Trying to Use a Spreadsheet as a Database

It is an uncomfortable situation that we find ourselves in at times. Someone calls a Spreadsheet a Database, and we know that they are not the same thing. A technicality to be sure, but there are distinct differences between the two and they are important to understand. So, how do you inform without offending?

It doesn’t help that some software programs list spreadsheets as options for database input. So, it is no wonder that people who don’t work in IT refer to spreadsheets as databases.

So, what is the difference? First, the amount of data that you can store. Spreadsheets have a distinct limitation on the number of rows and columns that databases do not. Second, the way the data is processed. Spreadsheets let you paste any data into a field and then will do calculations on that data in the spreadsheet itself. Databases have rules in place as to what data can be stored where. And calculations on that data are done as separate applications, with the database only being the repository for the data.

Finally, and most importantly, is the security of the data. Databases are designed to protect the data and keep it intact for archival purposes. People are not in the database itself doing calculations and manipulations. All that work is done in the application that is using the database. Databases will eliminate, or not allow duplicate data. And they are far less likely for someone to delete the data than a spreadsheet.

Most anyone can easily learn how to make and use spreadsheets. There are even those amongst us that are super users of spreadsheets. We have seen some of our customers do incredible things with spreadsheets. But the data is not secure, and a lot of functionality that would be available in a database is not present.

We have the tech services group here at the EMP Tech Group to help you discern what technology is better for you to use. And we can even help you create your own databases to make your processes more secure and more capable for your operations.  

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