5 limitations of Microsoft Access


Though the popularity of Microsoft Access is undeniable, it suffers from some shortcomings that prompt people to consider MS Access Alternatives.

Broadly, the limitations are a problem of legacy – MS Access was developed well before the cloud and mobile era – and has failed to incorporate the benefits of these paradigm shifts into its capabilities.

Specifically, you should be aware of the following limitations before you choose Access for your projects.

1. MS Access is not available over the internet.

This is probably the biggest limitation of Access – it is not “groupware” – software that multiple people can access over the internet and contribute to. It can only be downloaded and used on the local system or across the local network.

Notwithstanding its power, this limitation makes an Access app little more than a glorified spreadsheet. You can just send it back and forth asynchronously, rather than using it as a modern workflow application that distributed team members can access and contribute to in real time.

2. MS Access is not suitable for team use

Modern databases like Hyperbase and Airtable follow the client-server model – multiple team members access the same instance of an application over the local or global network.

However, Access has been designed for single user use. It experiences severe performance issues when multiple people try to access it through the network simultaneously. Though the technical limit is 255 concurrent users, it becomes terribly slow even with 5-10 users.

3. MS Access is suitable only for small databases

In MS Access, all information is saved in one file which has a hard restriction – it cannot be larger than 2GB. Consequently, Access is not ideal for handling large databases with tens of thousands of rows and attached information like images or files.

It has been observed that MS Access slows down considerably when the data exceeds 1 GB. If you deal with large data sets, you are best served by other database software.

4. MS Access ties you to Microsoft Windows

Access is not available for Mac or any other operating system. In other words, you are pretty much chained to Windows. If you are primarily a Mac shop, or have multiple users on Mac, you are out of luck.

On the other hand, if you use a web based database software, operating systems are just not a consideration.

5. MS Access is not user friendly

In its heyday, Access was way ahead of its time. For the first time, it empowered end-users to create their own simple databases and applications.

That was then. Today, Access looks clumsy and clunky compared to new “no code” applications which are vastly more elegant and intuitive.

Airtable’s “No Code, just clicks” or HyperBase’s “databases made simple” slogans exemplify this.


In conclusion, it would be fair to say that Microsoft Access is a great option if you have a single administrator who accesses and manages the data. If you require applications in a team context you may want to look at alternatives to Microsoft Access.

If you are interested in online databases, we recommend the following for further reading:

Database apps examples

9 Leading online Database apps creators

Microsoft Access Online database apps examples