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Carefully Consider the Ramifications of Publishing an Access 2013 Database as an App to SharePoint Online Before Proceeding

As Darvish Shadravan makes clear in a video tutorial on the Access 2013 App Model, titled Access 2013 App Model, the Data Layer of the App will be converted to SQL Server. Further, the SQL Server back end will be hosted on Azure.

Organizations should carefully consider the ramifications of deciding to publish an Access 2013 App to SharePoint Online, meaning the above points, before proceeding. Shadravan’s video tutorial is available to anyone with a subscription to SharePoint-Videos. This video tutorial is also included in our SP 13-307 SharePoint 2013: Enterprise Forms set of video tutorials, which can be purchased for unlimited, local viewing by an organization.

Once an Access data layer is converted to a SQL Server data layer, it is not possible to reclaim the database table back into Access form for any purpose. So, keeping this fact in mind, it will not likely make much sense to publish mission-critical information, proprietary to one’s organization, as an Access 2013 App, to SharePoint Online. This is not to say Azure is at all insecure. But the question is really more about how SharePoint Online users manage their credentials, and defensive procedures, than it is about the security features of Azure or SQL Server. From this perspective, relying on Azure, which is simply another cloud, IaaS offer, without a local repository for this data, is, perhaps, not a wise decision.

Unfortunately, the point about the data layer in the Access 2013 App Model, and its implications, is not made clear enough, in my opinion, by either the technical communication about Office 365, SharePoint Online, and its Enterprise plans, or in the Community Forums provided for technical discussion. But it is true, as we confirmed directly via postings to the Office 365 Community Forum and discussions with Office 365, SharePoint Online support staff.

So when does it make sense to publish Access Data as an App for SharePoint Online? As Darvish Shadravan presents in his video tutorial set on SharePoint 2013: Enterprise Forms, it makes sense when the objective is to build no-code forms, which will be consumed in SharePoint Online. This objective emphasizes the positive aspects of the Access 2013 App Model — build forms with HTML 5 and JavaScript — which users will be able to rapidly implement, as required by business processes. At the same time, the exposure represented by the method by which the Data Layer is handled is kept to the barest possible minimum.

Ira Michael Blonder

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