What is the difference between Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle? What about between the different...
versions of Oracle (oracle 8, 8i, 9i, 11i)? Also, what parameters should I look at to decide the back end for a project?
MS Access is not a true relational database management system. While it is a relational database because it stores data in relational tables, it is not a management system. MS Access has no (or very, very little) concept of multi-user transactions, multi-user security, and other things that define database system. MS Access has been designed from the beginning as a single user database.
MS SQL Server and Oracle RDMBS are both relational database management systems. They are multi-user, multi-transaction systems. In that respect, they are the same thing. But they come from two different vendors. And each vendor likes to implement things a little differently. Sometimes, one vendor does things "better" and sometimes, they do worse. For a comparison of the two, go to searchDatabase and do a search on the following keywords, "oracle sql server comparison". Many links of very useful information will be presented to you.
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Oracle 8, 8i, and 9i are different versions of Oracle's RDBMS software. It's like asking "what's the difference between Windows 3.1, 95, 98, 2000, and XP?" Each successive version improves on the previous versions. Each successive version of Oracle introduces many new features to make the database more robust, more powerful and easier to use. The list of differences between each version is quite lengthy. So much so, that the Getting to Know Oracle XX (where XX is the version number) manual highlights the numerous "improvements".
Oracle 11i is not a database system. It is Oracle Corporation's business application package. This package is designed to run the books (i.e. payroll, accounts payable/receivable) of a business among other things.
Lots of factors come into play when deciding on a back end. First, you have to decide on the application usage on the front end to help you decide if the back end can handle it. How many users are initially expected? How many concurrent transactions are initially expected? What platform and/or methodology will the application use? After these questions are answered, you then need to look at where you expect the application to grow in the future. Do you expect an increase in usage? If so, then you'll want a database that scales well. Other things to consider are your existing staff skill sets. If all of your DBAs are Oracle-trained, then you might not want to deploy DB2. If all of your System Administrators are Unix Admins, then throwing Windows platforms at them might cause a minor revolt. This would eliminate SQL Server from consideration.
In the end, there are no easy metrics to decide which back end to use. This type of engineering is best left to people who have had lots of experience in this arena. My suggestion is to hire a consultant if you do not have the in-house staff capable of making a good decision.