Ten Nine Communications

Account Website

Products and Services



Professional Services

Organization Size

Small (1 - 49 employees)




A Small Business Goes Big with Microsoft Azure

December 16, 2014

Ten Nine Communications is a small translation company that has seen steady growth over the years. Ten Nine Communications had outgrown its infrastructure and needed to upgrade. Rather than upgrade server infrastructure and business software, the company made the move to the cloud with the help of Microsoft Partner Network member Inforce. The company migrated all of its data to Microsoft Azure SQL Database and converted business logic to SQL Database views or stored procedures.


Ten Nine Communications is a small company that wanted to be able to control and understand its own software without having to rely on expensive technical support. For this reason, the company used Microsoft Access database software to create, operate, and maintain its core business applications. Microsoft Access is a highly flexible database that lets just about anyone easily create all the tools needed for managing a business. Employees used the system to manage contracts and translation staff, and to store critical information about customers and clients.

This flexibility served Ten Nine Communications well while the company was still small. However, as the business grew, and especially after the lead developer left the company, it was time to upgrade the company’s business systems and replace aging hardware.

Problems with the system included slow performance in a networked environment, difficulty with multiuser access, inadequate security, and concerns over availability, backup and management.

Ten Nine Communications also decided that it no longer wanted to invest time outside its core business in developing or maintaining software, much less configuring and operating servers. Therefore, it enlisted the help of Inforce, a company that is internationally known as an expert in migration from Access to Microsoft SQL Server, to design a solution.

Requirements Analysis

Ten Nine Communications has about 20 employees, and the amount of data they needed to handle was relatively small. However, the data was highly sensitive, including customer names and contract information. Also, a lot of business logic was embedded in the Access forms, macros, and parameterized queries, which was not so easy to migrate. Inforce suggested several options:

• Option 1: Upsize to SQL Server. By “upsizing” just the database tables in SQL Server, Ten Nine Communications could use Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) to connect to the linked tables in SQL Server. However, performance was a concern because cloud-based applications that rely on Internet access can have unreliable network access.

• Option 2: Migrate complete business application to SQL Server. Rather than keep any part of the business application in Access, all Access queries would be converted into views or stored procedures in SQL Server. However, differences between the architecture of Microsoft Access and SQL Server, or between Access and Microsoft Azure SQL Database meant that upsizing was not simple.

• Option 3: Migrate to Microsoft Azure. After reviewing all the possibilities, Inforce recommended that Ten Nine Communications migrate its business systems to the cloud and use Microsoft Azure SQL Database as the data store.

Migration Process and Challenges

Moving the company’s complete data and business logic to Microsoft Azure was a three-stage process.

1.The data was migrated to Microsoft Azure SQL Database.
2.Queries were converted to views and stored procedures.
3.Custom code was migrated and modified.

During the migration, some interesting technical challenges emerged:

•Much of the Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications code containing the business logic was based on Data Access Object (DAO), which cannot run queries written in Transact-SQL. The migration tool was originally designed for migration from Access 97 and uses DAO, so conversion of the business logic was a problem.

•Microsoft Azure does not support the ADP file format or the OLE database provider used in previous migration projects.

•The Microsoft Azure database frequently timed out whenever a form was open in Datasheet view or when a subform was open. By design, Microsoft Azure forces a disconnection after 30 minutes with no database activity; however, Ten Nine Communications employees wanted to be able to leave their forms open. Inforce was able to circumvent the timeouts by changing the way the data was sourced. If the RecordSource property for the subform uses an ActiveX Data Objects recordset rather than an ODBC linked table, timeouts were avoided.

•The N prefix is required for Microsoft Azure to recognize Japanese Unicode text. Thus, all existing stored procedures that worked with Japanese text data as nvarchar data types had to be modified.

•The way recordsets are handled had to be tweaked to reduce the amount of ODBC traffic. Some stored procedures had to be rewritten in Transact-SQL.

•The definition of the data initially displayed in some forms had to be changed to improve performance.

