What is the Main Difference between ACCESS and SQL SERVER?

 Posted by ArticlesMaint on 9/18/2009 | Category: Sql Server Interview questions | Views: 12644

As mentioned before, Access fulfills all the CODD rules and behaves as a true RDBMS. But there’s a huge difference from an architecture perspective, due to which many developers prefer to use SQL SERVER as the major database rather than Access. Following is the list of architecture differences between them:

  • Access uses file server design and SQL SERVER uses the Client / Server model. This forms the major difference between SQL SERVER and ACCESS.

    Note: Just to clarify what is client server and file server I will make a quick description of widely accepted architectures. There are three types of architectures:

    • Main frame architecture (This is not related to the above explanation but just mentioned as it can be useful during an interview and also for comparing with other architectures)

    • File sharing architecture (Followed by ACCESS)

    • Client Server architecture (Followed by SQL SERVER).

In Main Frame architecture, all the processing happens on central host server. User interacts through a dumb terminal that only sends keystrokes and information to the host. All the main processing happens on the central host server. So the advantage in such type of architecture is that you need least configuration clients. But the disadvantage is that you need a robust central host server like Main Frames.

In File sharing architecture, which is followed by Access database, all the data is sent to the client terminal and then processed. For instance, if you want to see customers who stay in India, in File Sharing architecture all customer records will be sent to the client PC regardless whether the customer belongs to India or not. On the client PC customer records from India are sorted/filtered out and displayed, in short all processing logic happens on the client PC. Therefore, in this architecture, the client PC should have heavy configuration and it increases network traffic as a lot of data is sent to the client PC. However, the advantage of this architecture is that your server can be of a low configuration.

Figure 1.2: File Server Architecture of Access

In client server architecture, the above limitation of the file server architecture is removed. In client server architecture, you have two entities, client and the database server. File server is now replaced by database server. Database server takes up the load of processing any database related activity and the client does any validation aspect of database. As the work is distributed between the entities it increases scalability and reliability. Second, the network traffic also comes down as compared to file server. For example if you are requesting customers from India, database server will sort/ filter and send only Indian customer details to the client, thus bringing down the network traffic tremendously. SQL SERVER follows the client-server architecture.


Figure 1.3: Client Server Architecture of SQL SERVER

  • The second issue comes in terms of reliability. In Access, the client directly interacts with the Access file, in case there is some problem in the middle of a transaction, there are chances that an Access file can get corrupt. But in SQL SERVER, the engine sits in between the client and the database, so in case of any problems in the middle of a transaction, it can revert back to its original state.
    Note: SQL SERVER maintains a transaction log by which you can revert back to your original state in case of any crash.

  • When your application has to cater to a huge load demand, highly transactional environment and high concurrency, then its better to go for SQL SERVER or MSDE.

  • But when it comes to cost and support, Access stands better than SQL SERVER. In case of SQL SERVER, you have to pay for per client license, but Access runtime is free.

Summarizing: - SQL SERVER gains points in terms of network traffic, reliability and scalability whereas Access gains points in terms of cost factor.

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