A Quora user recently asked, “Does Power BI replace Access?” Since there’s interest in this topic, we’d like to give an objective comparison of Power BI vs Access.
If you’re unfamiliar with Power BI and Access, they can seem quite similar. But in fact these are two tools with quite different purposes.
So, the question “Which is better: Power BI or Access?” is a bit like asking “Which is better: a hammer or a screwdriver?” The answer depends on what you’re trying to do.
In this article we’re going to sum up when you should use Power BI vs Access.
Side note: declaration of (dis)interest
We’ve also been helping clients get the best out of databases like Access for 30 years. To provide one example, we recently helped a recycling company migrate Access to SQL Server.
And beside Microsoft, we also partner with tech leaders like SAP, IBM, Boomi, and more. The reason we attract hundreds of clients is because we put them first — not Microsoft, or any other tech company. So if you’d like help selecting or supporting a BI tool, please get in touch.
What is Power BI?
Power BI is a business intelligence tool that Microsoft released in 2013. Under the hood, Power BI uses a lot of functionality familiar to Excel users.
🕐 When to use Power BI
The difference between Power BI and Excel (and Access) is its data visualisation capability. Power BI is good for turning data into visual stories that business users can grasp easily.
An example Power BI dashboard
✔ Notable features of Power BI
- customer profitability
- IT spend analysis
- HR performance
- opportunity analysis
- procurement analysis
- retail analysis
- sales and marketing data
- supplier quality analysis
✗ What Power BI isn’t for
Power BI is a data visualisation and analytics tool. What it isn’t for is storing and managing data. You have to do that elsewhere and then connect that data to Power BI.
What is Microsoft Access?
Microsoft Access is a database management system (DBMS) first released in 1992. The tool comprises a relational database (Microsoft Jet Database Engine) with a graphical interface and development tools.
🕐 When to use Access
Microsoft Access is primarily designed to store data for reference, reporting, and analysis. Access allows reporting via its Report Wizard, but this is nothing like the data visualisation capability of Power BI.
Example Microsoft Access template options
✔ Notable features of Access
The purpose of Access is storing and handling data. You can quickly add new records without necessarily having to add new fields. If you want to create a database of contacts, for example, there’s a pre-made Access form for entering the details.
A few examples of Access templates for different database types include:
- event management
- task management
- asset tracking
- bug tracking
- project management
- account ledger
- sales pipeline
✗ What Access isn’t for
Access isn’t designed for the data storytelling that Power BI excels at. While Access has a reporting feature, this is more like a sheet of numbers than an interactive visual experience.
In essence, Access reports don’t pack the punch that Power BI dashboards, reports, and visualisations do. If you want to share insights across your business in a fast and engaging way, Power BI is best.
Summing up: Power BI or Access?
As we’ve seen, the comparison isn’t really between Power BI vs Access. The proper question is, “Do you want data visualisation and analytics, or data storage and management?”
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to choose between them! It’s possible to use Power BI and Access database together.
Because they’re both Microsoft products, naturally there is a Microsoft connector for Power BI and Access. An experienced Power BI integration team can help you set up this and any other connections you need.
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