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Thread: Native DB vs External DB

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    Member BCJack's Avatar
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    Default Native DB vs External DB

    Hey guys and gals, I am new to Alpha and fairly new to databases (after 6 years of MS Access I still know nothing!)

    I am building a database for customers, invoices and employee time logging. Our users will manage the data almost 100% of the time from a mobile device, and at least for now, we will create the application as a web project. I have dabbled around a bit with Alpha for about a week now, and realized I really didn't know much about how the connection strings work. I already ordered hosting with ZebraHost, and we already have Office365, complete with a working (word is used loosely) SharePoint.

    Now with the background out of the way, could you please tell me the pros and cons of:

    A) External: Creating SQL tables and connection strings through Alpha (Tools>Create SQL Table...) that reside on a SharePoint
    B) Native: I don't know much about this yet but I am guessing the tables would reside on the ZebraHost server within the Alpha files?)

    At this point I have my DBs (Access SQL) sitting on the hosted server, but I would assume it would still be technically external, and my work space (project) files in a folder synced with Google Drive on my local machine. I tried making a new workspace with my local machine on the server but it would not let me save anything on the FTP folder I browsed to. I don't like being reliant on a local machine for the files I will use for development, so is there another way I am missing here?


    Some of the functionality I need that may limit this would be tables that can be backed up easily, an application that can be updated (I'm talking about front end code stuff, not modifying table structure) but can still retain data that may have been added or changed while the update was being developed, and the ability to initially import data from our existing MS Access 2013 desktop database (or from one of the export options available for Access).

    Again, I am new to this. Any and all info will definitely be appreciated, so if you need to school me or offer an alternative to how I am looking at this, I am all ears.

  2. #2
    "Certified" Alphaholic
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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Native files are .dbf files. You can search dbf vs SQL on the board and you'll generally find that people who have worked with Alpha .dbf files for years and/or smaller table requirements will defend it, but most (including Alpha employees) will argue a number of reasons SQL is more robust for sure and a variety of other reasons.

    To be clear, once you've set up an SQL connection string, your Alpha components will work as "native"-ly as .dbf, and the custom code is different for .dbf and SQL but neither is any more complicated or restricted within Alpha (though SQL queries can be more powerful/complicated than .dbf queries).

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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Welcome Jack,

    Without question you should upsize your Access tables to MySQL or SQL Server. Both are free (SQL Server Express), but after working with both for some time I'd have to say that MySQL is a little more forgiving... a little less painful than SQL Server. Just my opionion.

    But... definitely not DBF and not Access tables. I've worked with Access since version 1.0 came out and it's great but I would dream of using it's tables or it's development environment any longer.

    Once you set up a connection string to your MySQL server under Zebrahost it's smooth sailing. A connection string is nothing more than a pointer to the ip address and database of your Zebrahost sql installation. And Zebrathost gives you all that info.

    I think you're making your setup a bit more complicated that you need to. Set up on your local machine, and make sure all your development stuff is backed up to your google drive. Setting up on your local machine, accessing data from Zebrahost gives you a realistic picture of how things are running... because this is how your users will be running.

    I have a local copy of MySQL and SQL Server running... test locally while developing... and then publish to Zebrahost when ready.

    You can either backup your remote server data yourself or get Zebrahost to add that functionality for a cost.

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    Volunteer Moderator Steve Workings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Most web server companies including Zebrahost have a license of the web version of MS SQL, which you can share for a very reasonable monthly charge. It's how I run all my customers' sites at Zebrahost.
    -Steve


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    "Certified" Alphaholic DaveM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    All of the hosting companies I use supply MySQL and Mssql as part of the monthly fee. MOst have tools to work with MySQL, but not so much with mssql, although there are free tools out there to work with them.
    Usually have a choice of 2008 or 2012 server for ms and Generally redhat Linux on the others.

    Steve Workings? May I ask where the db goes with Zebrahost? This is assuming the db is placed on Zebrahost.
    Dave Mason
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    Volunteer Moderator Steve Workings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Dave - depends on your configuration. Most users will start with a single server and if the project is small, stay with that. In which case the SQL server installation and database is on the same server as the web server.

    In another case where I started out as above, I added another web server, but the connection string to the original database is the same, so I can just go on my way adding web servers as I wish, using the same database that is and was originally installed on the single server. As this particular application gets bigger, and as some here have already done, I can move the database off to it's own server (or servers) and just keep right on building.

    I think part of what you're suggesting or wondering here is how available/accessible the database is for personal management. The answer is completely -- it's all mine and there are no restrictions to me. This is is contrast to some services I've seen that have things like "dashboards" or "control centers" where the ISP requires you to use some kind of middleware to communicate with and manage your database. That's not very desirable at all if you ask me.
    -Steve


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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Lots of good advice here. I think David Kates is right when he says that you may be making it harder than it needs to be. You can develop on the Zebra server if you prefer that over developing on your own machine. Talk to Zebra and they will walk you through it and do most, or all, of the setup for you.

