Database vs Spreadsheet: The Best Database Management System
Did you know that a Database and a Spreadsheet aren’t the same?
This is a common misconception of many people – including those that organize data. You should differentiate your data tables and datasets to make the most of them. Otherwise, you could lose opportunities in your business or at work.
In general terms, a Spreadsheet allows you to use database technology and data visualization to interpret information. It’s the best way to manipulate and edit data without wasting time.
Unlike spreadsheets, a Database has more flexibility, storage, and fewer limitations.
This article covers the key differences you need to know between one and the other. This way, you can choose one and take your project to the next level.
Database 101: What is a Database
Databases are just numbers, words, and figures gathered together so that one or multiple users can access them later for a certain purpose.
All the content is stored in tables that contain rows and columns.
Since a database stores data, you need a computer system – like the Structured Query Language (SQL) – that can read it so you can transform that raw data into useful pieces of information and:
- Track items.
- Create a relational database.
- Build tables.
- Change the database structure.
- Keep an organized collection of items in a range of cells.
- Perform calculations.
- Complete accounting tasks.
- Maintain data integrity.
When you manage a dataset, you can see it in a tabular form or as relational databases that connect between multiple tables.
These sorts of “relationships” allow you to be more productive and link spreadsheets database while simplifying your work.
Why Using a Database Is Good For You
There are clear advantages of using databases as data storage, especially if you want to keep consistency.
Here you can see the main reasons to use a Database stored in an SQL server instead of spreadsheet apps.
When using a Database for storing data instead of a spreadsheet program, you are maintaining data integrity. This is because, compared to software like Excel, a database is strict when defining data.
Columns and rows are established, and you can only write certain types of characters. That said, you can’t type a number when only words are permitted.
This sort of database technology allows you to keep your information organized and use the same data without the risk of changing it.
Storing Information and Security
Databases are made to store information thanks to their database technologies while also giving access to many users without worrying about crashing. This is because each user has credentials to enter the database – It’s a fundamental difference compared to spreadsheets.
Once a user has direct access, you can permit them to manage the database.
If you give restricted permissions to most co-workers, you are also safe from unexpected changes that could mess up your work.
Today’s businesses have something in common, they all use databases to grow their share in the market.
With that in mind, it’s common to start using a Database when managing a large volume of data. Spreadsheet programming is limited to several records, but what happens when you need a million cells?
Your only option is to use a Database management system – like a CRM – to avoid crashing errors.
Less Time To Organize
When using Database storage, you can enter your information much faster than other software. This also means you get to the group, collide and create multiple sheets with more data in less time.
Limitations When You Use a Database
When you use a Database management system, there are also limitations. They are mostly related to the cost of maintenance and upgrading fees.
When you use a database, you’ll probably fill it until a spreadsheet software crashes. If you store it in a server – like an SQL server – you will need top-notch and expensive hardware to support it all.
You can’t let anyone manage your database, or at least, you can’t let all your workers have editing privileges to all the data.
That’s why you must train your staff to avoid situations and teach them how much data they can handle since a database requires constant review. Because of that, you must teach:
- How to print reports.
- How to move through the interface.
- How to search for items.
- How to use formulas.
- What is a column or a row.
- Where they can add numeric or alphabetical characters.
- How to ask the program for queries.
- How to share information with co-workers.
There are more aspects that you should train your employees for, but it will all depend on their roles.
Creating and maintaining a database costs way more than spreadsheet software. This will all depend on the data volume and your hardware.
You must take care of the server’s overall health. And for that, you must hire technological expertise. This needs to be done if you want to avoid problems many large enterprises had in the past.
As your database grows, you will have to add new functionalities. Sometimes it’s required that you upgrade your hardware to support those changes if you want your server to work properly.
You can see this happening with large quantities of information that have graphs and media.
Spreadsheet 101: What is a Spreadsheet
A spreadsheet, simply put, is a document designed to store information in a tabular format. In these files, you can express characters and type them in cells. Just like a database, it’s separated into rows and columns. The main difference is that you have the freedom to manipulate the information as you please.
When using this interactive computer application, you can:
- Import cells.
- Access the information in the spreadsheet electronically.
- Create multiple spreadsheets with different tables and connect them.
- Build analysis charts with personalized formatting.
- Use complex functions to find and call items.
- Record macros to help you in your data analysis (depending on the spreadsheet software.)
- Visualize data with accuracy.
- Tracking items with call functions.
As you can see, there are similarities between a spreadsheet and a database. But what's undeniable is that you can do all sorts of things, from running content calendars, inventories, UX research, etc.
Why Should You Use a Spreadsheet
Spreadsheet applications are a good choice when you need to present data and don’t have extensive knowledge and resources to build a server for your database.
There are clear benefits to using them like:
Spreadsheets Are Accessible
Compared to the budget you need to build a database, there are free and paid spreadsheet applications that your business can use.
