Blackman Associates logo

.NET development

Microsoft .NET logo
If you don’t know, you pronounce it dot net!)
You may have heard of it, but what is it? This isn’t the whole story, but this may help:
A lot of you have had custom applications built for you by us using Microsoft Access. In order to run your custom application you need to have bought and installed Microsoft Access. (If you don't need to do any design work there is also Access Runtime). We build all the logic such as what data you want to store, what items you want in a drop down box, how you want to group and summarise your reports, Access provides the ability to store the data in tables but also the ability to create forms, reports, queries etc. It provides a data storage engine as well as a development environment.
If we use .NET to create your custom application we don’t use Microsoft Access as as the framework. You have to install the .NET framework (which you will probably already have, it’s free and is included with Windows) and if we’re storing data, some sort of database engine. We can still use Access, the .NET framework can talk to it, but Microsoft Access doesn’t need to be installed on the PC for your application to run. We could use another database engine; our recommendation would be SQL Server. Once again, you may already have it, there are various versions, and some are free.

So why would you want a .NET application as opposed to an Access based solution? Well as in most things in life, it depends...

One thing that Access has never been that good at is running with lots of concurrent users. What’s lots? That depends – but the rule of thumb we use to start with is: Are there likely to be over 10 users using the system at the same time.

Versioning – if you upgrade Access will your custom solution still work? Most of the time yes, but Access 2007 introduced some security features that we have seen interrupt the workflow of applications built on previous versions. If you have a lot of users there can be some strange conflicts on your PC’s that need solving to get your Access application to run.

Scaling – if you wanted a web site that also connects to the same data as your application, depending on the number of concurrent web users, Access may not be suitable.

Functionality Access may not be able to do everything you want.

This is far from an extensive list but it starts to give you a flavour of what the considerations are. We wouldn’t expect a client to make these choices, but you need to understand our recommendations. We create applications using .NET but do not consider that using Microsoft Access is unnecessary, old fashioned or just wrong – it all depends! One of the best things that Access does is allow us to build applications a lot faster than in .NET. Reporting is also superb. So if your application is for fewer than 10 concurrent users and you’re unlikely to have tables with more than half a million rows, we’d still be recommending using Access.

ASP.NET

ASP.NET logo
Whilst we can create your beautiful looking corporate presence, our area of expertise is data. This is the other main use of .NET. It’s called asp.NET (Active Server Pages). This time the .NET framework is not required on the end user’s PC (client). The end user uses their web browser (Internet Explorer, Edge, Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome etc.) to interact with the data. The .NET framework has to be installed on the web server. Here's one example our asp.NET development skills created that also generates emails.

Some of the web applications we create are reporting type applications. You may have users entering data via the Access front end and a wider internal audience running reports against that data via the web application.

Windows Applications

These are programs that need installing on the PC. They don't run in the web browser. Nowadays we have many technologies to choose from; winforms, Silverlight and wpf.