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How to Troubleshoot These 3 Common Access Problems

Even though Microsoft Access is easy to use and understand, it still gives users a fair share of problems. Fortunately, most of these problems have a simple solution. And because Access is such a widely used database program, it’s easy to find advice from people who have experienced the same problems. 

Let’s look at three common Access problems and the best ways to solve them. 

1. Normalizing Empty Access Tables 

One of the most important things to do when building a database is building the table structures properly. This process is known as normalization and it prevents databases from having tables with redundant information. Redundancy isn’t a good idea for databases because it can lead to inconsistent data. 

To normalize your database, follow these steps: 

  • Examine each table. Are you repeating information unnecessarily? 
  • Identify duplicate information. Why are you repeating it? 
  • Break the table into two. Where there is redundant information, split that table into two tables. 
  • Repeat these steps until all redundancy is eliminated. 

2. Automatic Rounding 

Automatic rounding can be frustrating, but it’s an easy fix. By default, Access sets all number fields to accept long integers (negative or positive whole numbers). If you want to input numbers with decimals, you have to change the field-size setting so it can accept them. Here’s how to do it. 

  • Open the table in Design view and click the field that’s giving you trouble. 
  • On the General tab of the Properties area at the bottom of the screen, click the Field Size box. 
  • Click the down arrow at the end of the box and select Single, Double or Decimal from the drop-down menu. 

3. Autocorrect 

Autocorrect is meant to be a useful tool, but sometimes, it can be an aggravating one. Databases contain a lot of acronyms, part numbers and unique names that you won’t want changed. In fact, you might not even realize that the Autocorrect feature is changing these words until it’s too late. 

There are two ways to solve this problem: 

  • Turn off Autocorrect entirely. Click the File tab, click the Options button and select Proofing. Click the Autocorrect Options button and uncheck some or all of the boxes. 
  • Undo Autocorrect as it happens. Press Ctrl+Z right after Autocorrect changes your data entry. This will return the entry to the way you entered it. 

Whether you’re facing these common issues or others, it helps to have a team of database experts on your side. Arkware offers Access database programming, development and support. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your database run smoothly!

 

5 Tips for Managing Your Teams While Social Distancing

Managing a remote team isn’t easy, but this is the reality for many businesses right now. Fortunately, there are ways to make the most of your remote teams and ensure your employees remain connected, motivated and productive. You’ll probably have to adjust your expectations and how work gets done, if you haven’t done so already. 

Below are five tips for managing your teams while social distancing (be sure to also read our post on keeping your data safe while working remotely). This is a work in progress, and certainly something that we’re all getting used to, so be patient. It will take time to find your groove! 

1. Reset Your Expectations 

Most teams are used to working together in the same office, under the same working conditions. However, this isn’t possible when you have employees working from home. Rather than stressing you and your employees out, it’s better to reset your expectations. 

For example, you may have to let go of how and when tasks are accomplished. As long as your teams are completing their work on time and according to your standards, it’s okay to grant them more flexibility with their days. 

2. Keep in Touch Daily

Shorter communication cycles are more effective than long ones. Translation: You don’t need hours-long meetings to get your teams working productively. Simply keep in touch to get updates and let them know you’re available. We recommend checking in every day, at least once. Instant messaging is perfect for this. A quick group huddle over video also works well and keeps teams accountable. 

3. Provide Continued Education 

Keep your teams moving forward by providing them with educational tools, short lessons, workshops and more. Focus on shorter lessons that are under a half hour and easy to consume. You can then host a quick meeting or discussion about the relevance of the information and how it can be applied to your business operations. 

4. Assign Buddies and Peer Coaches 

For built-in support, consider assigning buddies and peer coaches to your teams. These leaders can provide your teams with mutual support and ensure that everyone is working toward their goals. You can also rotate this leadership role between several different people. If your employees haven’t had experience with this role, offer them some guidance on coaching

5. Assess Stress Levels 

At the end of the day, remember that we are all people navigating some very difficult times. Check in with your employees on a personal level and let them know that their well-being is your main concern. Opening up these lines of communication also allows for more honest feedback. To gather quantitative feedback, send out a survey or poll. 

Here at Arkware, we know firsthand how challenging these times can be. We are here for our clients, just as they are for their own staff and customers. Let us know if we can help your business run more productively during COVID-19 with an upgraded database, cloud computing or software update.

