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Becoming comfortable with working offline and syncing to an online database with SharePoint later is essential if you often travel or work in areas with intermittent Internet access. Newer versions of Microsoft Access make this transition nearly seamless and help you avoid losing any work. However, there are a few tips that you should know that will allow you to tweak how Microsoft Access works with any website database.
Before you begin using Microsoft Access, you should be aware of two common hazards of working offline. First, if you share a database with coworkers, they may accidentally make conflicting edits when you’re working on a database. When working online, you can recognize these conflicts almost instantly, but you may generate multiple record conflicts when working offline that will create additional work and double-checking. Second, synchronizing with an online database can time out, so you may have to limit the amount of records you edit at one time. The solution to both of these potential issues is to sync offline work with the online database on a regular basis.
Since the 2010 edition, Microsoft Access web database automatically places you in offline mode when the computer is not connected to the Internet. Please note that you’re still restricted to online-use only if you’re using the 2013 Microsoft Access web app. Unfortunately, the offline functionality of Access 2013 Web Apps is non-existent. If you are disconnected, your frontend reports and forms will stop working/rendering. The 2013 Web App acts very similarly to connecting your backend data via ODBC or SQL – if that connection isn’t live, you can’t edit or access the data.
The Microsoft Access web database saves any table changes locally using a jet table. The program indicates offline mode with a status bar at the bottom of the screen. Then when you reconnect to the Internet, Microsoft Access will immediately try to reconnect with SharePoint 2010. If Microsoft Access is successful in connecting with the server, you will see a yellow box that asks if you want to send your changes to the server, close open objects and synchronize with the server. If you want to upload your changes to the server, click on the “Synchronize” button.
If you do not see this prompt, go to the “File” menu and choose the “Reconnect All Tables” option.
If you prefer to work offline, bypass online mode in Microsoft Access by clicking on the “External Data” tab. Select the “Web Linked Lists” group and click the “Work Offline” option.
To resume working online, navigate back to the “Web Linked Lists” group. Then click on the “Work Online” option, which will be exactly where the “Work Offline” option appeared before.
To sync database changes, select the “Synchronize” command in the “Web Linked Lists” group on the “External Data” tab.
To discard database changes, select the “Discard changes” command instead.
Older versions of Microsoft Access do not have the automatic offline mode. Instead, you should specify when you want to work offline on a SharePoint database, and Microsoft Access will use XML caching to save your work. When working in areas with an intermittent Internet connection, consider working in offline mode and regularly syncing your work to avoid losing any data. Another option is to use one of Access Hosting’s Remote Desktop clients to protect your work and automatically backup your files to any cloud-based storage service when online.
To work offline, open the database on SharePoint and click the “Work Offline” option located on the External Data tab.
To resume working online, go back to the “External Data” tab and select the “Work Online” option.
To update the database with your work and see any changes made by coworkers, select the “Synchronize” option on the “External Data” tab.
If you prefer the greater control of the earlier XML caching, you can turn off the caching in the Microsoft Access 2010 and 2013 versions by navigating to “Access Options,” selecting “Current Database” on the left side and unchecking the box next to the option that says, “Use the cache format that is compatible with Microsoft Access 2010 and later.”
I was recently having a very good chat with a potential customer that had some very good questions regarding Access and Office 365. This person already had an Access app and was looking to share it online in the browser and was thinking that SharePoint was the best solution but was confused about what they needed exactly since they had an Office 365 plan with a few users with just email and a few more with Sharepoint and more. It was such a good conversation that I thought it would be good to clarify some of the differences between Office 365 and our SharePoint 2013 Enterprise hosting plan for Access Web Databases and Web apps.
Cost Savings over Office 365
The most confusing part of the comparison is that the varying plans for Office 365 are quite confusing in and of themselves. Office 365 is a sort of all encompassing term used to describe a lot of different products from Microsoft. It can be as simple as a subscription to Microsoft Office software or a complicated enterprise plan with access to Exchange, Sharepoint, Yammer, and more. If you’re interested in Access Web Databases or 2013 Web Apps, the first thing to determine is whether your Office 365 plan even includes SharePoint Enterprise. You need to have either an Office 365 Business Premium plan ($12.50-$15 per user per month) or an Office 365 Enterprise Plan ($20 per user per month) to have access to the correct version of SharePoint with Access Services. Obviously if you have a small business where you have 10 users or less and need email, exchange and everything in between, Office 365 is the better deal, but for a lot of people they need something more flexible.
Let’s say you have Office 365 and are paying $15-$20 per user and have an Access database that you want to host in SharePoint as a web app and share with some of your clients outside of your organization. How do you do that if they don’t have their own Microsoft account/Office 365 account? Our $99 SharePoint hosting plan has been tailor made for Access Services 2013 and 2010 and offers substantial cost savings over Office 365. Right off the bat our $99 plan includes 10 users ($50 – $100 less than Office 365), and each additional user is only $3 per user per month vs. the $15-$20 per user Office 365 plans. Best of all, you don’t need to pay for all the extra features of Office 365 that you don’t need for you and your clients.
Access Services 2013 and 2010 running Side by Side
Another cool feature about our $99 Sharepoint plan is that you can run 2013 Access Web Apps right alongside Access 2010 Web Databases since our 2013 SharePoint environment is running both versions of Access services. We’ve already written about the differences of this technology in a previous post: picking between Access 2013 Web Apps and Access 2010 Web Databases.
Comparing Access Hosting to Office 365
Here’s a few more points about our implementation of SharePoint over Microsoft Office 365. An On Premise or 3rd Party Hosted Access Services 2013 implementation helps provide focused, reliable solutions for the following common customer needs: