ORDS ODBC connections

ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) connections can be used to create a link between a data source (such as an ORDS database) and another application.

In practical terms, this serves two main purposes for ORDS users:

  • It makes it possible to view and edit data stored in ORDS using another relational database application
  • It allows a custom web front-end to be connected to an ORDS database

Please note that the ORDS is now in the process of being wound down. From 1 June 2017, the service will cease to be supported by the University of Oxford. Existing users with ODBC connections will be able to continue to use these until the closure date, but it is no longer possible to set up new connections.

If you are currently using ORDS and require functionality that might previously have been provided via an ODBC connection (or if you are contemplating a project that requires such functionality), please contact the Research Support team to discuss alternative options. Users with existing ODBC connections will be contacted to discuss alternative arrangements for storing and working with their data after the closure date.

Using ORDS with other relational database applications

An ODBC connection between an ORDS database and a desktop application (such as Microsoft Access and Filemaker Pro) means that data stored in ORDS can be viewed, edited, and queried using the desktop application, which carries a number of advantages:

  • Users who are already familiar with a desktop application such as Access or Filemaker Pro can continue to use this, while also enjoying the benefits of ORDS's secure cloud hosting and automatic back-up
  • Desktop applications may offer advanced features, such as the ability to construct custom forms and reports, or sophisticated querying tools. An ODBC connection allows these to be used with an ORDS database
  • Users can make use of their preferred application when using their own computer, while still being able to access their data via the ORDS web interface when travelling or working elsewhere
  • Several users can connect to the same ORDS database via ODBC
    • This allows each member of a team to access the data using the application he/she is most comfortable with, without the need to set up a server
    • Because all team members are accessing the same database, versioning problems are avoided - everyone will always be using the most up-to-date version of the data

Users should be aware that although there are many benefits to making use of ODBC connections, there are also some potential risks. In particular, editing data via ODBC requires a stable internet connection. If the connection to ORDS drops during an editing session, any subsequent changes made via the desktop application will be lost.

Custom web front-ends

Research projects whose outputs include one or more databases may wish to make these available on the web, as a resource for other researchers, or as part of public engagement activity. It is possible to create and publicly share datasets using the ORDS, but in some cases, researchers may wish to develop a more fully featured website to allow the public to view and query their data.

An ODBC connection can be used to link such a website to an ORDS database. This means that the data remains stored in ORDS (and hence can still be edited and updated via the ORDS interface), but can also be viewed via the custom-built website.

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Written by IT Services. Latest revision 8 August 2016