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Frequently Asked Questions about Microsoft Access®

Why Microsoft Access?

We chose Access because it is widely used, has extensive third-party support, is accessible to non-programmers and has robust security. Access is also fully relational, which means the system's underlying database model can be constructed with data integrity rules, which ensures the organization and structure of the data can not be compromised by operator error.

I've heard that Microsoft is getting ready to retire Access. Is that true?

No, it's not true. Microsoft's Access development team is larger than ever, and the new version is scheduled for release in 2007. To learn more about the future of Access, see Microsoft Office Access Vision White Paper. The white paper describes the product's benefits and the investments Microsoft is making in the future of Access.

Do I need to purchase and install Access on each MSC-LIMS workstation?

No. The MSC-LIMS setup software automatically installs an isolated Access Runtime on the workstation. Deploying MSC-LIMS using the Access Runtime reduces total cost of ownership for MSC-LIMS users, since additional Access licenses are not required. A single copy of Access is necessary only when on-site customization is planned.

Note that the version of Microsoft Office typically bundled with a new PC does not include Access. You will want to quantify these additional licensing and administration costs, and include them as real costs when considering Access-based applications that do not incorporate the Access Runtime.

What is the Access Runtime?

The Access Runtime is a version of Access with certain features disabled, such as the ability to create and modify databases. We developed MSC-LIMS using the Microsoft Office Developer Edition, which provides a license to distribute the Access Runtime with our software.

Our workstations have varying versions of either Access or Microsoft Office already installed. Is this a problem with MSC-LIMS?

No. While most Access-based software requires the presence of a specific version of Access, you can install MSC-LIMS on any workstation regardless of the version of Access or Microsoft Office already installed. The MSC-LIMS setup software installs a completely independent and fully-isolated version of the proper Access Runtime.

Will we encounter any problems if we upgrade all of our workstations to the latest version of Access and Microsoft Office?

No. Unlike most Access-based software that is dependent on a specific Access version and that will be affected by Microsoft Office and Access upgrades, we have carefully crafted our installation software to avoid this common problem. Any Microsoft Office installs, reinstalls, uninstalls or upgrades will have no affect on MSC-LIMS.

Some say Access is unreliable and offers poor performance in any multi-user LIMS environment. Is this true?

No. Those making such statements are either selling a true client/server LIMS or are not familiar with Access or the internals of the Microsoft Jet database engine.

It is true that large labs with hundreds of users generating gigabytes of data will require a LIMS with a true client/server database such as Oracle or SQL Server. However, there are many small workgroup environments that have neither the need for a client/server database nor the resources to purchase and administer such a system. MSC-LIMS was developed specifically for these labs.

Properly designed, an all-Access LIMS (both "front end" and "back end") such as MSC-LIMS is a capable solution for small labs. We have had excellent results limiting our Access-based systems to a maximum of twenty concurrent users and using MSC-LIMS Archiving to keep the production database size in check. While Access can not match the performance, recovery and online backup capabilities of a client/server database, it can provide a viable solution with good performance when the developers understand its limitations.

Is Access a client/server database?

No. A true "client/server database" such as Oracle, SQL Server, and Informix uses a single server-based database engine to perform all database reads and writes.

Access is a "file server" database. Access uses the Microsoft Jet database engine and the file server's file sharing/locking features to provide concurrent access to the MSC-LIMS back end database. Database reads and writes are performed by the Jet engine running on each workstation.

Can data from MSC-LIMS' Access database be integrated with our corporate client/server database?

Yes. MSC-LIMS Messaging is a perfect solution for this task. Using MSC-LIMS Messaging, analytical results from one or more labs can be added in real time to a corporate database or other enterprise-level information system. With support for XML and XSL transformations, data files in virtually any format can be delivered via email or the corporate intranet in real time. Using this solution, companies with multiple labs can control network infrastructure costs using separate autonomous MSC-LIMS installations in each lab yet still maintain a central repository for analytical results.

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