How can I assess whether a database is right for me?
If you answer “Yes” to one or more of these questions... well, then I’d suggest you keep reading on ;-)
Does more than person need to access the data?
You know how a spreadsheet is always very much “the owner’s own” (ie the person who builds it as the person who decides what it looks like)? With a database, each person can create their own view, displaying data exactly how they want to view it. Additionally, databases eliminate the confusion and inaccuracy that occur when different versions of the same spreadsheet are passed around within a company or when more than six people need to update the same sheet.
Do you want to protect your data against incorrect data entry, (un)intentional data elimination or a security breach?
In tech speak, databases enforce data integrity and offer protection from data corruption. Databases are easy to backup and advanced permissions can be set up to control access to data. A database’s security protocol will be especially important if your your company is storing sensitive data.
Do you need to be able to restore your data if unwanted changes have been made?
Databases provide version tracking to view and compare document changes and to easily restore deleted files. Spreadsheets, on the other hand, do not provide data provenance. That’s just a fancy way of saying that the path you take from “writing a formula that transforms your data, re-writing it, re-transform your data and potentially end up with garbled data” cannot be traced back in Excel.
Do you want to eliminate duplicate work?
Duplicating data across spreadsheets wastes valuable resources. Because databases store all of your data in one place, you don’t have to input the same data over and over into different spreadsheets.The registration process used in a relational database searches for duplicate information, minimizes redundancy and saves space. Data is linked to a single entry, so it is easily searchable across all parameters.
Do you want to ensure that your set-up can scale with you?
Spreadsheets are great for storing a small amount of data, but when you begin to scale up the size of your database, Excel begins to creak under the strain. Databases have a far greater storage capacity and are better for long-term storage. If, in the future, you will need to store additional information that you can’t foresee yet, databases got you covered: They can manage more than just number-based data. They can also track attachments, code, images, you name it. Databases are able to track data changes and reports over time, unlike spreadsheets, which lose data once it is deleted.
Do you want to make sure that you can draw insights and run analyses on your data?
With a database, the data and reporting features are separate, allowing you to generate multiple reports with the same data. Instead of maintaining several spreadsheets with customized views, a database would allow you to run sophisticated queries to generate all required information.
Do you want to add another team member to help you (or take over from you)?
If so, an intuitive workflow, user-specific views and all relevant instructions all in one place are essential.
To find out how Coda implements all of these features, check out