Thursday, January 27, 2011

Admin Journal: Taking Advantage of Free Licenses to Replace a Microsoft Access Database


I was recently asked to provide some thoughts on the following scenario:

A small business with employees in different geographic locations (who each have their own PC and internet access at home) uses a Microsoft Access database. They transfer one laptop from person to person in order to input their information. Could they use SaaS instead?

My head exploded… Okay, I’m back.

The answer: Yes.

Many people don’t realize that Salesforce offers something pretty cool: 100 free licenses for your first app. That means that you can create your own application and deploy it to up to 100 users in your company. (Yeah, it’s cool!) The drawback is that it will not include the standard objects and tools to manage Accounts, Contacts, Leads, etc. However, all of the other great things about building with the platform are still there, such as:

  • Custom reports
  • Visual dashboards
  • Build objects with clicks, not code
  • Workflow rules to update fields, send emails, etc.
  • Validation rules
  • and more!

And other tools, such as the Data Loader, make it easy to upload and maintain your data.

This all comes at no cost.

Additionally, I think there’s a way to export your data model to Excel from Access and then use that (depending on the number of objects) to create those same objects in Salesforce. (I’ve never tried this, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be very difficult.)

Side note: I don’t work for Salesforce. I just love their platform. I have tested this offer of building an app on the platform and I had a custom application that would’ve taken hours if not days in Access up and running in about half an hour.

Find out More

You can see what is included in the Free edition here. There are just a few limitations.

  • Up to 100 users
  • 1 free application
  • Up 10 10 objects
  • 1 GB of storage

At some point, you may realize that you want to include more than 10 objects or need more storage. At that point, you could contact Salesforce for pricing information.

Update: It appears that the Contact Manager edition of Salesforce (which includes Accounts and Contacts and custom objects as well apparently and costs $5/user/month) could be an option if you realized that you needed more storage or additional features. Don’t quote me on that though. Check with Salesforce first. – Thanks to @shobyabdi for finding that reference.


Jenna Baze is a rather geeky girl with average social skills and an affinity for: all things Google, Remember the Milk,, Inbox Zero, Etsy, natural light photography and finding creative ways to avoid doing dishes (which includes updating a handful of blogs).
Twitter: @RatherGeeky
Facebook: Rather Geeky Tips


  1. Salesforce giveth and Salesforce taketh away -- these licenses are being removed from orgs where they had been activated.


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