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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:
We are happy to announce the availability of low-cost SharePoint foundation hosting plans. These plans start at only $99 a year and while they do not have the publishing features of Access Web Services, these SharePoint 2013 plans are still great for Access Developers. You can use SharePoint Lists as you backend and easily have anonymous website users add information and input data using SharePoint’s list functionaliy without having to pay per user enterpise license fees. Watch the video below to see the type of Access development and features that we’re talking about:
We are happy to announce that we are once again offering SharePoint 2010 Access Web Database hosting plans. This new plan has a 30 day free trial and is $99/month. It includes 10 users and 2 GB of storage space, unlimited databases, unlimited bandwidth and allows you to combine Web Forms and Web Reports with your existing clientside Access DB functionality for a true powerful hybrid application. These SharePoint hosting plans are completely scalable. Additional storage and users can be added to this plan at any time for additional fees. We plan to continue to offer service to Access 2010 web publishing on SharePoint 2010 and 2013 for as long as Microsoft supports and allows us to license this product.
One of the most important changes with Access 2013 and their new web apps is in the architecture itself.
In SharePoint 2010, Access Web Services was storing everything in SharePoint (and then SharePoint’s content was backed up by SQL). Access 2013 apps are hosted by SharePoint 2013 while the data is stored in SQL Server 2012. SharePoint 2013 provides authentication, authorization, and security for Access 2013 apps. The back-end tables, views, macros, and queries are stored in an SQL Server 2012 database. This change in architecture reflects a substantial change in the way Access Services works.
You will notice that SQL stores tables, views, macros and queries but there’s no mention about reporting. That is because Access 2013 Web Apps do not allow you to create traditional Access reports. The only way to do reporting is by connecting the local Access software program to the SQL tables directly or using some other compatible reporting software tool.
There are a lot of advantages of using Access 2013 with SharePoint 2013, but it is important for Access Developer to note the following:
Access Hosting is committed to supporting the Access Developer community and will continue to offer SharePoint 2010 Access Web Services hosting for as long as developers are interested. SharePoint 2013 Access Web apps do have a ton of advantages, and we have launched our brand new Access 2013 SharePoint 2013 hosting packages. If you are interested in a free trial, please sign-up here.
We don’t just offer SharePoint hosting either. We have great ways for every Access Developer and Access application to be hosted in the cloud whether it’s through SharePoint, SQL Server or our RDP solution which lets you host any Access 2007, 2010 or 2013 application without ANY modifications. It supports VBA code too.
Since SharePoint 2010 with Access Services has been released, we have gotten requests from customers looking to prevent users from opening their Access application. Many developers want the only user experience to be the browser based version of their application and our video tutorial hack is too limiting and simply not good enough. Well, as you can see from the picture above, we have finally figured out a way to remove the Options Menu (and subsequently the Open in Access option) from any Access Web Database. This customization has been widely requested and is yet another feature that Office 365 does not offer. Unfortunately because of how SharePoint 2010 was designed and coded, this customization requires that we alter SharePoint master pages and is therefore only available with a virtual private server. If you are interested in this feature, it is now available with any of our SharePoint Virtual Appliances which are only $499 and include 10 users and 5GB of storage space.