Microsoft Access guidelines

Microsoft Access is provided as part of the Microsoft Office suite of programs. IT Services provide support for Microsoft Office issues related to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. However Microsoft Access issues can be more complex and challenging and we do not have available expertise to support databases developed in Microsoft Access.

Who does this apply to?

  • All staff and research students who may be considering using Microsoft Access to support your research and administrative activities

What are the key things to know

Based on issues we have encountered with Access databases, we recommend that Access databases should not be used for critical business activities or rely on the knowledge of single individuals.

We particularly advise against the following:

  • A single database used by more three or four people at the same time as this reduces the performance of the database and increases the likelihood of corruption of the file
  • Split databases with a separate front end and back end for use in a multi-user environment
  • Creating a database to hold data which should be stored in an existing system
  • Coding - There are significant risks with developing databases with complex coding as they cannot be amended without significant understanding of the workings of the code. Without coding It is also more likely to be more compatible with future versions of Access
  • Web accessible databases which can lead to security vulnerabilities

Access databases could be used in the following research cases

  • PhD projects where a relational database is required as a means of collecting and analysing data
  • Small and medium-sized research projects, where data collection will be carried out by one or two people
  • Managing research data which will be documented and made available for reuse via a data repository

IT Services do not have the resource to support these databases should they fail or if the individual staff member responsible for the database leaves the University.

More information

If you are considering developing a database for administrative activities or research, we recommend you consult with

  • Your line manager or your PhD supervisor to get their approval to continue
  • The IT Business Partnering team to ensure that databases aren’t being created for which there is, or will shortly be, a centrally supported solution
  • Your Information Assurance Co-ordinator if you are storing data relating to individuals

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