Open DataBase Connectivity, or ODBC, is a standard application programming interface (API) that was originally developed in the 1990s by Microsoft and Simba Technologies. The purpose of ODBC is to make it possible to access information from any application, regardless of the database system being used. Microsoft Access is an example of an ODBC compliant database.
How important is ODBC and what does it enable you to do? Let’s learn more about ODBC and why the most popular database management systems are compliant.
What Does ODBC Compliance Mean, Exactly?
When a database is ODBC compliant, it means that it can exchange information with other databases. This is made possible with ODBC drivers that let different database programs communicate with each other and understand the data being exchanged. ODBC has been used for over 25 years and has become the industry standard in the database field.
There are four components to ODBC that work together to allow functions:
- Application. Any ODBC compliant application can be used, such as Microsoft Excel or Crystal Reports. The application performs processing by receiving results from the ODBC driver manager and passing SQL statements.
- Driver manager. Drivers are loaded for each application. Windows comes with a driver manager of its own, whereas other programs have the choice to use an open source ODBC driver manager like iODBC.
- Driver. The driver handles ODBC function calls and submits each SQL request to a data source. Results are returned to the application.
- Data source. The data source refers to the data being accessed and its associated database management systems. It could be any type of data, ranging from a simple file to a live data feed.
What Databases are ODBC Compliant?
Microsoft Access is compliant with ODBC, but there are many other databases that are as well. These include:
- Microsoft SQL Server
- Microsoft Visual FoxPro
- IBM DB2
ODBC is very common, so it’s likely that whatever database program you are using is ODBC compliant. If you’re unsure, check your database’s manual, contact your developer or give Arkware a call at 877-519-4537. We’re always happy to help!
Databases use keys to store, sort and compare relationships between records. There are three different types of keys: primary keys, candidate keys and foreign keys. When setting up a database table, the software will ask you to set up a primary key that will be responsible for identifying each record in the table. You might not think much about choosing a primary key, but this is actually a very big and important decision.
Why are Primary Keys a Big Deal?
Designing a new database comes with many choices, and selecting a primary key is one of them. In fact, it’s one of the most important. The purpose of a primary key is to implement a relationship between two tables. Without a primary key, relational databases wouldn’t exist.
Even though a primary key might sound a bit unusual, we use them in everyday life without realizing it. Student IDs are an example of a primary key. Students are uniquely identified by these numbers, but the numbers don’t mean anything outside the school.
Below are the advantages to using primary keys.
- Serves as a common link field between tables
- Speeds up queries, searches and sort requests
- Only valid records will be in your table
- No duplicates will be added
- MS Access shows data in order of the primary key
How to Choose a Primary Key
Primary keys should be 100% unique. You can generally turn to your database for the answers you’re looking for. In many cases, people will use the database management system to generate a unique identifier. This way, you’ll have a reliable system for referencing individuals or things in your database, but they won’t have meaning outside the system.
Good primary keys are usually short and include all numbers. They avoid using special characters or a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters. Some things that do NOT make good primary keys are zip codes, email addresses and Social Security numbers. Primary keys should not contain null values and must contain a unique value for each row of data.
Good database design starts by having a good primary key. You can learn more about finding the best primary key for your database in this article, or call Arkware. Our pros will be happy to walk through the steps with you.
One of the most common questions we hear from clients is how many users Microsoft Access is capable of supporting. It’s a misconception that Access can only support 20 users or less. In fact, the answer is quite the opposite. A well-designed database can support hundreds of users.
On the flip side, if a database is not designed properly, it may not support any users. In other words, as long as the Access solution is well-built by a knowledgeable database expert, your organization shouldn’t have any problems supporting multiple users.
The more important question, however, is how many users Microsoft Access can support at the same time. Let’s address this question so that you have a clearer understanding of how many people can use Access across your network.
Using Access with Simultaneous Users
Roughly 200 users (or more) can use Access simultaneously. That said, there are limitations based on what people are doing within the database. For example, if everyone is viewing data or entertaining data into a table, hundreds of users can be supported. This isn’t a lot of work and doesn’t require much power.
On the other hand, if users plan on running large reports and queries, fewer people will be able to use the database. The same number of users can be supported, but performance will be compromised. It’s similar to any type of technology. The more people using the Wifi in your home, the slower it becomes. This doesn’t mean that you can stream movies or upload pictures, but it does mean that the performance will be slower.
What if I Need to Support More than 200 Users?
If you need to support more people and/or need to allow more complex tasks, the best option is to have the back-end of the database in SQL Server. This way, you won’t have the same limitations as you will with the Jet database in Access. People can access the database from their front-end copy of the application. Still, SQL Server doesn’t solve everything. It can actually be slower than Access for some tasks. Always evaluate what users will be doing once inside the database, not just the number of users.
Arkware is your Microsoft Access database expert. Call us today for a free consultation and let’s discuss ways you can support a large number of Access users across your network.
Small-to-mid-size organizations have hundreds of computers around the workplace that are responsible for delegating certain tasks. These tasks can run on their own without needing the IT department to complete them. This setup allows your workplace to run efficiently, increasing productivity and decreasing downtime.
One of the most popular software programs used to enhance productivity is Microsoft Access. It has the same look and feel as other Microsoft products, which is why businesses that use Word and Excel also tend to use Access. The learning curve is small and the data can be shared. Also, both spreadsheets and databases may be created by end users to streamline day-to-day tasks.
The benefits of using Access for your organization include:
- Most widely used desktop database system in the world
- Reasonably priced compared to larger database systems
- Can be ported to SQL Server for future upgrades
- Offers support and development consultants
- Uses comprehensive programming language, VBA
Ensure Well-Built Databases
While it’s convenient to run software programs independent of your IT department, there are issues of security, reliability and scalability to consider. Does the end user have the appropriate training and experience to build a secure, reliable database? Some databases are simpler in nature, but others require the knowledge and expertise of a programmer, system administrator or database expert.
Although end users aren’t always qualified to create a database, this is more of a rarity. Most end users are successful creating databases with tables, forms, reports and queries. To help, templates are available. Plus, giving end users this freedom and flexibility allows organizations to preserve resources. It’s not necessary to have all databases custom built by a professional.
In the instance that the database does outgrow its creator, an upgrade is the next step. SQL Server is a natural progression from Access, as the original design, queries, forms, reports, modules, etc. are changed. Once the data is in SQL Server, new functionalities become available, such as Visual Studio and .NET. These programs can be used to create Windows, web solutions or mobile solutions.
Microsoft Access is a true asset to your organization. To get the most from the software program, only end users who are comfortable building databases should do so. This saves company resources and allows you to upgrade to SQL Server at a later date. That said, some databases need to be built by a professional database expert like Arkware. This ensures that the database is reliable, secure, scalable and manageable.
For a free consultation to discuss your database needs, call Arkware today.