Excel is not actually a DBMS ( MS-Access is ) and MS Word is not also a DBMS . DBMS stands for Database Management system which implies that information is stored in a Database with tables and records consisting of fields .Excel can do some of these functions but is not a DBMS and MS Word stores data in flat files as such and is therfore not a DBMS. One of many Excel’s talents is its data storage; we can store a lot of data in Excel workbook. Excel 2010 64 bit can create a workbook with a size of up to 4 GB. However, Excel is not designed to be a database management system and have many limitations to handle enterprise grade business applications, e.g. each worksheet can only store up to 1,048, 576 row, it does not have robust data integrity and concurrent users support. Therefore, many power Excel users are looking for a better data management software and Microsoft Office Access is often chosen.
Access is a powerful desktop database management system and it is very suitable for desktop applications with a small number of users accessing it simultaneously. Microsoft Office Access is currently bundled with Microsoft Office Professional or you can buy a standalone version for US$ 139. It has 2 main components; a database engine and a rapid application development (RAD) tool that would generate a business application with minimum coding. Microsoft Office Access is definitely a very user friendly, powerful and flexible tool for small and medium business and its license cost is very reasonable.
Despite all these benefits, I have been recommending Microsoft SQL Server to my clients and a lot of people asked me why I prefer SQL Server. One very important reason is that they don’t have budget for an enterprise grade database management system (DBMS); they believe SQL Server is very expensive! Well, what if I tell you that it is free. Microsoft SQL Server has many editions to fit different needs and its Express Edition is FREE, we can download it from Microsoft. Nothing beats free! Yes, it is a trimmed down version but it is still more powerful than Microsoft Office Access in many aspects, e.g. it includes 10GB of storage per database when Access only supports 2 GB; it can utlilize up to 4 cores when Access can only use 1 sinlge core; it provides much better performance and scalability for multi users application. Another key benefit is that SQL Server has multiple editions so we will have a seamless upgrade path when our business grows, e.g. Express Edition supports 1 CPU (up to 4 cores) but Standard Edition can take advantage of 4 CPU (up to 16 cores). We don’t have to worry about if our DBMS can grow with our business.
Another advantage of SQL Server is its recent cloud deployment, i.e. SQL Azure. SQL Azure is a cloud database service provided and maintained by Microsoft. High availability, scalability and fault tolerance are all built-in and it has a 99.9% monthly SLA. We let the experts (who can be more expert than Microsoft when it comes to SQL Server) to manage our database platform. SQL Azure has no upfront cost; we don’t need to buy any new hardware nor software license. We just pay a monthly subscription fee that is based on our usage: