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Move an Access database into Azure

Posted on 2014-12-15
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Last Modified: 2014-12-29
I have a customer who has a database that needs to be available from two locations. I know there is the option of setting up a VPn between the sites but I would really like to use Azure to enable this.

I am fairly new to Azure and I am unsure exactly what is the best option.

I am also fairly unfamiliar with MS Access. Is has a customised front end interface and the database consists of an .mdb and a .mde file.

Azure SQL is one option. Would this work well over a 5meg broadband connection.

I also see the Remote App is something new from Azure which would allow true access from anywhere. Is it possible to set a Access "Remote App" to default to a database stored in Azure SQL.

Any advice would be appreciated.
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Question by:roy_batty
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9 Comments
 
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Scott McDaniel (Microsoft Access MVP - EE MVE ) earned 350 total points
ID: 40500364
If you're unfamiliar with Access and Azure, then I'd say you'll have a tough time with this. Azure is, essentially, a cloud-based SQL Server. If your Access application is already optimized to work with a SQL Server database, then the move to Azure most likely wouldn't be too painful - basically you'd just move the database to Azure, then connect to that from your FE.

If your Access db is not optimized, then the first step would be to do so. That can be a big task, depending on exactly what needs to be migrated.

Note also that many who have done what you're doing have reported performance issues with Azure-based systems. Access itself is not optimized to deal with cloud-based systems, whereas .NET or other more advanced platforms are able to interact with cloud-based systems much more effectively.

A better option, in my opinion, is to use a Citrix or RDS (Remote Desktop Services) sort of configuration. These allow remote users to log into a RDS/Citrix server, and the users can run programs exactly as they do on their local desktops. Of course, there's expense involved in purchasing and setting up these environments.

There's also www.eqldata, which allows "hosting" of Access databases. There's a monthly fee for use, but it's by far the simplest way to handle this sort of thing.
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Expert Comment

by:Gustav Brock
ID: 40500791
If you only have one or two users at the other location, a remote desktop will be far the easiest and cheapest method.
A 5 Mb/s line is amble for this.

Can you provide some more info?

/gustav
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Assisted Solution

by:PatHartman
PatHartman earned 150 total points
ID: 40501461
I've developed hundreds of Access applications with SQL Server back ends so I thought Azure would be a good option - didn't work out.  I was using a third party to host the Azure and that may have been part of the problem but performance was dismal.  The only people I have talked to who were happy with Azure performance were hosting it themselves so they had internal people who could tune it correctly.

My vote is Citrix or RDS.  If you have only a few people to support, it is probably cheaper to by a hosted Citrix solution rather than install a server and manage it yourself.  RDS is much more limited.  I've used that to connect to a couple of clients but in all cases, I had a "personal" computer at the site that I connected to.  I didn't connect to a shared server.
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LVL 85
ID: 40501569
but performance was dismal.
That's the same thing I've heard from numerous sources. From my view, just stay away from it in the Access arena.
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Author Comment

by:roy_batty
ID: 40501710
OK so if I am going to use Azure it could be done by setting up a RDS server with Access installed on it.

The EQLDATA option also looks fairly straight forward and is something I have not heard of before. Do you have any experience with it and is it reliable. It looks fairly pricey when you go beyond one user and might be more expensive than setting up a RDS server in Azure.
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Expert Comment

by:Gustav Brock
ID: 40502316
>  a RDS server [or workstation] with Access installed on it.

It could be installed in-house as well. Still, we don't have any indication of the expected user count.

/gustav
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LVL 85
ID: 40502623
I've not used it, but we've heard good things about eqldata.

OK so if I am going to use Azure it could be done by setting up a RDS server with Access installed on it.
I've not heard of doing that, but blog posts seem to indicate you could do so. Note that when running Access in the RDS environment, you must purchase Volume Licensing for the product (Office). That wasn't true in earlier versions of RDS, where you were on the honor system (i.e. you were expected to purchase the required number of licenses). MSFT made changes in recent versions to disallow the use of software not properly licensed in the RDS environment.

My point in mentioning this is to inform you of additional costs associated. I still think an RDS setup (or Citrix) is the better choice here.
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Expert Comment

by:PatHartman
ID: 40502832
The only time you would use Azure is if you are connecting directly over the internet.  If you are running the app on your server and having people remote in, then you would use regular SQL Server.  There is no difference between the products from the perspective of development.  The difference is that Azure is intended to be "cloud" based and it has tighter security.

Again, people who host Azure on-site report good performance.  It is the third party options that are not good because  Access is not a major player in this market and the providers don't understand (nor are they interested in understanding) how to make the two work well together.
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Author Closing Comment

by:roy_batty
ID: 40522842
Thanks for the advice here
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