Friday, December 13, 2013

Access Web Databases: 2010 vs. 2013

Access web databases are dead.  But there’s no cause for alarm.  Now we have Access web “apps”.

With the introduction of Access 2013, Microsoft has made substantial changes to its vision of how to put Access database applications on the web. The differences between Access 2010 web databases and Access 2013 web apps are major, and you should consider them carefully before embarking on an Access web project.

Before I go further, I should point out a relatively minor terminology change.  Microsoft refers to 2010 web projects as “web databases”, while it refers to 2013 web projects as “web apps”.  I don’t think this will help much to differentiate the two products, but it’s at least worth noting. I’m going to continue prefacing the terms with the Access version, just to be clear.

So what are the differences, and why are they important? 

Differences

The most important difference is where and how the data is stored.  Both 2010 web databases and 2013 web apps require SharePoint (although different versions)  However, 2010 stores the tables and application in SharePoint lists, while 2013 stores them in SQL Server tables.  The minimum SQL Server version for working with Access 2013 web apps is SQL Server 2012. No earlier versions of SQL Server will work in this setup.

Secondly, both require SharePoint Access Services, but 2010 uses Access Services 2010 while 2013 requires Access Services 2013.  These services are very different and mutually incompatible. However, you can have both services running on the same SharePoint site, so you can host both access 2010 web databases and 2013 web apps as long as you have both services running.

Importance

This incompatibility means that 2010 web databases and 2013 web apps are entirely incompatible.  It that if you create a 2010 web database there is no upgrade path to 2013.  You cannot convert a 2010 web database to a 2013 web app.  It will have to be re-created from scratch.  You will still be able to maintain it in 2013, but you cannot create a new project.  There is no guarantee that future versions will even be able to do that.

On the other hand, you can easily migrate your data (structure and data) from a 2010 web database to a 2013 web app, but the application (forms, etc) will have to be rebuilt from scratch.

Recommendations

There are, of course, many other differences between Access 2010 and Access 2013, just as there are between any two versions of a product.  But in terms of deciding which is right for you, these are the most important.

If you already have an Access 2010 web database, there’s no need to immediately redevelop it in 2013.  But if you’re planning on using it in the long term, you should begin making plans to move to 2013.  All of Microsoft’s future development will be in the 2013 web app arena and future versions of Access may not even support 2010 web databases.

If you are starting a new project, there is no question you should be using Access 2013 web apps.