals with recordsets and data will generally work, but you will have to learn the ASP form programming model. Dependant on how your code is being called, you may have to rewrite it to use ADO rather than DAO (if it is not already using ADO, that is).
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Author Comment

by:sheldjer
ID: 13440965
The database originally was authored in Access97 so it is all DAO. I'm a creature of habit, and didn't rewrite anything since what we had was working and the older libraries were still distributed and accessible in the newer versions of Access. We do alot of recordset manipulation so that would be a rewrite.

Do you have good reference book or two you recommend on learning ASP?
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LVL 41

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by:shanesuebsahakarn
ID: 13441036
Hmm - well, I learned all of the HTML coding I needed from here:
http://www.w3schools.com/

VBScript is very similar to VBA so you'll pick up much of it quite quickly but there are some notable differences. I don't really have anything I can recommend for you, I'm afraid. Web programming (with ASP anyway) is a very different model to the traditional VBA model, but I don't know about ASP.NET. I'm also told that platforms like ColdFusion are also very good alternatives.
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Author Comment

by:sheldjer
ID: 13441369
I know in Access you can link tables so the users interface is in one database and your tables are in another. With ASP.NET, is there a similar model where the ASP web front end links to an Access or SQL database that contains data.
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Author Comment

by:sheldjer
ID: 13441687
Also, other than a copy of ASP.NET, is there any other software that I need?
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LVL 41

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by:shanesuebsahakarn
ID: 13441879
I'm not familiar at all with .net so I can't really advise you on that, I'm afraid.
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