Share Your Microsoft Access Database Online
I get asked this question all the time: "How can I put my Access database online so other people can use it?" There are several different things you can do to put your database online, depending on who your users are, what kind of security you need, how much work you want to put into development, and what you want the end-result to look like.
File Sharing Services
First of all, a lot of people tell me they are trying to share their Access database using Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox. Do not do this! This is a big no-no! Access databases will not work reliably over these file sharing services. You will most likely lose information at best, and corrupt your database at worst. Very bad. I love Google drive. I use it all the time myself, but don't use it for an Access database.
If you are the ONLY user working on the database AND it's relatively small AND you have good Internet, and you want to be able to copy the database back and forth between your home and your office, that's OK. But don't run the database out of your shared folder. Copy it to a local drive, use it, then copy it back up. See this video for more information: Using Access with File Sharing Services.
If you have a small team of trusted users, and you're already online using SharePoint, this this might be a good solution for you. You will split your database, migrate your tables over to SharePoint lists, and you can continue to use your Access front-end locally. This method does involve a moderate amount of setup work to get your tables transferred over, and you may have to make modifications to your front-end to get it to work right. I've got an hour-long SharePoint Seminar that covers how to do this, but again, I only recommend it for organizations who are already setup and using SharePoint. Plus, if you’re planning on taking your data public at any point, such as feeding a web site, then this is not a solution for you.
SQL Server Online
Another option is to migrate your database to SQL Server online. You'll split the database, upload your tables to the server, and continue to work with your Access front-end file. You can have a very large number of people connected to your database at the same time, so this is a good solution for even the largest organizations. This is also a great solution for anyone who wants to have a public-facing database. You can distribute a secured front-end to your suppliers or customers, or even use your database to power a web site and build a browser-based interface in a web language like ASP. This solution does require a significant amount of time to setup your database and it has a steep learning curve. I've got a 4-hour seminar to teach you everything you need to know called the Access SQL Online Seminar. Online SQL Server hosting is surprisingly inexpensive. I recommend Winhost.
Now, if you want to be able to use your Access database without making any changes to it, and you don't mind leaving your office computer running 24/7 then you can use a remote desktop solution to log in to your computer remotely. I personally prefer Google's Chrome Remote Desktop. I use this myself when I’m travelling. I’ve got a free lesson that explains how to set it up. However, this is really only good for one user at a time. You can’t share the database (unless it’s already shared on your office network, and even in that case all of those users would need to leave their PCs running). This is fine for a single user remote solution.
Access Database Cloud
If you want to have your entire team be able to access your database simultaneously from remote locations with little to no setup work on your part, I recommend Access Database Cloud. This is an online service specifically tailored to Microsoft Access users who want to set up a shared solution so that your entire team can work with your database remotely, 24/7, from anywhere in the world. As long as you’ve got an Internet connection, you can share your Access database. Once your account is set up, there is almost zero setup time for you to get up and running. You can just copy your existing Access database file up to a shared folder, and begin working. This is a fully managed solution and is great for sharing your database amongst your employees. The only downside is that there is a per-user fee. However, it's still a very affordable solution for a business that wants a fully-managed server that's easy to operate with little to no setup time or learning curve.
New: Access Form Profiles
If you're going to use either Remote Desktop or Access Database Cloud on PCs with different screen sizes or even mobile devices, you may want to consider my Access Form Profile Template which allows you to set up different profiles for your forms.
You can use the same database on your big monitor, your small travel laptop, and your cell phone. All by setting up different form profiles.
If you require additional copies of Microsoft Access for your users to work with your database, you don't need to pay for full versions of Office. You can just get the free Access Runtime Edition.
If you're planning on using one of the remote desktop options, and you want to learn how to design Access forms so that they appear the right size for your tablet or cell phone, check out my Access on a Phone video.
If you are planning to use SQL Server to host your data, in addition to connecting your Access front-end database to it, you can also connect your web site as well. I have a full series of classes that teach web programming using Active Server Pages. That's what my web site uses, and my site is very heavily database-driven.
Access Web Apps
Any time people ask about using Access online, this topic always comes up: Access Web Apps. As of 2019, Microsoft removed Web Apps from Access. If you see any web sites talking about them, they're dead. They were never very good to begin with. And be careful what you read out there. There are some misleading sites that are claiming that Microsoft has discontinued Access and will no longer be supporting it. No. That's not true. They discontinued Access Web Apps which was one feature of Access. Access isn't going anywhere.
I only recommend SharePoint if you're already setup with it and using it.
If you want to use Access as a desktop database and also to share data on your web site, use SQL Server.
If you, and you alone, want to use your database when you're travelling and you don't mind leaving your home/office computer on while you're away, use Chrome Remote Desktop.
If you want to share your database with your employees but don't want to have to migrate your data or learn how to work with SharePoint or SQL Server, then I recommend the fully managed Access Database Cloud service.
If your users want to have remote connectivity via a web browser, tablet, or phone, use Chrome Remote Desktop if they can connect in to their home/office PCs, or Access Database Cloud if you want to have your database online.
What do I use? When I'm on the road and I want to get into my database, I use Chrome Remote Desktop. I can use my laptop or Android phone/tablet. For my web site, I use an ASP Web Site connected to SQL Server. I love to program in ASP. It's fast, easy (for me), and secure.
However, I'm just a lone gunman, and I'm a nerd. I don't have any employees. I don't work in a team. I love to program. So it's easy for me to just leave my home PC running when I'm travelling so I can connect into it. However, if I was just a normal business owner, I wasn't a database guru, I had employees, and needed to share my database with a team, I'd use Access Database Cloud.
But that's just my opinion. I've only been doing this for... about 30 years. :)
Practical Case Study
Most emails I get from people asking me what they should do tend to go something like this: "I have a database to run my business. I need to be able to share it with people who work remotely. What's the best way to set something like this up?"
Here are the three solutions I recommend for most situations:
What option is best for you depends mostly on your budget and how much time and effort you're willing to spend on learning Access, SQL Server, ASP, and whatever else is necessary. I've got the courses to teach you all of this, but you have to ultimately decide what's best for you.
Your Comments & Questions
If you are interested in learning more about any of the topics mentioned above, then leave a comment below and let me know exactly what your needs are. The more people that comment, the higher the priority I give specific topics.
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