How to Choose the Right Microsoft Database Application(s) for Your Organization’s Needs


There are four Microsoft databases to choose from, and then there is Excel.  Four databases to integrate and automate into one complete, seamless Microsoft Database Solution

For best results, integrate your Microsoft Database Solutions with Microsoft Excel



Microsoft has four relational databases to choose from. How do you choose?


Database Expert’s Advice:  Before you decide which Microsoft database to use, we suggest you first speak with us, and based on what your stated needs are, we can tell you which database, or combination of databases will work best for you.

And if you do not need a database, if Excel with Power Query will work just as well, if not better, we will tell you that too.  Our Excel consultants make database replacement solutions in Microsoft Excel with Power Query.



How do you know which combination of the Microsoft databases to use for optimal results?

How do you know which of Microsoft’s relational databases are the best fit for your organizations exact needs? What does Microsoft Access do when compared to Microsoft SQL Server or Azure? Which of these databases will do exactly what I need to have done? This can seem to be complicated, and it is, if you do not know what you need. Understand your needs and you can easily make the right choice. It comes down to how you think about it.

For starters, think of them more as one integrated database application rather than four separate applications. Consider that each Microsoft database has its own special features and specific advanced uses. If you think that way, you have a much better chance of choosing the right Microsoft databases for your needs.


Microsoft has four relational databases, they are:

  1. Microsoft Access.

  2. Microsoft SQL Server.

  3. Microsoft Azure.

  4. Microsoft Power BI.


Microsoft Excel is not a database


But we do build database replacement solutions in Microsoft Excel and Power Query.

Excel Tables versus Access Database – Excel and Access, LLC



Image of two Excel Tables used as Excel Forms.

In Excel you can use Tables as data entry forms.

Excel Solutions as database replacements.



Important First Considerations when Choosing a Microsoft Database Application:

1) Will we have a large amount of data (Big data),

2) does the application need to run on a C drive or a company network,

3) do we need a DBA to manage the application,

4) will SSRS be used,

5) will we need a cloud-based component for accessibility,

6) will we want a forms based graphical user interface (GUI) that allows you to run the application update process via point-n-click by a non-programmer, and finally

7) do we want to use Power BI to create our own relational database between the Microsoft applications we already use? Those are some of the most important considerations when choosing a Microsoft database application.

You really need to know what database functionality you want, before you make your choice of which databases to use.

But the solution above would require you to run 3 or 4 of the Microsoft databases to get all of those advanced features into one integrated database solution; there is not a single database by Microsoft that does everything listed above.


Important Note: It is always best to plan to have Microsoft Excel as an integrated and hopefully automated component of your Microsoft database solution. Excel VBA Macros are your friends.

This post will help you choose the optimal combination of the four available Microsoft database applications for your exact needs.


If you do not feel that you know enough to decide, let us help you choose the right database for your specific needs, dial 877-392-3539.



What about the market sector you are in, is there a Microsoft database that works well for your industry?

No matter the size of your organization, no matter if you are a business, a college, a non-profit, even a government entity or a small family run business, Microsoft has one or more databases that will work perfectly for your needs, and in this post we will help you choose which databases work best for your sector or industry.

Important to note: You do not want to only consider choosing one Microsoft database application, unless that is all your needs demand. Often a combination of two or more of these databases are integrated and automated into one seamless database solution.


Why Speak to a Microsoft Database Expert When Choosing a Microsoft Database Application:

It takes an seasoned data visualization expert to do Microsoft database development work properly.  A Microsoft database expert is an expert in all four of the Microsoft databases, not just one. A Microsoft database expert can help you to understand your exact needs, and then can tell you which databases will be needed for your custom solution.

As Microsoft Database Experts, what can we tell you?

We can tell you if you need the most common combination, an Access front-end to a SQL Server back-end, what they call a split-database. We can tell you that if you are considering web accessibility, the Microsoft Azure cloud based component will be needed. We can tell you how you would you each of the databases, in your database solution, what each will do, and how you can integrate with Excel and the Office 365 applications. We can tell you everything you need to know so you can make the right choice.




The smart way to go with your Microsoft Database & Office 365 Applications:

Being able to use all four databases, in one database solution, and incorporating Excel, Word and Outlook, taking the best features of each, is the ideal way to go. That is called integration and automation, and this is how you take the user out of the update process. The advanced use of Excel or Access VBA programming makes it all possible, point-n-click, done.

The Optimal Solution: Is one where you fully integrate and automate all of your Microsoft databases with the Office 365 applications you use, into one seamless point-n-click solution. If you use any of the Microsoft applications below, you can fully integrate and automate them into one seamless Smarter Microsoft Solution.

