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7 reasons why you should use a database instead of Excel

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Moving from Microsoft Excel to a database is a wise decision if you have complex data management needs or if your data has outgrown the capabilities of Excel. A database is specifically designed to handle large amounts of structured data and provides more powerful tools for storing, managing, and analyzing that data.

An open-source, no-code database platform like Baserow offers many advantages over traditional spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel. You should consider switching if you’re dealing with large datasets and you need to compile a single source of truth, rather than having data scattered across endless spreadsheets. Baserow’s versatile and robust functionality supersedes that of Microsoft Excel, enabling even the most sophisticated use cases.

It’s important to evaluate your needs and requirements before deciding to move from Excel to a database. Spreadsheets can be useful for small business accounting needs, but limitations like duplicate data, slow loading speeds, no audit trails, and a lack of security control make them unsuitable for more complex use cases.

Not sure whether to use Excel or a database? In this article, we’ll cover the top reasons why you might need to replace Microsoft Excel with a no-code database like Baserow.

Baserow database screenshot

When to replace Excel with a no-code relational database

1. When you have lots of data

Excel is a popular tool for managing and analyzing data, but there are some limitations to using it when you have lots of data. For one, Excel has limited rows and columns in a single worksheet, which means it can only handle limited amounts of data. It can also become slow when processing large amounts of data, especially when performing complex calculations or data analysis.

What’s more, it’s difficult to manage lots of data in Excel, so you might find yourself scrolling through hundreds of thousands of rows and columns. With any data set—large or small—there can be data integrity and accuracy issues. You might find yourself experiencing data redundancy, which causes confusion and waste of resources.

Excel’s built-in visualization tools are not sufficient for visualizing large datasets. And its collaboration features are limited, so it can be difficult to share data, track changes, and maintain consistency.

In contrast to Excel, Baserow is built on a scalable architecture that can easily handle any amount of data. With Baserow, you can store, manage, and analyze even the largest datasets, and can be scaled up as your data volumes grow. Optimized for speed and performance at scale, you can quickly query and extract exactly what you need from a Baserow database, making it easy to generate insights from large datasets.

Baserow has a user-friendly interface that makes it easy to manage and analyze data with a range of advanced tools and features for organizing, viewing, automating, customizing, and reporting on data. It’s designed to ensure the integrity and accuracy of your data, and it provides great security features that enable administrators to control user access and ensure that sensitive data is protected from unauthorized access.

2. When you need role-based access control and granular permissions to manage data access

Role-based access control (RBAC) is a mechanism that allows granular control over system access. It involves setting permissions and privileges to enable access to authorized users. This protects sensitive data and ensures that only authorized users can access information and perform the actions they need to do their jobs.

Microsoft Excel does not have native support for role-based access control permissions. You can restrict access to certain features or areas of an Excel spreadsheet—such as protecting entire sheets or single cells—but no native functionality exists that allows you to define user roles that give you granular administration over permissions. You can use third-party add-ons to provide role-based access control and other security features, but they come at a cost.

If you need advanced role-based access control features, such as those found in enterprise-level databases, you may want to consider using a dedicated relational database application like Baserow. Baserow’s open-source online database platform provides an array of security features to protect user data, including granular access control features that allow database administrators to control which users or groups can access or modify specific tables, fields, and databases.

With Baserow, role-based access control can be assigned to members or teams at the group, database, and table levels. Baserow also provides other security features such as robust user authentication, SSL encryption, password authentication, and regular backups of user data to prevent data loss in the event of a system failure.

Baserow database vs Excel spreadsheets

3. When you need an audit trail

Excel provides some limited audit trail functionality that can help track changes made to a spreadsheet. Excel has a feature called “Track Changes,” that allows users to see a record of the changes made to the spreadsheet. To use it, you need to enable it, then any changes will be tracked and displayed in a separate pane.

The Track Changes feature can be useful for small-scale audits or collaborations, but it has some serious limitations. For example, it doesn’t track changes to individual cells or formulas, and it can’t be used to detect unauthorized changes.

Plus, once changes are accepted, it’s not possible to see what those changes were—there’s no permanent record of what was changed and where.

If you need more robust audit trail capabilities, you may need to use a database instead of Excel. Baserow’s audit log provides audit trails that track all user or team actions in your database, including logins, edits, and deletions. Users can track changes to individual records, fields or tables, and get detailed information about who made the changes and when. This helps administrators monitor changes and investigate any suspicious activity.

It’s also useful when you need to revert changes before or after a particular date.