•Finally, during the period of migration, there were frequent changes to the appearance and functionality of the Management Portal for SQL Database. Future migrations should be much easier.

Additional details of the migration effort can be found in a related article published on the “Real World” guidance section of the Microsoft Azure documentation.

Benefits of Migration

The option to migrate to Microsoft Azure proved beneficial in some surprising ways:

•With SQL Database, ODBC can be used as the provider for connections. Therefore, even though the data itself is stored in the cloud, there is no need to introduce a browser into the client-server model. This eliminates many concerns about browser reliability and connections.

•The architecture of SQL Database is much like that of SQL Server, and as a result, most of the techniques that Inforce developed over the years for SQL Server migration carried over to SQL Database.

•The Earthshaker tool successfully converted most of the queries. Some stored procedures required manual review and tweaking, but automating the process with Earthshaker dramatically reduced the time needed for conversion. Based on this experience, Inforce is revising Earthshaker to make it easier to convert queries into Microsoft Azure stored procedures.

Business ROI

Today, Ten Nine Communications connects to the cloud for its business needs, where it enjoys the benefits of stable system operation.

This small company desperately needed to upgrade its business applications, but like many small businesses, it did not have employees with sufficient technical knowledge to manage a server. Indeed, even some large companies have trouble providing an air-conditioned room with around-the-clock monitoring, or with setting up a schedule of backups, and so forth. By moving to Microsoft Azure with the aid of a consultant who is well-versed in Access migrations, Ten Nine Communications migrated more quickly and at lower cost.

Reduced Cost

The decision to use Microsoft Azure meant that Ten Nine Communications would no longer be responsible for the physical infrastructure, which saved a lot of money.

Initially, it was assumed that connecting to the cloud would entail higher running costs, so as part of the solution, Inforce assessed the cost of moving to the cloud versus purchasing a dedicated server.

The calculations showed that migrating to Microsoft Azure SQL Database saved Ten Nine Communications about JPY300,000 (US$3,000) per year in operating costs. Even when factoring in the costs for cloud services and the cost of conversion, Microsoft Azure was extremely cheap, when compared to the cost of buying and operating a server or using a data center.

Data Security

Additionally, because the Ten Nine Communications business system stores so much personal information, about employees and customers, data protection is an important aspect of cloud storage. Microsoft helps to ensure the security of data in the cloud more effectively than the customer could have managed on their own.

Given that the daily news is filled with reports of data leaks and data mismanagement, the assurance that Ten Nine Communications is prepared to meet compliance requirements was of great value.


Inforce’s experience with its first migration to Microsoft Azure was compelling, and it is now a cloud convert.

By migrating existing business applications to Microsoft Azure SQL Database, small companies can solve, with one stroke, problems of performance and stability, eliminate the need for new hardware and attendant maintenance costs, and reduce operational requirements.

On the other hand, replacing older computers or business systems is costly and time-consuming, with little benefit. By migrating to the cloud, small businesses can preserve and re-use their existing intellectual assets, while enjoying the benefits of scalability and availability that come from migrating to SQL Server or SQL Database.

Inforce now believes that this new model—upsizing to the cloud with Microsoft Azure SQL Database—is the ultimate solution for small to midsize businesses with existing investments in Microsoft Access. Therefore, to support other similar small and midsize businesses who want to migrate to Microsoft Azure, Inforce is planning not only to upgrade its (free) conversion tool, but also to produce documentation or walkthroughs of the migration process.

Contact for more information.

Microsoft Azure provides developers the functionality to build applications that span from consumer to enterprise scenarios. The key components of Microsoft Azure are:

• Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Azure is a development, service hosting, and service management environment. It provides developers with on-demand compute, storage, bandwidth, content delivery, middleware, and marketplace capabilities to build, host, and scale web applications through Microsoft data centers.

• SQL Database. SQL Database is a self-managed, multitenant relational cloud database service built on Microsoft SQL Server technologies. It provides built-in high availability, fault tolerance, and scale-out database capabilities, as well as cloud-based data synchronization and reporting, to build custom enterprise and web applications and extend the reach of data assets.

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