1. Access Database ( Desktop/Network, GUI )
2. SQL Server Database ( Network, Most Powerful and Secure )
3. Azure SQL Database ( Cloud Based )
4. Power BI Database ( Latest and Greatest )
* Excel Workbook ( Excel is not a database )
* Outlook Email
* Word Processing
* PowerPoint Presentations
** PC & Mac compatible


Example of an Integrated Data database solution: Microsoft Access Front-end, SQL Server Back-end. Access for the GUI, SQL Server for the Power and Security.


Image of the XUMO Access Database we built.

We work with very large companies, as well as government offices and colleges.



Why are there are four different Microsoft Database applications?

Each database by Microsoft is very much different from the others, each has its own strengths and weaknesses, its own reason for existing. Primarily: One is for ease of use and for the Forms interface ( Access ), one is for the cloud and global accessibility ( Azure ), one is for Business Intelligence ( Power BI ) and one is the industry standard network database with SSRS ( SQL Server ), against which all databases are judged.


Knowing what each database is able to do will help you to choose which combination of Microsoft’s relational databases will work best for your organization. Microsoft’s databases are best used in combination of two or more, for optimal results. If you add Microsoft Excel to the mix, and you have a huge game changer.


Example: Azure is Microsoft’s cloud based SQL database application, and the uses are limited when compared to say SQL Server or Access, but it has features the other two do not have, the primary reason it was developed by Microsoft, the Cloud based component for improved data accessibility.

So how do you know which of the four databases may best work for your organization? Read on.


Choosing Which of the Four Microsoft Databases Best Fit Your Needs




What is a Database?

A database is an organized collection of structured information ( data ), stored on a computer, in a computer program called a database. It is where data is collected, stored and manipulated. They are used by every sort of organization you can think of. The global economy runs on databases; Fortunes are stored on databases.

Those organizations that can better analyze their data for meaningful trends, the stronger their decision making ability, and better chances for their success. It is based on data visualization of the data in those databases that the decisions are made, get the data wrong, get the numbers wrong, get the charts and the analysis wrong, well, not good.

Choosing the right Microsoft databases to work with will in fact make your job much much easier. Use the right tool for the job; use the right Microsoft database for the job.


Microsoft Excel is not a Database; it is a Spreadsheet

Microsoft Excel is not a database; it is a spreadsheet, much like Lotus 123 or Google Sheets.  Databases are based on tables, queries, and relationships.  Spreadsheets are often based on numbers, but they can also be just text or just images.  The confusion enters because Excel allows you to do things similar to, or even with database data.  Many of the things you do in a Microsoft Access database, you can also do in Excel, in some form or another.  So if you have low resources, a quick and easy Excel file may allow you to avoid the investment in a database.


Excel is a spreadsheet, Access is a database, they are not the same thing.  They have different uses.  As our company name indicates, “Excel and Access, LLC”, we work in Excel and Access, so we know this.


What is a Relational Database?

Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Power BI, Oracle, those are relational databases. These are the most used relational databases. Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server are the big boys. Most companies use a combination of these, across their organization, as each has its own use or uses.


A relational database is a type of database that stores and provides access to data points that are related to one another. … The columns of the table hold attributes of the data, and each record usually has a value for each attribute, making it easy to establish the relationships among data points, says Oracle.




Chances are your organization, (be it a business, college, non-profit or even in the government sector), is already running several relational database applications in addition to Office 365. Also a very good chance that many of those databases that they are running are among the four relational database applications by Microsoft. Maybe not in your office, or your department, but somewhere within your company.

It is also possible that they are not fully/properly automated and integrated as they should/could be, that the data is not accurate, not complete, and most importantly that the data is not secure. A properly built database solution is one that is both easily updatable and one that is easily accessible, while also being secure..



What Benefits do you receive by using a relational database?

The purpose of using a database is to allow you to quickly manipulate a large amount of data, some call it “BIG data”, and for you to then be able to make decisions based on the meaning you took from the data.

The ultimate benefit from using a database is this: The quicker and the more accurately you can complete the data manipulation and the data analysis, the quicker you can take action on said data, at the same time, hopefully the more on point and accurate your decisions will be.

Therefore you could expect to see Improved Results based on the databases you are using and how well you use them.

  • Running a properly built database solution will save your organization a lot of time and money. Automation Pays Dividends
  • A database solution with a GUI allows anyone in your organization to run the database, no programming experience needed; Point-N-Click
  • 100% Data Accuracy
  • Data Visualization Tools
  • Advanced Data Security
  • Easily work with BIG Data
  • Full Integration and Automation of update process


Testimonial from Access training project.

Testimonial on Access Training project.



What importance does the “Format” of the data hold when it comes to choosing which of the four Microsoft databases you want to work with?

Does your data come to you in txt, csv, or Excel files? Do you compile those in Excel, and then push that data from Excel into Access? Unfortunately that is actually a very common approach taken by many organizations, as that is all they know, and we fix those all the time.

But it need not be so manual, you do not need to go that way. You want to be focused on data visualization activities, not on manual data manipulation. Let the computer do the heavy lifting, use the right tools for the job; use the right Microsoft Databases for the job.

