Pros and cons of Microsoft Access

Microsoft Access is one of the lesser-known Microsoft 365 applications. While it may be overshadowed by its more familiar relatives like MS Word, Excel, Outlook and even PowerPoint, Access is a very useful and powerful tool that can be leveraged to solve a variety of problems.

MS Access is a database management system that combines:

  1. a relational database engine,
  2. a graphical user interface,
  3. a reporting tool,
  4. macro capabilities,
  5. and a software development language (VBA)

to provide a user-friendly Rapid Application Development (RAD) environment. While Access’ ease of use, versatility and power can be an asset to those looking to develop software to address business issues (e.g. process improvement or process automation), it’s not ideal in all situations. 

Here are some pros and cons of MS Access to help you decide if Access makes sense for your scenario.

Pros of MS Access

When shown what  Access can do, most users are amazed at the capabilities, ease of use, and complexity of the programs that can be developed using it. Using MS Access database templates, form wizards, and macros can enable applications to be built in days, rather than months.

Use-case versatility

An extremely versatile system, Access can be leveraged for a variety of use cases, such as:

  1. simple office inventory,
  2. custom CRM,
  3. sales order management,
  4. advanced multi-user ERP database applications.

Flexible data storage

By default, MS Access stores data in its proprietary file format, but it offers the flexibility to attach to a wide variety of data sources, such as:

In general, any data source that is available via ODBC connection can be accessed with MS Access.

Complete application development

Full-featured applications often require different tools for:

Access offers developers and users  alike a single solution to develop the full function set of an application.

Multiple programming options

Macros:  For novice users, Access offers a drag-and-drop interface that allows the user to quickly add functionality to an application with no coding.

Visual Basic for Applications:  As with other Microsoft Office applications, Access harnesses the power of Visual Basic for Applications for more advanced program development.

Cons of MS Access

While Access is a very powerful and versatile tool, it’s not the answer for all applications. 

As the scale and complexity of an application grows, or its requirements expand  beyond the limits of Access’ capabilities, other system architectures or platforms may be required.  Some of the reasons that MS Access may not be the best option include:


Database: MS Access Database files are limited to 2GB. As you increase your users and accumulate more data, you may outgrow MS Access.

Users / Performance:  Microsoft Access is a desktop tool and as a result can’t be horizontally scaled across multiple servers and throttled to handle heavy load times like modern cloud-based web applications can.

Older Platform

While some newer version of Access include some web-style development features, MS Access doesn’t allow for the implementation of many modern web architectures (such as API, webhooks and microservices), or modern UI libraries like javascript, jquery, bootstrap, and CSS.

Connectivity limitations

Unlike modern web applications that are accessible from just about anywhere, MS Access requires VPN or RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) connections to use them.

Alternatives to Microsoft Access

Access is a robust development tool that offers a variety of built-in capabilities that in many cases can be addressed with their own individual solution.  As a result, the alternatives to Access are almost unlimited, as different database, UI, programming languages and reporting tools are layered into an application. 

A few example alternatives:

Mobile responsive customer portal

A web portal offering data accessibility via desktop or mobile device employing a services-oriented architecture to allow for easier third-party software integration:

On-Prem Operations MVC App

A mission-critical business application run on an in-house web server used to perform daily business tasks by the staff of a growing nationwide organization:

Data Warehouse Driven BI Dashboard

Quasi-real-time management reporting tool displaying sales, production, inventory and accounting metrics across the company for a variety of regions, departments and dates.

MS Excel

Access is one of the lesser-known applications in the Office suite of applications. As a result, many users overlook its capabilities and try to use the more popular MS Excel as a means of collecting, storing and reporting on data. 

While Excel is a very powerful tool for data manipulation, it is more times than not improperly forced to act as a database system rather than a spreadsheet application. In other words, Excel should not be utilized as an alternative to Access. 

MS Access Conversion Case Studies

Next Steps

If you feel like it makes sense to convert your MS Access application, check out our MS Access Conversion page and feel free to reach out if you’d like to discuss further.