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Microsoft Access is a robust, easy to use, desktop database. It does a great job at what it was designed to do: To handle relatively simple, personal database applications. The apparent cost, especially when compared with the price points of Microsoft SQL Server make it very appealing to the business owner to use it for all solutions.

Consider this scenario. A business owner has a business process where they need to capture orders, send those orders to the warehouse for fulfillment, and then mark the order as complete once it’s been shipped.

At first blush, this is not a complex application. Initially, there will be two or three users. And initially it seems perfectly suited for Microsoft Access. Indeed it is. An application can be created that fulfills on this and it can be done inexpensively.

And here’s where cost savings gets expensive.

Not only can you save money on the platform, you can also save money on the developer. There are a lot of people who say they can develop in Microsoft Access. They can indeed create something that works. But the real question is can they create something that can be maintained and improved upon after they’re gone.

I’ve seen many times where systems like these are built by employees who are just trying to help and who are definitely not well-trained developers. So the business owner saves a ton in development and platform costs. Until the business grows.

When that happens, the software will, no doubt, need to be changed and enhanced. The processes will have changed. The number of users will have increased. The original software was not built to handle this.

Now it’s a crap shoot as to whether the software can be enhanced to handle the new needs or whether it needs to be rewritten because it is simply too difficult to maintain. If the business owner chose to go with a real developer, there’s a better than even chance that the system can be maintained and improved.

Even with well-written code, there’s still a likelihood that Microsoft Access will not be able to grow with your business. With multiple users updating concurrently there are a lot of Access-based systems that get corrupted. To repair that, you have to take the system off line for some time and implement repairs.

With all of this you can see that there are hidden costs to using a Microsoft Access-based system for your business.

To recap, here are those costs:

  1. Your system may be difficult or impossible to maintain. That means that, assuming you no longer have access to the original developer, you’ll have to hire someone to learn the system and support it. You’ll have to pay for that learning curve and support costs.
  2. If the system will not grow with your organization, you’ll have to pay for a brand new system.

Our advice: If you’re developing an enterprise-class system, use enterprise-class tools. An enterprise-class system is any system that implements or automates a process in your business that is mission critical.