“Microsoft discontinues Access” – we hear these rumors about the database app on a regular basis. They leave employees of businesses everywhere feeling uneasy every time they pop up. Mostly because replacing Microsoft Access with an alternative is not an easy thing to do.

MS Access is often used as a solution for very specific needs within a company and in many specialized departments it works as an “individual solution”. With diligence and creativity companies have built their entire client databases or CRM solutions on MS Access. For them, killing this product means losing all the inhouse development, too.

From Microsoft’s perspective Access is a story of great success. Ever since it was presented in the 1990s the program has closed the gap between spreadsheets and professional solutions based on database servers.

Access allowed ambitious users to program their own database applications and made them less dependent on developers. This also seemed much more cost effective as Access has always been included in the MS Office Professional license.

If the product is this successful – why does everyone keep talking about the end of it?

Is Microsoft Access actually going to be discontinued?

Rumors about the end of the Office database app have been around for 20 years and they never turned out to be more than rumors.

But when it comes to Microsoft’s future strategy there are signs that Access won’t be a priority. It lost any significance in Microsoft’s promotion of Office products long ago. It also remains the only Office product that only runs on Windows computers.

Microsoft has a history of discontinuation

Frontpage and PhotoDraw have been used in companies and were discontinued. Those products evidently don’t match with Microsoft’s business strategy any longer. Substituting Internet Explorer with Microsoft Edge comes with a list of discontinuations as well.

Take the controversial software component model ActiveX for example – it simply doesn’t exist in the new Edge browser and is therefore inevitably doomed. The app framework/plug-in Silverlight will also slowly but surely come to an end – Microsoft has announced that support will stop in October 2021. In the case of Access it doesn’t have to come to a complete discontinuation of the entire product to put in-house solutions into question. Getting rid of single functionalities or not continuing support for certain Windows versions can be all it takes to basically make the application unusable for a company.

The beginning of the end: the end of support

Microsoft will eventually stop maintaining even highly dependable and successful versions of software, like Windows XP or Windows 7. Switching to an updated version requires users’ effort and readjustment every time.

Is there a future after all?

Access is still included in the Office 365 subscription, so discontinuation is not expected in the immediate future. Whether Microsoft kills off Access or not, there are plenty of reasons to start moving away from individual solutions based on the product, even if these solutions have been running successfully for years.

6 Good Reasons to Switch to a MS Access Alternative

Stop wondering how Microsoft will handle Access in the future and start asking if Access is a good idea to begin with. There is a list of reasons why maintaining Access-based solutions should be questioned and why switching to an alternative technology is worth considering.

Limitation to one operating system

Access only runs on Windows. You won’t find a macOS, iOS or Android application and no way to run Access on a Linux-based system.

MS Access is not web-enabled

A mere Access solution is an isolated piece of software without internet connectivity. With the help of a database server it’s possible to connect to a web application. This connection has to be developed separately though. The combination of Access, a database server and a corresponding web application can be a good, smooth step-by-step migration scenario when switching from Access to a completely web-based solution.

MS Access is not mobile

Being able to act and react fast is key to business success across all industries. It’s becoming a basic standard to access or collect current data on your smartphone while moving. Clients and employees expect these simple ways of access more and more frequently now. That is precisely – and ironically – what you cannot do with Access.

MS Access puts a brake on your digital transformation

All of the above shows that MS Access is not able to meet today’s demands. It’s quite the opposite: efficient digitization within a company is most likely stopped by silos of data and closed off spheres governing isolated data. And that is exactly what Access is. Exchanging any data with other applications takes a lot of effort and will always remain unreliable without a central server application. This way Access puts narrow limits to optimizing and digitizing business processes. Speaking of effort: Anyone looking to switch their standard Access app running on 32 bit to a 64 bit system will have to expect a high load of adjustments, especially when dealing with extensive applications. Those are high investments into a technology whose future is uncertain.

MS Access is not GDPR compliant

Many myths surround the GDPR. But it’s a fact that companies processing and collecting personal data are bound to it and violations can quickly become expensive.

Here MS Access hits a wall on a regular basis. There are two basic GDPR requirements that cannot be met in a technically reliable (and therefore legal) way because of how Access works with data.

  • It is not possible for Access to create an elaborate and reliable concept of authorizations that allows all employees to access only the information they need for their task.

  • It is not possible for Access to assess personal data in a safely anonymised or pseudonymised way.

MS Access complicates collaboration with third parties

Access lacks the abilities to connect to the internet and to safely authenticate people or organizations outside a company. It reaches limits quickly when it comes to providing clients or business partners with well-regulated access to specific data.

Migrate at your own pace

Migrating under pressure because of a discontinuation leaving only months to wrap it up is not fun for anyone involved. It’s better to start looking for an alternative to MS Access ahead of time so you can define your own conditions and schedule for migrating data and processes.

What alternatives to Access solutions are out there?

At its core MS Access is a database. Alternative database systems that are prepared to meet future demands are everywhere nowadays. It can be Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, MongoDB, PostgreSQL or an entirely different technology – choosing the database that best fits your individual demands depends on many factors. Most importantly, the right technology is ready to meet future demands and integrates easily into your already existing IT landscape.

If you currently work with an Access-based in-house solution and would like to switch to a new technology, talk to us. We can demonstrate how to migrate to a future-proof concept, leave those limitations behind and seize all the opportunities of a new technology.

Switching to an Access-independent alternative will give you security for your company’s future. It means more flexibility, freedom and better preconditions for compliance. And you no longer have to rack your brain on whether the rumors will soon become reality and Microsoft will leave you without Access.