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Have you REALLY finished with MS Access 97 yet?

Does your business use Microsoft Access?  Do you know which version of the Access database format your employees are using?  (This is not the same as the version of application) Fingers crossed the access file does not end .MDB or .MDE

The problem is that Access databases created many moons ago, using the MS Office 97 format, are no longer compatible with the newer versions of Office.  If the Access file name ends in .ACCDB  or .ACCDE then stop reading now you can relax - move along nothing to see here.

Users opening an Access database that ends MDB in the Access application 2013 and above will receive an error.

You might be asking yourself “I thought Access 97 went away many moons ago”.  Well yes, as an application, it did.  Unfortunately many organisations failed to upgrade the database format at the time they upgraded the application install.  And now that some of the larger companies are shifting to Office 2013 and 2016 the data format problem is becoming apparent.

Fortunately there is a way forward.  Access 2010 can open these database files and can convert them to the new ACCDB format.  So you have options.  While you might consider downgrading your users to Access 2010 we would recommend a better solution.  

Step 1 : Upgrade your users to the latest version of Access that you are licensed for, ideally 2016.  You will need to do this eventually anyway so the time and effort will not be wasted.

Step 2 : Convert your active MDB databases to ACCDB format using MS Access 2010.  Depending on how many databases you have it is likely you can perform this conversion from a single machine.  If your databases contain security definitions you need to be aware there are some extra hoops to jump through.

Of course step 1 and 2 need to be performed in a syncronised manner to ensure your users do not lose access to their databases.  It is also a good idea to audit your database usage patterns as there maybe data that can be archived as it is no longer required.  It is also recommended that you consider data protection requirements, there may be data that you should no longer be retaining.

There is an alternative solution where the databases are converted to “grown up” MS SQL databases.  If data quality and security are an issue this can often be the solution to many of your worries.  Database applications making this move have several interface options available.  It is possible to continue using the MS Access tool as the interface.  You can also use the free MS Access “player” tool as the interface and of course bespoke web applications can be created.  Finally, and often missed, it is possible to integrate the MS SQL database into platforms like SharePoint.  If you already use SharePoint we recommend this route being investigated as the integration into other applications and workflows can deliver big wins.

We have expertise in managing this migration process and have been exposed to many of the pitfalls that coalesce around this activity.  Over time we have developed utilities and processes that ensure a documented and structured migration program can be implemented with little fuss.  Of course we are also SharePoint specialists so we have that route covered too.