An example would be Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
You can keep all the information in one of them and be completely fine. Of course, it all depends on your needs. A spreadsheet is a great choice, whether it is for creating an inventory or building a database with a single function.
They Don’t Require Extensive Training
When you compare a spreadsheet and a database, you realize that anyone can use the first one.
When you use a program like this – such as Excel spreadsheets – you have more organization and tools available. So generally, you don’t need much training for a job requiring spreadsheet manipulation.
For example, when querying information with a function, printing a report, or setting up categories. It’s all accessible compared to the hard time you could have when using a database from MySQL.
As a result, anyone can control these sorts of programs in a matter of hours.
They Are Completely Customizable
One of the main differences you can find in this “databases vs spreadsheets” comparison is that spreadsheets are customizable. Whether you create documents to add new data or use an old file doesn't matter.
As such, you can:
- Modify each cell of the table.
- Use functions to retrieve information from other cells.
- Pin-point items and mark them with color.
- Manually apply filters or delete rows and columns.
- Limit the number of rows of the spreadsheet.
- Use a formatted view to perform calculations.
There is a long list of features you can use in a spreadsheet to customize it, but those mentioned above are the most important.
You Can Collaborate With Other People
The best thing about spreadsheets is that you can work with your team once you have online access.
This feature works great when you have a document with a large amount of information you need to analyze.
There Are Different Types of Tools Available
Spreadsheets have a set of tools to find values, images, type an input, make objects retrieval, and more.
Your capabilities are boosted thanks to all the processes you can complete with the tools’ help.
Now, among other attributes, you can start sharing your sheets by synching with other programs. For example, once you link Microsoft 365 with Microsoft Excel, you can use Teams to share in real-time with your team.
This sort of managing method allows you to define, calculate and measure your sheet's effectiveness.
Easy Data Manipulation
When you compare spreadsheets and databases, you can take for granted that spreadsheets are easier to handle than you think.
Completing operations, analyzing speed – all these processes are faster here. However, when dealing with large amounts of data, you need to ensure that you don’t break the spreadsheet.
If you accidentally transfer a function to another cell, you won’t get the information you are retrieving.
Limitations of a Spreadsheet
Just as there are great things about spreadsheets, they also have limitations. And they can be troublesome if you can’t handle them.
No matter their design, sometimes spreadsheets are hard to use. Imagine that you have a document with thousands of words of information. You’d have to scroll down until you find the item you’re looking for.
They Are Easy to Hack
In comparison to a CRM or a database stored on a server, spreadsheets are stored online or in your drive.
Once someone has access to your spreadsheet, all your information is vulnerable.
Also, if you have a shared document, employees can edit it without your consent.
You Can Make Limitless Copies
This limitation can make your spreadsheet affect your workflows and overall results.
Since you can make endless copies, there will be a time when you won’t know which one is the original.
It’s Easy To Make Mistakes
Since spreadsheets are highly customizable, you can type information in any cell and break formulas.
This could wreck your entire table, and hours of work could be lost.
Differences Between Databases and Spreadsheets
As you can see, databases and spreadsheets aren’t the same. Each one follows a different process to manipulate data and solve complex functions.
However, when it comes to complexity, databases stored in a server are far more difficult to manage than spreadsheets. There are complex functionalities that you can’t use if you’re not a user with code knowledge.
On the other hand, the spreadsheet works for both experienced and new users. Since most of the processes are automated, you can focus on analysis and reporting your results.
What’s The Best Software To Store Data?
After all, which software is better between a spreadsheet and a database?
We highly recommend you go for spreadsheet software, like Excel. If you’re not a corporation, a huge business, or don’t deal with large amounts of data, you can leave the heavyweight to software like this.
You won’t spend as much as budget as you would if you were to prepare an entire private server. It’s also a great way to start building different databases that you can use later for email marketing or newsletters.
Of course, you must be aware that you must buy a license if you want to use Excel on your computer.
A solution for this would be using the services of a third-party seller like RoyalCDKeys and getting an official Microsoft Office 2021 suite. This is a secure, safe method where you can find a secure serial key for your software.
How To Create a Data Structure Using Microsoft Excel
If you want to build a spreadsheet from scratch using Microsoft Excel, here are the steps you need to follow:
1. Open Excel and go to the right side of the window.
2. Select New and open a new document.
3. Once you are in a blank spreadsheet, give it a format. You can use a template if you want to.
4. Place headers at the base of the columns to know the type of characters you will use.
5. Start filling the spreadsheet with the collected data.
Database vs Spreadsheet: Summary
Choosing a database over a spreadsheet to manipulate data is entirely up to you. As you can see, it all depends on your situation or your business.
You also have to consider whether you are a coding expert or not. If your answer is no, then a spreadsheet will serve you perfectly. Let the software automate your processes and make your life easier with its functions, so you can start analyzing data and using the conclusions to boost your company.