The ideal solution for a vast majority of cases is to use Access and Excel together, relying on each for it's "by design strengths". Excel was not designed to be a database, just like Access was not designed to be used for data calculation. So, even though you can use Excel as a DB and Access to perform calculations, the result is often less efficient. And don't stop there - just as Access has it's uses, it also has it's limitations. Access is not ideal for large and/or many multi-user systems. Many people champion Access and refuse to let go when the right answer is to move the back end to something more robust.
So, for a small system, use Access to handle the data. Use Access for the summary (Access persists in having a relatively easy to use report designer) and Excel (through automation, query export, direct data access or other method) for the extraction of specific views and for calculations.
Many people fear Access because they don't truly understand how a database works. And frankly, most people are not educated or experienced in a way to truly understand how a relational database works. It's not a criticism, it's simply an observation. As an analogy, most readers of this blog know how to operate a car. Most of the readers could also operate a motorcycle if they had to, but there is definitely a significantly lower number who actually have experience and training with such.
Finally, the IT fear of Access. No question that I agree - in every place I have worked, the sentiment of IT towards Access has been the same. There are a host of reasons, a few I even agree with, but the biggest (I have been on both sides of this one) is this: very often what starts as a "small Access DB to meet some need" grows and grows and through incomplete planning, knowledge, skill or some combination, reaches a point where it either crashes, compromises network security or is simply so bloated it crawls along at a snails pace. And, invariably, by the time it reaches this point, it has become a critical part of the process and IT inherits the responsibility of fixing it.
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