Apr 25

Boston Marathon Bombing and the Use of Social Network Analysis (SNA) Software

Sentinel VisualizerWhile we at FMS are best known for our Microsoft Access add-in products, we are also a leader in the Big Data analytics world with our Sentinel Visualizer product from our FMS Advanced Systems Group.

Sentinel Visualzer helps analysts mine their data to find hidden relationships among people, places and events. Built with Visual Studio .NET on a SQL Server database, Sentinel Visualizer provdes advanced data visualization through link analysis, geospatial mapping, timelines, social network analysis (SNA), advanced filtering and decluttering, and many other tools to maximize the value of data.

MIT Technology Review Article on Social Network Analysis and Boston Marathon BombingAs the rampage and manhunt in Boston, Cambridge, and Watertown transpired, MIT Technology Review published an article that mentioned our Sentinel Visualizer product. In the April 19, 2013 article, David Talbot describes the rise of technology to detect the activities of criminals over the Internet and connect seemingly unrelated people, places and things. For more information, visit Building a Picture of the Boston Marathon Bombing Suspects through Social Network Analysis

Mar 13

Mistakenly Blaming Microsoft Access instead of the Developer

In this March 10th Washington Post article, Alexandria tailor weaves custom solution for taking orders, a local firm is mentioned having struggled with Microsoft Access and being forced to migrate to a new system due to problems with their Access database. In particular, their database couldn’t provide multiuser support and lost data when more than one person used it.

Unfortunately, stories like this perpetuate the myth that Microsoft Access features are limited rather than the lack of skills of the developer who tried to customize it. It’s a shame the business owner and developer weren’t aware that Access could address the multiuser issues they encountered; thereby saving time, money, and headaches from having to migrate to a new platform.

Microsoft Access is Multiuser Ready

Microsoft AccessThe reality is that Microsoft Access is fully capable of providing multiuser support if it’s designed properly. For basic database solutions with under 1GB of data (maximum 2GB), Access comfortably supports up to 200 simultaneous users with a properly designed solution.

Microsoft SQL ServerAs the number of users and data expands, Access makes it relatively easy to migrate the data storage from an Access database to SQL Server, while maintaing the application layer (forms, reports, code, etc.) in Access. This also lets you share the SQL Server data on web sites and other platforms. That means supporting two users in a tailor shop would be trivial with MS Access.

Split Database Architecture for Multiuser Solutions

People sometimes treat Access databases like Excel spreadsheets and want each user to open and close the same file. That’s not the way to support multiuser data sharing in Access. A split database architecture is needed to separate the application layer from the shared database. Each user gets their own copy of the front-end database application that links to the tables in the shared database.

Microsoft Access includes a built-in wizard to split the database and another wizard to link the front-end database to back-end tables. We wrote a paper about this years ago: Microsoft Access Split Database Architecture to Support Multiuser Environments, Improve Performance, and Simplify Maintainability

While having a web application has its role and advantages, the article mentions their internet connection isn’t reliable and their business is negatively impacted when that happens. That’s an unfortunate result of their new platform. There are ways to create hybrid solutions to provide on premises support with shared web solutions, so these issues need to be considered when creating business critical solutions.

Using Microsoft Access Strategically

Small businesses often have very limited budgets and time to understand technological options. Completely eliminating Office and Access as viable solutions for incorrect reasons is wasteful. Microsoft Access addresses an important segment of database needs, and offers small businesses and information workers the ability to make modifications and extensions that other platforms do not allow so easily. Understanding where and how to use Microsoft Access effectively along with its limitations offers organizations of all sizes a competitive advantage. We’ve helped many small businesses, non-profits, and multi-national companies properly use this technology very effectively. Here’s our article on Microsoft Access within an Organization’s Database Strategy that discusses this in more detail.

Conclusion

There are lots of terrible applications created on every technology platform whether it’s Microsoft Access, Excel, Visual Studio, Java, Oracle, SAP, etc. In this case, the skills of the Access developer were clearly lacking. Getting that confused with the technology is misguided.

Additional Resources

For additional resources to build robust Microsoft Access solutions and understand what’s possible, visit our:

Oct 22

Microsoft LightSwitch Application Development with SQL Server

Microsoft LightSwitchMicrosoft Visual Studio LightSwitch for Microsoft Access, SQL Server, and Visual Studio .NET Database Developers

The Visual Studio team has introduced a development platform called LightSwitch which simplifies the creation of database applications in Visual Studio. This rapid application development environment lets you create solutions that can be easily deployed on Windows or Mac platforms from a public web site or Intranet.

We’ve been using LightSwitch for the past year and find it to be ideal for a particular class of SQL Server based solutions. Here our first article providing an overview of the benefits and limitations of the LightSwitch platform for the Microsoft Access community. The paper includes:

  • Sample screens
  • The Visual Studio .NET Platform
  • Working with SQL Server and SQL Azure
  • Rapid Application Development
  • Silverlight Dependency and Limitations
  • Supporting Windows, Mac, and Web Browsers
  • Future Support of HTML5
  • How Microsoft Access Applications can Evolve into LightSwitch

If you’re interested in learning more about our help developing custom solutions based on LightSwitch, visit our LightSwitch Consulting page.

Jun 17

Watch the Microsoft TechEd Conference Videos for Free


TechEd is Microsoft's premier conference for IT professionals and developers. The sold-out conference took place in Orlando, Florida last week.

If you didn't attend, you can still watch many of the videos from the conference, including the keynotes and other highlights from each day. Visit the TechEd web site and click the "On Demand" tab to learn about the latest in Microsoft technology.

The announcements this year are stunning with huge advances in Azure, Visual Studio .NET, SkyDrive, LightSwitch, Virtual Machines, and more.

May 09

Microsoft Access Database Architecture: Taking Time into Account and Shadow Tables


When designing an application and its tables, it’s very important to capture the time dimension and determine how data should be stored with the expectation that it will change over time. While there’s a natural tendency to keep data normalized so that the same information is stored in only one place, the time dimension also needs to be considered.

  • What Needs to be Preserved Over Time?
  • Making Sure Data Normalization Doesn’t Lose Historical Data
  • Shadow Tables

For more details, read our paper: Microsoft Access Database Architecture: Taking Time into Account and Shadow Tables

Additional papers and resources in our Microsoft Access Developer and VBA Programming Help Center