Being a Microsoft program, it makes sense to choose to work with a compatible Microsoft SQL server when creating databases in Access. The two are streamlined very well, although Access will work with a variety of other programs and formats.

On SQL servers, the difference is that in Access you would be using a client/server application, much like you would use the file server application. Access has the ability to connect directly to databases (whether local or not), and will connect and integrate quite happily from a remote location. A common myth is that you need to use Access in a dramatically different way than you would when creating a database. This is not so, and the process is more or less the same. If you know Access well, you can apply your knowledge to SQL with little or no difficulty. If you don't know much about SQL databases, it would be best to work the other way around (learning SQL before Access), in order to have the most success on databases and how they work.

Presuming that you are connecting remotely to an SQL database, the functions available to you are the same as they would be if you were programming an Access database locally. You can modify your tables, use your saved functions and also use additional features such as the SQL text editor while connected. Using SQL features have their own help wizards in tandem with the usual database ones.

Access usually works on an SQL database by using data access pages - that is, a special kind of webpage for manipulating data online that is saved within Access. If you know how to use forms in Access, you can pick up using data access pages quite fast, as the two are very similar. An added bonus is that you don't HAVE to have Access to use (or modify) them, so it makes collaborative working online a lot easier if your co-workers don't have the same software setup as you. It may be worth noting that data access pages tend to work best with SQL databases that are later than version 6 - however it's rare in today's internet world for them to be much older, so you shouldn't have a problem.

There are some online features of Office that will help you manage your Access project online, called Office Components, that work with Access 2003 and later versions. These components have been designed for users to use a set of Active X controls that will "talk" to your Office Suite while working online with databases - allowing you to use or import charts, data, spreadsheets and so on, (most of the Office suite is compatible and you can import/export many details from one program to another in this way). Speaking of importing - you can import existing SQL data information into Access, so you can take it and change it to suit you, before exporting it back. If you're an advanced user, you can create Macros for your favourite functions and tasks so you can switch your data around faster and without as many steps.

The continual rise and spread of SQL databases being used on the web means that if you can perfect your Access knowledge to manipulate SQL servers, your skills will be very desirable - and in demand. Databases will only ever get more complicated, so it helps to stay ahead of the competition, and start practising the link between the two sooner rather than later!