Spreadsheets are applications and programs you are most likely familiar with – but it’s definitely not the same as a database. A database is a system designed for storing and saving a collection of data – allowing you to process and analyze it efficiently. What is the difference between a spreadsheet and a database? And when should you use a database over a spreadsheet? There are three main differences between the two; durability, validation, and authorization. Depending on what you are using the tool for, one will suit your needs better.

1. Durability

Excel is an example of a spreadsheet – meaning it was built for short-term data storage. It is far too lightweight and finicky to hold and maintain large amounts of data. Because it is one single file, data in excel can not have multiple versions (hence all those copy-of-copy-of file names!). It is a static form of data storage that can be deleted or overwritten at any point. Databases, on the other hand, can withstand more pressure as they are designed to be capable of handling failure (read: Excel: Why using Microsoft’s tool caused Covid-19 results to be lost)

2. Validation

Databases use a schema, and all information put into the system must follow said Schema. This can be thought of as an additional list of format requirements and standards that your data needs to follow. Schemas not only ensure that the content is correct and will not cause conflict, but they also allow you to preprocess data, perform calculations, verify with third parties, and cross-check with external Data very quickly. An Excel sheet, or any other spreadsheet, allows you to put in any data you wish – without verifying it is correct.

3. Authorization

Unlike Excel, databases can restrict information for each user. For example, human resources employees must have access to health and medical information, while other employees in the company should be restricted from seeing personal information. A database allows you to restrict what data each user views. Excel is a static file that anyone can access, opening the door to misuse of information and security breaches.

Which one should you use?

Both excel and databases are powerful tools when used properly. They are both used to format your data into an organized manner, yet depending on the task, one is usually better.

Spreadsheets are best for;

Spreadsheet is not a database
Excel Spreadsheet
  • Small amounts of data, 
  • Producing charts and graphs,
  • Performing calculations, 
  • Sharing non-sensitive quickly and easily,
  • Sharing data within an email,
  • User friendly and easy to use,
  • Exploring and experimenting with data.

A database is best for;

MySQL Database
  • Store unlimited amounts of data,
  • The risk of data loss is extremely lower,  
  • Long-term storage,  
  • Simultaneous multi-user accessibility, 
  • Ensuring data integrity,
  • Hundred of times more efficient,
  • Have the flexibility to export spreadsheet-like data using formats like .cvs or even JSON

How to get a Custom Database

Many people assume that integrating a database into your business is a challenging, costly, and confusing process. We make it simple for you. Moving your data and implementing a database into your business can be done in three easy steps. To do this, we create custom software solutions to help you reduce costs, improve productivity and assist your business in a variety of ways.

1. Understanding the structure

To implement a solution that meets and exceeds your needs, we take time to understand the system you have in place. We look at how it could be improved and the data itself to find the best solution. We do this to ensure the transition is easy on you, your employees, and the organization as a whole.

2. Database Access

After we understand the company’s needs and data structure, we make it accessible. How will your staff securely find the information? It could be anything ranging from a portal to a desktop application. We will use whatever medium best suits your needs.

3. Processing

The final step is taking your current data and processing it into the new database. This includes your daily operations like; finances, project management, human resources, and many more.

Spreadsheets are not a database – but they are both a very powerful tool. They both have advantages and disadvantages and it is important to know that they are not the same. They should be used based on the needs of the job at hand. Do you need a custom database? An expert at Sangwa Solutions would be happy to help you decide. We can help you find a system that meets and exceeds the needs of your agile workflow and gives you peace of mind.

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