Tool for database upkeep is administrator's dream

John Taschek, PC Week

PC Week April 15, 1996

Maintaining Access and Visual Basic databases usually involves staying late at work to do routine chores, but FMS Inc.'s Total Access Agent can perform all database housekeeping duties while administrators sleep.

Total Access Agent, which shipped last month for $199 ($599 for a five-user license), will back up, repair, and compress databases automatically at scheduled times. This easy-to-use and powerful package, which should be on the wish list of every Access and Visual Basic database administrator, will even send an E-mail message when things go awry.

The product ships with a 32-bit version for installation on Windows 95 or Windows NT systems. The 32-bit version works with Microsoft Corp.'s Visual Basic 3.0 and 4.0 and all versions of the company's Access database. A 16-bit version that works on any Windows operating system is also available, but it cannot be used with Access for Windows 95 or Visual Basic 4.0.

We installed Total Access Agent on Windows 95 for use with our Visual Basic 4.0 and Access for Windows 95 databases. Using a prebuilt template, we needed just a few minutes to schedule a daily archive of five databases that consist of approximately 30 tables.

We then scheduled a weekly archive of the databases that compressed the tables into another file for our records. Using compression, we were able to reduce the databases to one-fifth of their original size. Total Access Agent allows administrators to archive up to 99 copies of the same database and uses a numerical naming system for tracking the database versions.

Once we finished specifying a maintenance schedule, we had to run Total Access Monitor, a separate program that fires off jobs at the scheduled times. Users can bypass the Monitor if they need to do any of the tasks on an ad hoc basis.

Total Access Agent makes it easy to compact and repair databases. Compacting, a feature in Visual Basic's Jet engine and in Access that reclaims lost space and rearranges database indexes, is important to ensure database integrity and optimal performance. Total Access Agent does not go beyond the built-in compacting functions of Access and Jet.

Administrators can also use Total Access Agent to run their own in-house maintenance programs. For example, we created a macro to run a report based on a table in our orders database and set up Total Access Agent to run the macro each week at 8 p.m.

One nifty feature is that administrators can schedule times when Total Access Agent finishes a job, which will ensure that any maintenance is done before the start of the day.

Total Access Agent, which is a Visual Basic application, works in the background, but administrators will probably schedule maintenance to be run during off hours. Access need not be running during maintenance.

The only caveat about this product is that at $199 it costs nearly as much as Access or the single-user version of Visual Basic. But if database administration--and sleep--are important, we recommend Total Access Agent without hesitation.

FMS is located in Vienna, Va., and can be contacted at (703) 356-4700 or at

Event Group Details

SCHEDULING A BACKUP with Total Access Agent only requires selecting a database and appropriate functions.

Total Visual Agent User manual

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"Total Visual Agent is a real find, a rare combination of ease of use, and bang for the buck. In the end, no other competitor even comes close."

Thomas Wagner, Product Review in MS Office and VBA Developer

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