 

How to Prevent Database Corruption in Microsoft Access

Most users of Microsoft Access have, at some point, encountered the message that their database has been corrupted or placed in an “Inconsistent State”.  You will see a dialog with the message: Microsoft Access has detected that this database is in an inconsistent state, and the software will attempt to recover the database.

Since my start with Microsoft Access 25 years ago, the frustrating aspect of this error is that there isn’t a definitive reason why the database became corrupted.  Error messages in a variety of other software programs are much more descriptive on what to do to prevent violating the software rules.  In Access, for example, there are characters that are not allowed when naming fields in a table.  If you choose a character that is not aligned to the rules, the message that follows is clear.  Select the Help button and then follow the rules displayed regarding table name rules.  

So, what does one do regarding database corruption in Access? 

First, it’s important to know that most Access databases become corrupt at some point in time.  I’ve found the most proven methods to deal with corruption are not to waste time trying to determine why the database got corrupted, but rather focus on methods that prevent the database from getting corrupted in the first place. 

                                                     

Listed below are some things that Arkware consultants do that have helped reduce database corruption significantly:

  • Split your database into a front-end and back-end (two separate files).  All the database tables are in the back-end database and each user has their own copy of the front-end database on the desktop or local hard-drive.  The front-end database contains all the database objects (queries, forms, reports, and macros/VBA). Each PC has the same folder structure such as (C:\WorkingDatabase\DatabaseName). Using the Linked Table Manager, link the tables from the back-end database to the front-end database. Access has a database splitting wizard that can assist with splitting the original database into the front-end and back-end databases.  Look for a future Blog entry on using this wizard.
  • Force the database to be shut down at close of business or other specific downtimes.  This is done because users sometimes leave the system open and the unattended Access connection may get disconnected from the network, which can cause corruption.  The code can be placed on the “OnTimer” event of any database form that remains open. The best database form to use is a main switchboard form. Simply add DoCmd.Quit to the VBA code to close the system down at a certain time of the day (ie 2:00 am). 
  • Make sure all users are using the same version of Access on all computers.
  • Create a MS-DOS command batch file that copies a new front-end database to the local C:\ drive of the user’s computer. This is not mandatory, but it does ensure that everyone receives a clean copy of the local front-end database.
  • Do not have tables from other Access databases linked to your main database that are using different versions of Access.
  • Disable Access auto-correct feature. This can be done by selecting File > Options > Current Database. Under “Name Autocorrect Features”, deselect “Track Name Autocorrect”

These are some of the main preventive measures to guard against database corruption.  If you are struggling with database corruption, reach out to Arkware and we can assist you in achieving a more stable environment for your Microsoft Access database. 

 

Top Ways to Increase Database Efficiency

How well your database performs depends largely on its efficiency. Many factors affect efficiency, including how data is modeled and how queries are structured. If your database isn’t as efficient as it could be, a few small tweaks can make all the difference. Below we’re going to cover the best ways to improve database performance for improved efficiency, accuracy and productivity. 

Check Your Server 

Start by checking your database server to ensure it has the proper hardware available. Evaluate the following: 

  • CPU. If you think your database is underperforming, it’s possible that you need to upgrade your CPU unit. Measure your CPU performance, monitor CPU ready times and make sure you are using two CPU cores.
  • Memory. Check the page faults per second. If you’re having thousands of page faults, you’re running out of memory and need to expand. 
  • Disk space. Databases require a lot of disk space so make sure you have enough space at all times. Run your database on dedicated hard disks for the best performance. 

Optimize Queries 

Most database issues come from poor queries. For the best results, use a query optimizer to optimize your queries. This will eliminate coding loops that can generate hundreds of unnecessary requests that will slow down your database. Query optimizers also save plenty of time, as you don’t have to go through and optimize them manually. 

Update Your Database Version

If you’re using the old version of your database, it’s time to upgrade. While some queries might run faster on older versions, this won’t help the overall functionality of your database. By updating your database and taking advantage of the latest software and features, you can ensure better overall performance. 

Minimize the Use of Images 

We typically don’t recommend storing images in your database because they’re large files that slow down performance. Instead, store references and metadata so that you can easily access the image files when you need them. 

Know When to Use Indexing 

Indexes are used to quickly and efficiently locate data without having to search through every row in a database. As your database grows larger, you’ll find yourself indexing more often. Because indexes dramatically speed up data retrieval, it’s important to assign the correct index for each table as well as understand the differences in index types – clustered and non-clustered.

