Migrate MS Access database to the cloud

My friend runs his business (freight brokerage) off an Access database which was designed for him over 10 years ago. The database works like a charm, but since it is housed locally, he is limited when it comes to travel and working from home. He and his son are the only users and share the database from a SBS 2003 server.  He asked me to help him move his database to the cloud. I had heard of eLance and so I described the task and hired a Pakistani programmer off eLance to design a web app (ASP.net) to do what the database does for him. Now a year later and $2K in the hole, we still don't have a functioning application. Most of that has to do with me (my lack of webdev skills) and the communication barrier between myself and the programmer.
Anyway, frustration has reached new levels and I come to you wondering if it's possible to just migrate the database to Office365 and continue to use the database as it is now. Can any of you tell me if such a migration is possible and do you have any advice, tutorials, etc. for performing such a migration? My background is mostly in hardware, but I think I can figure things out with a little direction.
Thanks for any help you can offer!
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Jim Dettman (Microsoft MVP/ EE MVE)President / OwnerCommented:
<<Anyway, frustration has reached new levels and I come to you wondering if it's possible to just migrate the database to Office365 and continue to use the database as it is now>>

 Short answer is no.   Only way to take an existing Access database "as is" to the web is with this service:


BUT your other option if it is just a handful of remote users would be to host it on a terminal services server.   In this case, Access lives on the server and runs there.

When you connect via web browser, your getting a remote session on the server.  Only KVM (Keyboard, Video, and Mouse) travel back and forth.

This is the simplest and most cost effective way to get an existing Access app onto the web for a small number of users.

Sorry, but you got what you paid for.

There is no direct route from where you are to where you want to go.  Even though A2013 supports web apps, you cannot migrate an existing application.  It would need to be rewritten from scratch since the technology is completely different and web apps do not support code and many of the features that make an Access desktop database an excellent working tool.

Citrix is actually the best solution but that doesn't come cheaply.  With Citrix, your existing app would be hosted on in the cloud and you could connect to it via a web browser.  This solution does not require any programming changes.  it simply requires a monthly fee to a hosting company if you can find one.  Larger companies run their own Citrix servers which is more cost effective but with only two users, that isn't a viable option.

A middle ground solution would be to use Remote Desktop.  This is similar in concept to the Citrix model and can be implemented very cheaply especially if you have a "work" computer that stays in your office that you can connect to.  With RDP, you connect to your work computer and it is almost the same as if you were sitting there looking at your desktop.  There are service bureau versions such as logmein that will do this but they require a monthly subscription.  RDP requires a seat license which is actually free if you have a professional version of Windows.  Otherwise, I runs around $100.  The downside is that the "work" computer always needs to be on and unless there is someone in the office to reboot, you might occasionally get locked out.  Using RDP, you can have multiple people connect remotely to the same computer but I don't think they can be logged on at the same time.
Kelvin SparksCommented:
You say that the client is using SBS2003. If you just want access to the database to add/edit data and their SBS server is connected to the net, then consider using SBS's remote desktop feature. They'll have to use IE to connect and install an OCX that SBS uses on their laptops, but then you just log on to the desktop and use it.

It won't work from anything else, but is a good solution that I've used for years (now using SBS 2008, but previously have used SBS 2003 and run my Access applications easily)

Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Custom databases (of which Access is) are great - they are flexible and allow you to work the way YOU want, not the way some app designer someplace THINKS you want.  But, custom comes at a high cost.  Development can often run hundreds or even THOUSANDS of hours.  It really depends what you want.  The Access database, if it's just used with a few tables and reports and wizard generated forms is simple.  Others can be incredibly complex.  I maintain and improve an access database for one client and they routinely receive $500 PER MONTH invoices from me and happily (well, maybe not HAPPILY) pay them.  They understand if they want something customized to the way THEY want to work, they have to pay for it.

On the flip side, if they don't want to spend thousands per year on development, they COULD buy a third party developed database system - one that is sold to other companies and therefore the "per copy" price can be MUCH, MUCH less.  BUT, they now have to adapt to the way the third party company thinks they should work.  There may be (should be) some options on things here and there so it can be SOMEWHAT customizable... but on the whole, you have to adapt your business to the software.

You can definitely web enable the database - but that means designing the forms from scratch and interfacing with the file.  IDEALLY the file will split so that the DATA resides in a SQL Express database and the Access file is merely the reporting/form front end (that's actually how the database I maintain works).  But you and the client need to be realistic - such a project will probably cost several thousand dollars from a quality programmer -- and if you try to go cheap you might get lucky but will probably end up paying for more time than a quality programmer could do and/or end up with a buggy design.

Instead, you can look into alternatives, like putting it on a system in the cloud that offers RDP access and then remote into it that way.  Or self host - if they have SBS, do as Kelvin suggests and have them remote in to their workstations while away.  (Though honestly, if it's 2003, they NEED to upgrade and replace that technologically ancient system NOW!)
I can echo PatHartman when he says a hosted Citrix environment would be the simplest and quickest solution. I've had clients sharing applications in the cloud, and it works great...for around $50 per simultaneous user per month. No need to convert the Access application. Just upload it as is (front end & back end files) to the server, and you're practically done. While Citrix hosting is costlier than conventional web hosting, it is cheaper than developing a web-based application from scratch.

You could even save a few bucks monthly by installing the [free] Access Runtime (version 2010) on the Citrix server, which frees you from requiring every user to have Access loaded on his/her computer.

FYI: I've been using NovelAspect.com to provide hosted Citrix services, and I'm very pleased with their service.

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Microsoft Access

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