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Access Programmer Answers your Frequently Asked Questions

Many of you have called our Access database design consultants or emailed questions about database issues.  Some have contacted us with concerns about working with an Access programmer consultants over the Internet.  Listed below are a sampling of the questions and answers. Table of Contents

Auto number field incrementing incorrectly

Inner Join vs. Outer Join

Database becoming too large

Database has lost a report or form

Developer left your company

Database consultant won't finish project

Programmer charging to fix his mistakes

Take your money and run!

Long distance programmer issues



I have a table with an autonumber field.  All of a sudden the auto number broke and is now picking numbers that have already been picked.  What do I do?
A Nice Access feature!  This happened to me recently.  Found it is a bug in Access that can occur after you compact the database.  You need to download a patch from Microsoft - I think it is Office SR-2.  You'll need to fix the bad autonumbers if you have any. 
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Q What is the difference between an Inner Join and an Outer Join

Inner joins are the most common joins that you will use.  Inner joins tell SQL to retrieve records from two tables where there is a match on the field you are using to link the tables.  Only records that contain matching link fields in both tables will be retrieved.

Outer joins tell SQL to retrieve all records from the first table and any that matches the link field from the second table.  This is used then the link field in the second table is not a required field.  If the link field was a required field then you would use the inner join method.       <Jump Back>

Q Our database seems to be growing in size at an alarming rate.  We are no longer able to zip it and email it for support because no email system will accept it.  It will be soon be so big we can't backup the database to our 100meg zip drive.  Is there anything that can be done?  Is this typical with Access databases?
A We come across databases every week that have been designed as though they were just a bunch of large spreadsheets.  Combo boxes are sometimes used for fields but the programmer stores the actual combo box values in the destination table rather than a simple (small) numeric pointer to the combo box entry.  I have questioned programmers about their design decisions and many seem inclined to brag that they have 200 megabyte Access databases running with no problem.  Those 200 megabyte databases can usually be designed to be only 30 to 40 megabytes.  Please see our database design rules and techniques which create the most reliable, Microsoft Access databases available
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Q We have a database that was built in-house and now that person is leaving the company.  What can I do?
A We can provide you the support you need to keep the program running and provide enhancements as required.  For those of you on the East Coast we can usually provide on-site support.  For others we will connect to your site directly over the Internet to provide support or you can Email (or FTP) your application to us and we can fix it overnight or over the weekend. 
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Q I have a database that was started by a consultant but never finished. What can I do?
A We will give you a quote on finishing the project.  Sometimes it is a good idea to find out if performing consulting work is a consultant's only job. Many people try to squeeze in consulting work while they perform their main jobs - usually in the evening and often using their company's software and equipment.  Anyone who is not a full time consultant is a significant risk to you for two reasons: 
1) Their boss can put them on a major project that takes all their time. 
2) Their company can find out what they are doing and fire them on the spot. 
At Blue Claw Database Design consulting is our only job.  We are available from 6:00am to 7:00pm (Eastern) for normal work/quotes/questions.  We are also available 24 hours a day for emergency situations.
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Q We have a programmer that is charging us to fix every mistake made in the code and to changes that have affected other parts of the database.  Is this the standard way of doing consulting work?
A Apparently this is the standard with many consultants, especially those that charge really low hourly rates.  At Blue Claw Database Design our work is guaranteed.  We will fix any programming mistake for one full year after implementation at no charge.
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Q How can I pay money to a consultant whom I don't know and who lives on the other side of the country?
A Our database design consultants have successfully performed work for individuals and corporations from all over the world.   We will perform the work first and be paid as each component or major function is delivered and accepted.  Get a list of references from a prospective consultant and check them.
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Q How can I have adequate support for my new database with a company that is 1000 miles away?   I can't shut down my operation to mail my database back to you and wait for the problem to be fixed or a small change to be implemented.
A You don't have to shut down your database for routine support and maintenance.  A typical (and recommended) installation has all the forms in one database (front-end) and all the data in another database (back-end) - this is also called a client/server system.  We will maintain a current copy of your front-end database (if ok with you).  If a problem arises with the front-end or you need a change or addition that does not affect the data then we can simply make the change and send it to you and you will be up and running with the new changes in a short amount of time with little or no downtime.  If, on the other hand, the repair or enhancement requires a change to the data structure then we will design and develop the change at our site.  To implement the change at your site all you need is a 'client' version of a program like PCAnywhere.  We can then connect to your site over the Internet and implement the changes to the back-end database with no more down time than if we were physically at your site.
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Q Table, form, query, or report has disappeared from our database. When we try to import a backup copy it says the object name already exists.
A This has happened to us from time to time.  It is our experience that the only suitable workaround is to create a blank database and import all objects.  Then import the last good copy of the damaged object and update it as necessary.

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