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Microsoft Access Vs. MS SQL Server

Microsoft Access and Microsoft SQL Server are two of the most popular database management systems available on the market. They are both powerful, highly customizable database software solutions that enable users to store and manage data. Microsoft Access is a desktop database application suite available as part of the Microsoft Office Suite, while Microsoft SQL Server is a server-based database management system (DBMS) designed to be used in corporate or enterprise environments.


What is MS Access?

Microsoft Access (MS Access) is a DBMS from Microsoft that's mostly used for smaller applications. It combines a graphical user interface, software development tools, and a relational database engine. Access is a part of the Microsoft Office suite and is especially useful for data entry, web development, and software development. The latest version of MS Access is fully compatible with the Microsoft 365 suite and provides a comprehensive set of tools to help users create and manage databases.


What is MS SQL Server?

Microsoft SQL Server (MS SQL) is a relational database management system that runs on Windows operating system. It is intended for enterprise-level applications and supports larger, more complex databases than Access.

MS SQL is a powerful database engine that allows users to easily manage large amounts of data while providing scalability and high availability options. The database management software has a visual basic programming language that enables users to create stored procedures and functions for custom applications. It also offers its own set of data types, security features, and query optimization tools. Users can use MS SQL Server to support distributed queries, transactions, and replication.




Differences between MS Access and MS SQL Server

The main difference between MS Access and MS SQL Server lies in their use. MS Access is mostly used in-home or small business applications, as it can only handle small numbers of users and data requests. In contrast, SQL Server is designed for enterprise applications and handles several hundred or even thousands of users at any time.

This makes SQL Server an ideal solution for database-driven websites. MS Access can only support a small amount of traffic and may still return errors when the users try accessing the database simultaneously. 

Here are other key differences between MS Access and MS SQL Server.



MS Access has a friendly graphical user interface, making it an ideal choice for people unfamiliar with complex database interaction. It has drag-and-drop capabilities and a variety of templates to help users create and manipulate data. Access also includes wizards that walk users through the process of doing something new. In contrast, MS SQL Server has a more technical graphical user interface requiring specialized training and knowledge.

Access is generally easier to use than SQL Server — especially for beginners. It has a uniform interface consistent with the rest of the Office suite, which can be great if you're an Office user.



MS Access is a great choice for smaller applications, as it offers plenty of features regardless of the application size. It supports data-mining queries, the creation of forms and reports, and updating data through queries, macros, etc.

On the other hand, SQL Server is a more robust database solution that supports advanced features critical for any medium to large-scale business. Most of these features are optional and can be added during installation. They include:


  • Analysis Services


  • Master Data Services


  • Data Quality Services


  • Reporting Services


  • R Server


  • Distributed Replay Controller


  • PolyBase Query Service for External Data


MS SQL also features advanced database admin tools that allow businesses to optimize databases, schedule tasks, configure security accounts/roles, receive alerts, transfer data between disparate sources, etc.



MS Access is a great choice for small businesses or individuals who want to manage data without buying and installing a full-fledged DBMS. It is also ideal for creating Access databases used within the Microsoft Office suite, such as Microsoft Excel spreadsheets or Word documents.

On the other hand, MS SQL Server is a great choice for larger businesses that need to manage and store data in an enterprise environment. In many cases, it is the database behind business inventories, corporate CRMs, and other mission-critical applications. SQL Server is also used by many websites and web applications, as it can handle the large amounts of traffic generated.


Data Storage and Translation

MS Access stores data in a relational database format. It can also translate the data between its format and the commonly used Microsoft Office formats such as Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. This is done through an Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) feature that allows different applications to work together and share data.

MS SQL Server also stores data in a relational database format. It can export and import data to other formats and can also be used to create OLE objects. This makes integrating data between the different applications easy, allowing users to access and manipulate data without the need for manual input. Integration MS Access integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft Office applications like Excel and Word. 





MS Access is an affordable database system. It's available as part of the Microsoft Office suite, and a single license costs about $200. MS SQL Server is more expensive, with a single license costing anywhere from $899 to $13,748 (though free options are available).

Going by the prices, MS Access is an affordable option for freelancers and small-sized businesses that don't require a large database system. On the other hand, SQL Server is better suited for large enterprises that need a more robust database system.



Queries are a fundamental tool used to retrieve data from a database. MS Access and MS SQL Server both have powerful query tools that enable users to input query commands to retrieve data. The difference lies in the keywords in the syntax.

MS Access uses Immediate (IIF) functions, and MS SQL Server uses the CASE statement. However, the structure and syntax are different because Access uses parentheses while SQL Server does not. Security MS Access is a less secure database system when compared to MS SQL Server.



MS Access has a built-in ability to integrate with other Microsoft Office programs. This allows users to easily share data between applications and manipulate it within the same environment. MS SQL Server is more powerful and can integrate seamlessly into an Access Database. Unfortunately, there is no Microsoft access for Mac users, unless you're running Windows on your Mac, or through remote access to another computer.

MS Access and SQL Server are powerful database management systems with different features. MS Access is easy to use and can handle smaller datasets, whereas MS SQL Server is more robust, can manage large datasets, and comes with enhanced security. Tech Supply Shop offers both MS Access and SQL Server, so you can decide based on your budget and the kind of data you need to manage.



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