Microsoft restores database app to Office 365 for small biz

Access culled from Small Business Premium plan in 2014; now added to Business and Business Premium

Microsoft last week said it will add the Access database application to small business Office 365 subscriptions, two years after plucking the program from a similar plan.

"As businesses of all sizes come to realize the value of data analytics to inform decision-making, many are also discovering the need for database solutions like Microsoft Access," stated an unsigned post to a company blog Friday.

Access, the database application long part of the Office suite, will be added to the Office 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium plans between Dec. 1 and Jan. 30, 2017, as part of the next regularly-scheduled client application update.

Those plans cost $8.25 per user per month (Business) and $12.50 per user per month (Business Premium), considerably less than the $20 per user per month Enterprise E3 or the $35 per user per month Enterprise E5. Both E3 and E5 -- as well as the now-retired Enterprise E4 -- included rights to run Access.

Microsoft culled Access from its Small Business Premium plan -- the precursor to Business Premium -- in late 2014, requiring companies that had been relying on the database to upgrade to a more expensive Enterprise plan to keep using the application.

Later, when Microsoft discontinued Small Business Premium and replaced it with two plans -- Business and Business Premium -- it continued to omit Access from the new deals. And when the company updated Office 365 last year to include the Office 2016 client applications, it again left out Access.

That didn't make sense to some customers, who pointed out that the database application was handed to consumers who subscribed to Office 365 Home ($10 per month) or Office 365 Personal ($7 per month).

Access is a Windows-only application; unlike Office apps such as Word and Excel, Access has never existed as a Mac program.

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