Examples: If you are a small company, or a family run business, and you want to work with an easy to use, yet amazingly powerful Microsoft database, one that you can run on your laptop, one where you don’t have more than 2 gigs of data, well then Microsoft Access is probably the best choice for you and your needs.

If you have ten or more gigabytes of data, and if you need to have the data files stored on the company server, with a departmental DBA supporting your database, with the highest levels of security, then Microsoft SQL Server is probably your best choice.

What if you need to have web access to your data, well then let’s talk Microsoft Azure SQL Databases as being your best choice.


What I am saying is which of the four Microsoft databases you use really does come down to how you will ultimately use them, that matters a whole lot.

You really don’t want to run a full-blown SQL Server Database solution on your family laptop when a simple Access database will do the work in less time with less cost and effort.

Use the right tool for the job; Use the right Microsoft database for the job.



The Four Microsoft Relational Database Applications

Below is a quick bit of information on each of the four Microsoft relational databases, why you would want to use each. For more information you can look at linked pages that go into further detail on the application of choice.

Important foot note: Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle are the two most commonly used relational databases across the USA, UK, and Canada.




Microsoft Access Database

Desktop Friendly, Network Worthy, Frontend/Backend, VBA

Microsoft Access is the smallest relational database application sold by Microsoft. Access unlike the most robust relational databases is often stored on your personal C drive, though it can be installed on a company network as well, for best functionality. Access is easy to use and amazingly powerful for its size.

Microsoft Access is often used in finance and accounting departments for its easy to use point-n-click graphical user interface, no programming experience needed.  If you work in finance or accounting, then almost guaranteed you work in Microsoft Excel a good amount of your time. Knowing that Excel and Access are often integrated and automated into one seamless point-n-click application ( Excel front-end, Access back-end)  is important to note.

I can also say that it is also likely that a lot of the data in your Excel files comes to you from others in your organization, or from outside, and that data may come in the for of CSV, TXT or Excel files format. Or that it comes from Microsoft Access, SQL Server or an automated web download. That the data you consolidated in Excel then often goes into one or more Microsoft Access tables, this is often the norm.

So the Excel data comes from all over the place, it is messy, it is not clean, it is not easy to work with, and working with it takes too much time, attention and effort, and it could all be so much simpler. It only makes sense to move the data into a database, we recommend Microsoft Access for this.  Microsoft Excel is not a database; it is a spreadsheet.


Moving large amounts of Excel based data into Microsoft Access is usually the first choice companies make, when choosing a Microsoft Database Application


Moving the large amounts of Excel based data into Microsoft Access is usually the first choice the department goes in, leaving the SQL Server option with the needed assistance and approval of IT on the backburner for now, choosing rather to give it a go themselves, inside the department, using Microsoft Access as their internal database, one that works with their existing Microsoft Excel files.

This happens so often in corporate America, in so many of those accounting and finance departments.  This is one of our most common Access consulting services.  This is the norm, this is the first step, the first choice.



Microsoft SQL Server Database

Network Worthy, Big Data, Robust, Secure, Reliable, SSRS


Microsoft SQL Server has long been the heavy hitter among the Microsoft relational databases; their biggest, most advanced, most powerful relational database. It can be used by the largest users with the largest data-sets. Though a lot of super small companies, that happen to have a lot of data, they too can use SQL Server, normally as a backend database.

So no matter the size of your organization, nor your market segment, if you have BIG Data (Over 2 gigs), then SQL Server may be the Microsoft database of choice for your organization. Anyone can use SQL Server if they want to, as there are several versions of SQL Server available, all with a different set of capabilities, limitations and each with different costs. But typically Microsoft SQL Server is for industrial strength usage, or for big to massive data sets, and always where advanced data security is needed. This is Microsoft’s flagship cash-cow database.


How is SQL Server Used:

SQL Server is stored on the company network. In large organizations the IT department usually manages the database and there is often a DBA responsible for your instance of your database. It is either used as a standalone application, or as a back-end to an Access front-end. You may be surprised to learn that SQL Server has long been used as a backend to a Microsoft Excel front-end. Increasingly SQL Server is being used as a backend to an online Azure SQL Database, with Azure as the front-end, cloud based database. The uses of SQL Server are endless.



Microsoft Azure Database

Microsoft Azure is Microsoft’s Cloud Based Relational database.




Microsoft Power BI Database

Microsoft Power BI is often thought of as an Excel application really is a relational database, as you work with it in the Excel environment.  Power BI is extremely complicated, and its use did not catch on as much as one might have thought.





Who uses the Microsoft Databases?

Businesses, government, colleges, and non-profits as well as countless small family run businesses across the USA, Canada and the UK. In most of the accounting and finance departments, plus countless others, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access are on the computers of those that get the work done, the analysts, Directors, etc.




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