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Excel Databases:

In a nutshell...

A term that's often used to describe data that's stored in a Microsoft Excel Worksheet.

As an example: People working with computers all day, often need to store information for their work. Database are not the most intuitive thing for a novice to build so a lot of people find it simpler to put data straight into a spreadsheet. The data grows and grows and before long, you have an 'Excel Database'.

Tell me more...

Technically there's no such thing as an Excel Database but in most office's around the world there are Excel spreadsheets being used as databases. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

This is a really difficult question to answer because there are so many variables involved. Microsoft say that if the data is 'Relational', then it should be stored in a database. If not, it can go into a spreadsheet.

The descion where to store data needs to be constantly evaluated. If you want to keep a list a peoples names and addresses but there are only ten people, why create a database? If that list grows, when do you need to move it to a database? When it gets to 15? 150? 1500?

Personally, I recommend you use a database to store data use spreadsheets to analyse data - get the best of both worlds.

If you currently use a spreadsheet to store data:

Ask yourself the following questions:

• Do changes made in one spreadsheet force you to make changes in others?

• Is the sheer amount of data unmanageable or becoming unmanageable?

• Do you have several spreadsheets that contain related information (such as separate sheets with sales for branches in Birmingham, Glasgow and London)?

• Can you see all relevant data on one screen, or do you have to keep scrolling or switching sheets to find information?

• Are several people accessing the data at the same time?

• Do you have a difficult time viewing specific data sets that you want?

If you answered yes to at least two of the questions, you should think about moving your information to a database application.

The benefits of using a database:

Here are a number of benefits you will get when you move your data to a dedicated database:

Easier to share: You can have two or more people editing a database at the same time. But using a spreadsheet means other users have to wait until nobody is using a file before it's free for them to use.

Better security: Along with the ability to better share information is the ability to better secure it. You can also protect users from their own mistakes by enforcing true validation.

More efficient: Databases are relational, allowing you to link related data to minimise duplication, increase efficiency and speed up data retrieval and updating.

Greater capacity: Databases also have the capacity to hold a greater numbers of records (billions).

Less duplication: Because you can't share spreadsheets, everyone makes their own a personal copies and nine out of ten spreadsheets duplicate information that's already stored in a database anyway.

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