Remove Unused Tables 

Over time, it’s common to have unused tables that you don’t need anymore. Eliminate them for improved efficiency. Having unused tables puts more stress on your database, as it has to run through all the tables to find the answer to the query. By removing unused tables, you can expect faster queries. 

These are some of the best ways to improve database efficiency for your business. If you need help with any of these steps, or you are considering upgrading to a new database program, contact Arkware today. We have customized solutions for all businesses and organizations. 

 

Are Your Employees Working Remotely? Here’s How to Keep Your Data Safe.

If your business has a lot of remote workers, you’re probably embracing all the benefits: happier employees, improved retention, lower operating costs and a better use of technology. However, there are some downsides to remote working, including an increased risk for data breaches. 

Data breaches are a huge problem in the U.S., with more than 100,000 serious breaches reported since 2005 according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). Of all the data breaches reported in 2019, 40 percent were due to hackers, which included scams like phishing, skimming and ransomware. 

Unfortunately, remote employees are most at risk because they are susceptible to hackers. Not all employees have access to secure connections, company laptops and security training, which means they could compromise your sensitive data. 

To protect your data and reputation, as well as prevent a breach that could cost millions, let’s look at some of the ways you can keep your data safe while employees work remotely. 

Update your data breach response plan. 

Update your data breach response plan to reflect your changing work environment. Your plan should address all new and potential risks that could occur as a result of working from home. Document the response steps your employees should follow if these risks happen.

Reassess data collection policies. 

Update your IT infrastructure and reassess data collection policies. You should only collect the essential information you need – no more. Perhaps it’s time to cut down on the information you’re gathering from customers or secure this information in a different way. 

Have containment strategies in place. 

When a breach first occurs, you may want to delete everything, but that could hurt you in the long run. Instead, it’s best to contain the breach so it doesn’t spread and cause further damage. Containment strategies may include open communication, isolating systems, disconnecting breached accounts and blacklisting IP addresses. 

Ensure employee software is up to date. 

Another important step is to make sure your employees have what they need to be safe and secure. They should always use firewalls, keep their databases up to date and encrypt data using one of the main types of encryption. Also, limit permissions – only give employees the access they need to do their jobs. 

Working remotely is becoming the new normal. While there are many benefits to this arrangement, you want to be sure that employees are following the rules and keeping all data secure. The best way to mitigate a breach is to ensure your data breach response plan and IT systems are up to date. For more assistance with keeping your database secure, contact Arkware today. 

Importance of Good Database Design (and 7 Steps to Achieve It)

Good database design is essential for reliable, complete and accurate data. Certain principles lead the way in database design. These principles include not having redundant data and ensuring all information is complete and correct. When you know that your database is properly designed, you can trust it to make strategic decisions. 

Let’s learn more about the importance of good database design and seven steps to achieve it. 

Why Good Database Design Matters 

Let’s look closer at the guiding principles in database design

The first principle addresses duplicate information. Redundant data is considered bad because it wastes space and increases the chances of making errors. This is understandable, as repeating data can show up in reports when it doesn’t need to be there.

The second principle is that all information within the database must be correct and complete. If your database contains inaccurate information, any reports pulled from the database will be misleading. 

To have good database design, your database should be able to do the following: 

  • Divide information into subject-based tables 
  • Support the accuracy and integrity of the data 
  • Give Access the information it needs to join information together 
  • Accommodate data processing and reporting needs 

Seven Steps to Achieving Good Database Design 

To ensure good database design, here are seven steps to follow. 

1. Determine your database’s purpose. There are multiple types of database management systems, such as relational databases, object databases and graph databases. Determine what database will best fit your needs. 

2. Find and organize information. Gather all types of information you might want to enter into the database like product names and order numbers. 

3. Divide the information into tables. Organize your information based on subjects or categories, such as Products or Orders. Each subject becomes its own table. 

4. Place information items into columns. Decide what information you want to store in each table. Each item becomes a field and is displayed as a column in a table. For example, a Customers table might include First Name, Last Name and Address.

5. Specify primary keys. Choose a primary key for each table. The primary key is used to identify each row, such as Product ID or Order ID.

6. Establish relationships. Decide how the information is related to the information in other tables. Add fields to tables or create new tables if you need to reinforce the relationships. 

7. Refine your design. Review your design for errors. Create tables and see if you can get accurate data. Also, apply normalization rules to make sure your tables are structured properly. 

While you don’t need to be a coding expert to use Microsoft Access, good database design requires some experience. To have a database built or optimized for your company, contact Arkware today.