Any old databases?

Do you know a business with an old database kicking around? Or even critical to their business? It might be in Access or Filemaker, or even a bunch of connected spreadsheets, but Microsoft Access is the most common. Do they depend on it for their business and are worried it might fall over at any minute?

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, if you wanted to build a custom database for your business, Microsoft Access was the way to do it. It came with MS Office and provided a fairly straightforward way to create useful business software. If you had a little technical knowledge, you could knock something together yourself. Some of these self-builds were pretty badly put together though! You could also pay a professional to do it for you. In fact when I started Nuvola in late 2003, Access databases were one of the offerings. By 2006, though, we were building web-based database systems instead.

Access had some problems, though. Its security was minimal and it broke down under heavy load. The front ends looked, well, like Windows 98. And also it meant storing a database file on a computer in your office that needed backups and so on. A bit like files full of paper, if you had a fire or flood you’d struggle to keep operating. When we started the move to web based systems, the big selling point was that you could access it from anywhere and back ups were taken care of for you. My 19 year old apprentice has no idea how revolutionary that was!

What’s amazing is that some of these old Access databases are still kicking around. This is usually in well established businesses where they often sit at the core of the company’s operations, or at the very least are key to a specific process. They are often business critical, but running on old technology and built by a developer who’s long since disappeared. We’ve recently been referred a client with exactly one of these. Their IT services company has been upgrading their entire set up. However, they haven’t been able to touch the box that runs their Access database, because that’s what runs the business. It’s using 17 year old technology and the client has no idea how to maintain it!

We’re going to go through this system and list out all of the features. We’ll implement them either as custom development or as new features in our own CRM system, which uses web technologies that aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. We’ll move all their data to the new system as well. The client will have peace of mind that the database their business depends on is not going to fall over any time soon!

So, if you have one of these elderly databases or know a business that does, isn’t it time it took its pension?