Office 365 and Microsoft Access

Hi all.

Someone mentioned Office 365 and Microsoft Access and I wanted to get your opinions on it. Mainly, why would someone want to use Microsoft Access and Office 365 and Sharepoint Online?

Are all of the features available for the regular Microsoft Access also available in Office 365/Sharepoint Online, or is it more basic (i.e. no VBA, no charts etc.).

Thank you in advance!
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Jim Dettman (Microsoft MVP/ EE MVE)President / OwnerCommented:
Your mixing up some different things there, mainly Office 365 and Access Web Apps vs Access Desktop Apps.

 Office 365 is just that Office.  It might be a streaming download (click to run) or you may have an actual install.

 Now within Access, since 2007, you have been able to "publish" a database to SharePoint and make it available through a web browser.  In 2007/2010, these we called web databases.   Data was stored in SharePoint lists.

 That was scraped for 2013.  Access now has "Web Apps".  Your still publishing to SharePoint, but now data is stored in an Azure database  (SQL Server in the cloud) and these are basic databases as you were thinking.  No VBA, reporting, charting etc. What you have at present is basic forms and the ability to do CRUD (Create, Read, Update, and Delete).

  However you can connect to the Azure database with a Access Desktop database, so you can have a "hybrid app";  Web App does CRUD operations via SharePoint and a browser (great for remote users) and then everything else can be done through the desktop app, which you'd run in your Office just like you always have.

 As to why Office 365; it takes a lot of the pain out of managing and administering apps.   You pay a monthly fee, use it, and that's it.    Don't have to worry about the boss hiring another ten people, making sure your patched and up to date, have the latest version, etc.  Microsoft takes care of all that.

 Of course there are down sides; it is a subscription and you'll get upgraded whether you want it or not.  You also need a solid internet connection, which many don't have.


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Sim1980Author Commented:
Thanks for your reply Jim.

So, would you recommend we stick with Access desktop instead of going to the cloud? We're a small office (about 10 users) and we would use some forms and reports, some may require VBA and queries with grouping etc. We do not have any remote users, everything is done in our office.
Sim1980Author Commented:
Oh and we also would need to run Access reports.
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Helen FeddemaCommented:
Access 2013 Web apps are very limited.  No VBA, no linked tables, and a limited interface compared with desktop databases.  Also they are new, and still quite buggy.  When I was writing my ebook on Access 2013, there were "Temporary Server Issues" that lasted for weeks, during which the Web apps were inaccessible.  Although it is possible to create a desktop database linked to the SQL Server tables used by the Web app, this is a complex process.  That is the only way you can make reports based on the SQL Server tables (at least, as far as built-in Microsoft features are concerned).  Oh, and security -- there isn't any!  So if someone can log on, they can mess with your data and design pretty much at will.
I don't think that anyone mentioned that there is no conversion path from a conventional client/server app to a web app.  You can transfer the data but that's it.  Everything else would have to be recreated.  So, the only viable solution for an existing app is as a hybrid.  That way you convert the BE to Azure but the FE stays as it was.  You can then add web forms that can be accessed via SharePoint.  

As to whether you would be better off with shrink wrapped software or a subscription, it really depends.
1.  For subscriptions, the initial outlay is smaller and it takes about three years to equal the upfront cost of the shrink wrapped version.  To know if this works for you, examine your past upgrade schedule.  I have clients who only recently upgraded from O2003 so they really got their money's worth out of their shrink wrapped version and a subscription wouldn't pay for them at all since it would be three times the cost even though it is spread out over many years.
2. How current do you like to be?  If you want to be on the bleeding edge, then a subscription is the way to go.  You'll be the first to get each new release but I believe you have the option of when to switch.  We haven't seen a version release since MS started the subscription model so that's a little fuzzy.
3. Do you ever have to keep old versions around?  As a developer, I do so a subscription doesn't work for me since I can't have multiple versions unless I have multiple subscriptions.
4.   Do you want to offer your employees the option to install "free" versions on their home computers.  Some subscriptions come with 5 licenses so you can have your desktop, your laptop, your tablet, and two spares.
5. Are you OK with your Office installation becoming a doorstop shortly after your subscription expires.  With the shrink wrapped version, you have a perpetual license so as long as you have the original media, you can install it and use it.

Keep in mind that the functionality of the subscription product and the shrink wrapped, perpetual license product is IDENTICAL.  Purchasing the subscription gives you the 5 installs vs 1 or 2 with the package and the subscription gives you some cloud stuff like storage and phone minutes.

If you buy the shrink wrapped version and you want to create Access web apps you can.  You just need to either install SharePoint in your office or arrange to host the app in the cloud.  The subscription model comes with hosting included.
Helen FeddemaCommented:
You do have to buy one of the more expensive editions of Office 365 to get the SharePoint hosting for Web apps.  At the time I got a subscription, the E2 edition was the minimum one that had Web hosting.
Jim Dettman (Microsoft MVP/ EE MVE)President / OwnerCommented:
<<So, would you recommend we stick with Access desktop instead of going to the cloud? We're a small office (about 10 users) and we would use some forms and reports, some may require VBA and queries with grouping etc. We do not have any remote users, everything is done in our office. >>

Tough call without knowing a lot more.  Besides the additional points that Pat and Helen made, consider the following:

1. Your internet connection, is it fairly robust?     You should even for a small Office have 5mb down and 1-3 up as a bare minimum.

2. What do you do for IT support now, DIY or pay someone?  If the later, then you may save some money by moving to Office 365.

3. Do you need a server on-site for a local app?  If yes and it can't be moved to the cloud, then you might as well keep everything in-house, especially if it's SBS.

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