Have you ever wondered what Microsoft Access is? We’re not talking about how to sign into your Office 365 account. We’re talking about the software or tool. Microsoft Access is a part of the Microsoft Office Suite. It is an information management tool that helps you store information for reference, reporting, and analysis. Microsoft Access helps you analyze large amounts of information, and manage related data more efficiently than Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheet applications.
But What About Excel?
Right about now, you might be saying, "But I have Microsoft Excel, isn't that enough?" Well, yes and no. Microsoft Excel is an excellent tool for maintaining and calculating small sets of information. It's easy to understand: create column names, enter your data, create formulas, and you're on your way. You can sort, filter, and format the data quickly and easily. Basically, it is the swimming pool for data. Nice, contained, and easy to manage.
When you start getting into larger amounts of data, that is where things can get tricky. Basically, you are going from the swimming pool to the ocean in regards to the amount of data, and you need something to help you navigate the waters. This is where Access can step in and save you from drowning in data. "Spreadsheets are not ideal for handling hundreds of records where you need to have 'one version of the truth' for something like a customer, a contact, or main 'thing' you need to track. It is very easy to introduce errors into a spreadsheet, which then makes analysis, summing, and reporting very challenging." says opengatesw.net.
Store related information together and eliminate duplication. "The value any database can provide is to store related information in one place, and then let you connect various different things together (sometimes called "entities" in database speak). You store one version of the truth for any given thing, like a client, a DVD, or an order. Some of the major benefits to using a database are:
1. Fewer errors and inconsistencies. Maintaining one version of the truth for the things you need to track minimizes the potential for duplication, errors, and inconsistent values. In the Excel example above, customer names, contact phone numbers, and product names are misspelled, transposed, and abbreviated in different forms. Imagine trying to create a report or graph in Excel that shows an accurate picture of your sales or other key performance indicators.
2. Higher productivity. You and others working in your database need only change a single record and all other related things in your database will automatically "see" the change. In our Excel example, you would need to change every occurrence of a customer's name. Find and replace wouldn't necessarily catch that a customer's name is spelled six different ways. In a database, there is only one customer record to change. Every other record (orders, contacts, etc) that relates to that customer record will never need to change because they are joined to the customer..
3. Security and Control. Databases provide a central location to store, secure, and control your data. Microsoft Access includes the ability to encrypt and password protect database files. And with users relying on a database rather than separate Excel spreadsheets, you can have greater control over access to the information.
4. Better Decisions and Insight. Perhaps most importantly, a single source of truth in a standardized format means you can gain better insight and make better decisions by reporting and analyzing your data in a database. Users are familiar with Excel charting, and databases like Microsoft Access can provide similar capabilities, while going beyond Excel with more powerful historical trending, aggregation, and query filtering.
When Should I Use Microsoft Access?
This handy table can help you decide whether you should use Excel, Access, or SQL Server/MYSQL with Access as the user interface:
How Do I Get Started?
Excited about the possibilities with Microsoft Access and ready to jump in and get your feet wet? We can help. Check out our public class schedule. We offer 3 levels of Microsoft Access: Basic (Level 1), Intermediate (Level 2), and Advanced (Level 3).
ACCESS IDEAS: Do you have an idea for a database or web app to help your team work more efficiently?
With Access, you don’t have to be a developer to implement it.
Take advantage of your data with the power of Access—without writing code or becoming a database expert:
Use templates to build databases and web apps quickly.
Easily find and report on data stored in Access.
Streamline data entry with autocomplete.
Create web apps that work in the browser or databases on your desktop, and share them with others.
Build professional-level web apps with just Access—no coding required.