Microsoft Adds Access to SMB Office 365 Plans

Next month, Microsoft will start rolling out Access to Office 365 Business and Business Premium customers.

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Soon, smaller companies won't have to pay extra for Access. Microsoft is bundling its database management system with its Office 365 plans for small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

Next month, Microsoft will be rolling out Access, which is presently included with Office 365 ProPlus, E3 and E5 plans, to Business and Business Premium subscribers as part of a client software update. The company plans to dole out automatic installations to customers over a two-month period, from Dec. 1 through Jan. 30, 2017.

Deferred Channel (formerly Current Branch for Business) customers, those organizations whose Office update settings are set to deliver feature updates every four months at minimum, will receive the update containing the PC database software in June 2017.

Microsoft revamped its Office 365 client update model earlier this year in a bid to help administrators cope with the company's new cloud cadence strategy.

Traditionally, Microsoft issued major feature updates in service packs and new releases of Office, which could take years to materialize. In a bid to narrow the gap between its quickly evolving cloud capabilities and its client business software ecosystem, the company has committed to an accelerated software update schedule.

While the rapid-fire pace of innovation may work for cloud software providers, administrators are understandably cautious when it comes to deploying updates without the proper time to validate them against their own environments. A seemingly beneficial software or interface tweak can cause incompatibilities or throw a wrench into carefully plotted workflows for hundreds or thousands of Office users if an enterprise organization rushes out an update without properly testing it.

Acknowledging this risk, the company announced the Deferred Channel for Office 365 updates in February.

"The Deferred Channel allows organizations to choose an update schedule that reduces the frequency of feature changes for the Windows desktop apps, enabling IT admins and developers to have more time between releases to validate Office against their line-of-business applications, add-ins and macros," said Amesh Mansukhani, senior program manager for Microsoft Office, in a statement.

Microsoft also teased that it is expanding on the types of business data that Access can work with, provided that users are covered by select enterprise Office 365 subscriptions.

"A set of new enterprise data connectors will roll out to Microsoft Access in early 2017," wrote the Microsoft Access group in a Nov. 4 announcement. "These new connectors include OData Feed, Dynamics CRM, Salesforce and Amazon Redshift and will be available for customers with Office 365 ProPlus, E3 and E5 plans. These new connectors will enable customers to integrate and extend Access into other line of business solutions and databases."

Two months ago, the company reintroduced dBASE support for Access. The venerable database technology, considered the "Swiss Army knife of databases" when it was introduced in 1980, remains popular in the Geographic Information System (GIS) community.

Microsoft discontinued dBASE support for Access 2013. On Sept. 7, urged by customers clamoring for its return on the company's Access UserVoice feedback hub, Microsoft announced it was bringing back dBASE file support (.dbf) to Access 2016.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...