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How to See the Biggest Return from Your Microsoft Access Database

A lot of businesses use Microsoft Excel to manage their data, but they don’t know what they are missing by not upgrading to a database! Spreadsheets may look similar to databases, but a spreadsheet is not nearly as powerful as one. Plus, getting information in and out of a spreadsheet is often tedious and cumbersome. A lot of manual data entry is required, and this raises the risk for errors.

If you are looking to upgrade from Microsoft Excel to Microsoft Access, you’re making a great choice that will allow your business to be more secure and efficient. Below we share a few tips on how to see the biggest return from your Access database.

MS Access is user friendly. You can use it without having to learn a programming language.

Microsoft Access is available with your Office subscription, and you don’t need to learn a programming language to use it. Access is considered a non-technical database application that is user-friendly for the average person. In fact, you can use it to create apps without needing a background in coding.

We recommend diving into Access and testing out the features to get you familiar with the differences between a database and a spreadsheet. But, don’t spend time trying to learn a new programming language. This is not necessary to use the basic functions of Microsoft Access.

Use only the number of tables that your application requires.

There is no “right” number of tables that you need in your application. Use the appropriate amount – no more, no less. Beginner database users have a tendency to use too few tables and end up trying to cram too much information into a single place. On the other hand, some users create dozens of databases, when they really only need a few.

Avoid repeating and redundant data.

Another thing you’ll want to avoid is repeating data in a single table. Relational database design handles repeating data by breaking it out into a separate table. So, if you find yourself numbering field names like Item 1, Item 2, Item 3, etc., create a separate table to store the data.

The same is the case with redundant data – avoid it! Redundant data doesn’t need to be in your database, and it can actually corrupt your data. For example, if you have a customer’s name stored in two tables and only update one of the tables, the data is no longer reliable.

Use a naming convention to avoid confusion.

When you pick a naming convention for your database objects, you should stick with it to avoid confusion. This way, all database tables, columns, constraints and other objects will be named in a consistent and reliable manner. The good news is that you can choose any naming convention you want (within reason) – the key is to be consistent.

Use nulls only when you need to.

Nulls are often overused. The true purpose of using null is when a field of information is truly unknown. This is different from a field that needs to be left blank. As an example, when filling out the Address 1 and Address 2 lines on a table, the Address 2 line is usually left blank. But, “blank” is a known value, so you don’t need to put null.

Consult with a Microsoft Access consulting expert.

Lastly, make sure that you have a Microsoft technology expert to consult with. As your business grows and changes, your database needs might as well. It’s important that your database is always working for you and providing you with secure, consistent data. By partnering with a team of database experts, you can get the most value from your database.

Arkware provides Microsoft Access support and replacement services for businesses of all sizes. Schedule your free consultation to discuss your database needs.

Database Solutions for Construction Management

A large part of being in the construction industry is being able to deliver projects on time and on budget. Rather than using limited software to keep track of projects, project managers use databases to define custom projects, create workflows and keep everyone in the loop.

Arkware provides database solutions for project managers in the construction industry. We have helped a number of clients streamline their operations, improve safety and efficiency and increase communication. To learn more about our database solutions, contact us today for a free consultation.

In the meantime, here are some of the ways that project managers use database software to run safer and more efficient operations.

Field & Site Management

Having a central database allows all partners to communicate with each other and manage documents in real time. Plus, critical business information can be accessed at any time, allowing partners to make informed decisions. This helps projects to be completed on time and to the highest standards. A single platform where everyone is kept in the loop also provides peace of mind for project managers who can’t be on site all of the time.

Estimating & Bidding

Custom estimation and bidding software makes it easy to stay on track with your budget and ensure everything is accounted for. After all, projects that go over budget can have your company losing money. Estimation software lets project managers run accurate projections for what each part of the project will cost. There are also options to prepare and manage bids.

Equipment & Inventory Tracking

To ensure your project has everything it needs, it’s important to keep tabs on equipment and inventory. Database solutions help project managers stay up to date on the statuses of their parts and materials by sharing real-time updates. Also included is fleet management for dispatch, scheduling and maintenance tracking. This ensures that all fleet are accounted for and properly managed.

Mobile Integrations

Thankfully, today’s database solutions aren’t limited to your desktop computer. After all, you’re probably on the go and away from your desk most of the time! Thanks to mobile platforms, project managers can talk to vendors and field teams, review project plans, approve time cards, access project contacts and more. Everything can be easily accessed on any mobile device from anywhere in the world.

These are just a few examples of how database software can be used to streamline operations, improve efficiency and protect customer data all from a single platform. For more information on how Arkware can work with your construction company, contact us today.

Microsoft Access Web App vs Desktop Database

One of the first steps in building a database is to decide whether you want to build a web app or a desktop database. There are benefits for both, so you’ll need to consider your needs, the people you’re looking to share the database with and your purpose for the database. Luckily, Microsoft Access offers a gallery of templates to make your job easier, regardless of which option you choose.

Let’s discuss the differences between a web app and a desktop database and how to choose the right one for your needs.

What is a Web App?

An Access web app is a web database that runs on most browsers. Everyone on your team can open and use this database in their browsers, no matter where they are or the device they are on.

Microsoft recommends using Microsoft PowerApps to build web apps without using any code. You can even use this program if you don’t have Microsoft Access. The fastest way to get started is by using a template. All web app templates have a picture of a globe in the background. You can also customize a web app from scratch, though this takes longer.