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    "Certified" Alphaholic DaveM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    I think part of what you're suggesting or wondering here is how available/accessible the database is for personal management. The answer is completely -- it's all mine and there are no restrictions to me. This is is contrast to some services I've seen that have things like "dashboards" or "control centers" where the ISP requires you to use some kind of middleware to communicate with and manage your database. That's not very desirable at all if you ask me.
    Thanks Steve.

    I have used many hosting services. Some like yours are that the db is handled and managed by you. Others(mostly shared) use a hidden from you database so that other shares can't accidentally get there(their words-not mine).

    I was wondering how it was done on Zebrahost which is one I have never used. You answered that.
    Dave Mason
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    Skype is dave.mason46

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    Member BCJack's Avatar
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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Thank you everyone for these fast and detailed responses. I think I have a good enough understanding to continue on now, and it sounds like I made the right decision when I signed up with ZebraHost. I HATE DASHBOARDS.

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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Quote Originally Posted by Davidk View Post
    But... definitely not DBF and not Access tables. I've worked with Access since version 1.0 came out and it's great but I would dream of using it's tables or it's development environment any longer.
    If you use latest Access version and what to deploy to web then you use Sql Server as a backend with Access and SharePoint server as a deployment server so certainly there are situations when you can use or want to use Access. The cost of SharePoint online server with Access services is about 5 dollars per user per month so small intranet is not a problem.

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    Member BCJack's Avatar
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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Quote Originally Posted by Davidk View Post
    Welcome Jack,

    Without question you should upsize your Access tables to MySQL or SQL Server.
    Actually, I made these tables from within AA (Tools . Create SQL Table...) and the file that opens with Access is a .mdb and is notably different from the regular appearance and funcion I am used to with regular Access files, so yeah, I think I'm good there.

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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Jack... do yourself a favour and use MySQL or SQL Server, not Access tables. Alpha runs great with Access, but Access is not a true multi-user, SQL, hammer away it, database. Install MySQL locally, create a connection to your local MySQL and to your ZebraHost MySQL... upsize your Access tables... and enjoy.

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    Member BCJack's Avatar
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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Quote Originally Posted by Davidk View Post
    Jack... do yourself a favour and use MySQL or SQL Server, not Access tables.
    Is "Create SQL Table" from within Alpha Anywhere different than what you are recommending I do?

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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    I can't quite tell from your post, but I think you ended up with an Access table when you used "Create SQL Table". That's how it sounded. Is that right?

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    Member BCJack's Avatar
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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    I dont think I should assume anything at this point. All I really know is that the file created was an .mdb file, that can be opened with MS Access, but is very different when opened this way, such as not having a calculated field type for table fields or AutoNumber.

    I there a way I can determine if it is SQL or not?

  16. #16
    "Certified" Alphaholic
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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Nope... you've created an Access database and tables. You want to ensure you have MySQL installed on your local PC. And ensure that ZebraHost has set up MySQL for you on their server (your ZH server). They will give you an IP address, login name, and password. They are absolute pros at this, so they'll look after you well.

    Once you have MySQL installed locally you can use the MySQL Workbench to create database, tables, views, etc. Or you can use Alpha to create tables and/or create a MySQL Database.

    To create a MySQL Database or Tables from Alpha, you must first create a Connection string to your MySQL server. You'll see that process in the Create Table dialog. You can Build a new connection string, and, at the same time, create a new Database. Read everything on the dialogs and you should find your way.

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    Member BCJack's Avatar
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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Wow, I gotta tell ya, I was pretty intimidated by this process. After reading a bunch from the SQL website I decided to give it a try. After a successful installation, the Workbench scared me, lol. I went into Alpha and was able to make a database on the SQL server (which Zebra Host made in minutes!) and now I am creating tables. Thank you so much for your help David. I hope I would be able to edit and add tables and data to the database directly through Alpha since it appears incredibly easier.

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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Good to hear. A number of us use 3rd party utilities to help make like easier with MySQL and SQL Server. There are lots around. I use Navicat. They have a version that will connect to both and it's a very good tool.

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    Member BCJack's Avatar
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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Awesome. I'm downloading it now because I have no clue what I am doing in the Workbench. It started asking me for SSL certificates and not I'm questioning my tech skills!

  20. #20
    "Certified" Alphaholic DaveM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Native DB vs External DB

    Navicat has a 30 day trial if you wish to see for your self and so does mysqlyog. Not sure about toad and some others.

    I hated workbench and other free ones I tried.
    Dave Mason
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