What is a Desktop Database?

A desktop database is a database system that runs on a single computer. Everyone can connect to the computer that the database is stored on, though each user will need to have Access installed.

Microsoft has a number of templates that can be used to build a database. All Access desktop database templates have a table icon in the background. You can also create one from scratch by making your own forms, tables, reports and other database objects.

Deciding Whether to Use a Web App or Desktop Database

Here are some considerations to keep in mind as you choose whether to build a web app or desktop database.

  • IT requirements. Use an Access app if you want the reliability and scalability of storing data in SQL Server. Also, you can benefit from the latest features as soon as they become available. Though you will have to wait longer for these features to come to desktop databases, use this option if you need to consolidate data from different data sources.
  • Data and design. Web apps are best if you want to share the data with people from inside and outside of your organization. Anyone who has permission can view and edit the data, even if they don’t have Access. Choose a desktop database if everyone will be using the database from a networked computer and has an Access account.
  • Business goals. We recommend web apps for straightforward business needs and simplified solutions. Also, any changes made in a web app are immediate. Databases are more complex but also more customizable. You have full control of the user experience and access to complex functions like Visual Basic and linking to external data.

If you need to build a web app or a new database for your business or organization, contact Arkware today. Even though you don’t need to be a coding expert to use Microsoft Access, it helps to know what you are doing. We can set up your web app or database properly and make sure it provides your business with consistent, accurate and trustworthy information. Contact us today for your free consultation.

Relational vs Non-Relational Databases: What’s the Difference?

In the world of databases, there are two main types: SQL and NoSQL – or relational and non-relational – databases. There are clear differences between them, including how they are built, the type of information they store and how they store it. By understanding what SQL and NoSQL databases are and the distinctions between them, you can make the best choice for your business or organization.

Let’s learn more about relational and non-relational databases, how they differ and how to choose the right one for your operational needs.

What is a Relational Database?

Relational databases are structured. They contain two or more tables with columns and rows. Each row is an entry, and each column sorts a specific type of information, such as a name or address. In order for relational databases to be effective, the data needs to be stored in a structured manner. Some of the most popular SQL databases include Microsoft Access, MySQL and Oracle.

Businesses and organizations rely on relational databases for the following reasons:

  • Data can be organized in a simple manner
  • Information can be easily retrieved using queries
  • Structured format leads to reliable, accurate data  
  • Highly scalable to accommodate growing businesses
  • Database can be normalized for consistency

What is a Non-Relational Database?

Non-relational databases are far more flexible than relational databases because they contain unstructured data. You can think of them as being large file folders that contain all types of information, such as photos and online activity. There is organization to these databases in the form of storing information in documents. The difference is that these documents are not categorized into fields.

A major benefit to NoSQL databases is that they offer a greater ease of access. Users can execute queries without having to learn the basics of SQL. Non-relational databases are also intuitive, fast and efficient. They are ideal for large businesses and organizations that hold a lot of data. If the database needs to be scaled, it can do so without much headache. Popular non-relational databases include Oracle NoSQL, MongoDB and HBase.

What Database is Right for Your Business?

The best way to know what type of database is right for your business or organization is by speaking with a database management company such as Arkware. Start by defining your strategy, the types of data you’re looking to store and the analytics you plan on running. Unless you are a large business with lots of big data to make sense of, a relational database like Microsoft Access should be sufficient for your needs.

For your free consultation, contact Arkware today.

 

3 Things to Know About Databases

At first glance, a database looks almost like a spreadsheet. It has arranged columns and rows and holds data just as a spreadsheet does. However, things get a lot different from this point forward. Databases are far more powerful than spreadsheets, allowing you to do a lot more with them. This is why businesses and organizations large and small use databases to efficiently run their operations.

Below are three important things to know about databases.

1. Databases are relational and can cross-reference records in different tables.

Most databases are relational, which means you can create relationships between tables to compare and contrast data. For example, if you linked a Customers table with an Orders table, you could bring up the entire order history for a specific customer. You could also refine this data based on a certain time period or purchase total.

Additionally, databases have broad search functionality that allows businesses to pull up all information in a matter of seconds. This helps people make smart business decisions. Databases are also capable of updating records in bulk so that users don’t have to go through and update everything manually. In the end, databases are incredible tools that offer far more functionality than traditional spreadsheets.

2. Databases have a structure that is made up of columns and rows.

Databases contain tables and rows, and all data is separated by categories to avoid duplication. For instance, a retail business might have a database that contains a Customers table, an Orders table and a Products table.

Within each table, the rows are called records and the cells are called fields. Each field holds a specific type of data, such as a number or date that is formatted consistently. This allows users to pull up accurate, consistent information.

Furthermore, the tables are linked through a key, which is an ID that identifies each row. There is a primary key for each table, and any table that needs to link to that table will have a foreign key. You can read more about choosing a good primary key in an earlier post.

3. Microsoft Access is one of the most popular database programs.

Microsoft Access remains one of the most popular and reliable database programs on the market. It’s affordable, easy to implement and can be scaled to accommodate growing businesses. If your business needs something more powerful than Access, you may want to upgrade to a server database that uses SQL, such as MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle.

No matter what your database needs are, Arkware can help. We get businesses set up with databases like Microsoft Access as well as upgrade them to server databases. Using the right database ensures efficient, productive operations and the ability to make smart business decisions. Contact us today for your free consultation.