Audit log in Baserow

4. When you want collaboration features

Excel does have a few collaboration features such as co-authoring, adding comments to cells, sharing via email, tracking changes, and versioning, which allows users to restore previous versions of a workbook if needed. However, Excel’s lack of advanced collaboration features is one of its biggest shortcomings. Excel worksheets are often saved locally or sent via email, making it impossible for teams to see and amend the same document at the same time.

If you’ve experienced a lot of limitations when trying to collaborate in Excel, then it’s probably time to use a database instead of a spreadsheet program. In contrast to Excel, Baserow provides a wide variety of collaboration features that allow users to invite collaborators to a group, work on a database simultaneously, share the database with others, and keep track of changes made by other users.

Baserow’s real-time collaboration features allow multiple users to work on a database simultaneously, with each user’s changes automatically saved and synchronized in real-time, so that everyone can see the latest version of the database. Baserow also allows users to share a database with others via email or by generating a link. You can specify who can view or edit the database, and you can revoke access at any time.

In addition, users can receive notifications when changes are made, helping everyone stay up-to-date. Users can also add comments to specific records or fields, and add attachments such as images, documents, or other files. You can even mention collaborators within rows so that everyone’s on the same page, and with maximum context.

Along with access control and audit trails, Baserow’s collaboration features make it easy for teams to work together on a database, regardless of their location or device.

5. When you want to integrate your data with other tools through robust APIs

While Excel can integrate data with other tools through APIs, it requires additional tools and custom code to integrate with APIs. If you want to integrate your data with your favorite work tools and build more powerful applications, then you should move from Excel to an open-source database like Baserow.

Baserow is API-first, which means it can be integrated with every tool you need to build complex applications, automate processes, and drive productivity. Baserow integrates with popular tools like Zapier, n8n, Make, and Pipedrive, so you can easily automate workflows and share data across multiple systems.

Baserow is divided into two components: the backend and the web frontend, which talk to each other via a REST API. It’s easy to get started with connecting Baserow with other software using Baserow’s extensive database API documentation. You’ll also find plenty of help and support with tutorials and technical guides.

And if at any point you need more help, the Baserow community will be glad to jump in and help.

6. When you want to easily create relationships between datasets in different teams

Excel allows you to create relationships between datasets using its Power Pivot feature. When you import related tables from a relational database, Excel can often create those relationships within a data model. But for all other cases, you will need to explicitly create relationships manually. What’s more, Excel can only create the relationship if one column contains unique values.

While Excel has some features for creating basic relationships between two tables, it’s not designed for creating complex ones. For that, you will need a relational database like Baserow.

As the name suggests, a relational database lets you easily create relations between data types, like team members, projects, and clients. You don’t need to be an expert to build a relational database. With Baserow, it’s easy to build your own database without any technical experience, and then establish rules and relationships within your database.

Table relationships let you make logical connections between pairs of tables, allowing you to draw data from multiple tables simultaneously. This helps make your tables more efficient and minimizes redundant data.

You can easily establish connections between tables using the "Link to table” field in Baserow. By linking rows in these tables, you can capture the dynamic relationship between them. It’s also easy to unlink a linked row, enlarge a linked row and change an existing field into a link to table field.

Creating these relationships between tables allows you to lookup and extract data from tables in a useful manner. It also allows you to build complex formulas that would otherwise not be possible without linking the data and creating relationships.

There are many reasons why a database is better than Excel

7. When you want to connect your data to a frontend application

To connect Excel data to a frontend, you have several options depending on your requirements and the technology you’re using for your frontend. However, if you have large amounts of data in Excel sheets, or if you need real-time access to the data, you might be better off using a database instead of Excel.

In contrast to Excel, Baserow’s no-code core makes it easy to connect your data to a frontend application. By creating a frontend for Baserow, you can turn your data into a user-friendly interface, catering to the specific needs of your users and making it easier for them to navigate. What’s more, you can control who has access to it, and you can leverage access accordingly, by creating user-specific dashboards and more.

Baserow’s simple and intuitive interface enables you to quickly build a customized database that can be used to power visualizations, build automations, and set up integrations for even the most complex use cases.

Baserow’s API-first platform makes it easy to connect to frontend apps. Once you’ve connected, you can use simple drag-and-drop tools to build customized user interface components that display your data or create forms that allow users to add or edit data, all without any coding skills.

A good example use case can be seen in no-code visual management systems for manufacturing. Baserow’s no-code databases can be easily integrated with digital wall boards that feed real-time data into dashboards. Teams can track all tasks and processes in real-time and easily convert paper checklists or Excel spreadsheets into smart inspection forms using the drag-and-drop features of Baserow’s no-code database to customize templates.

Still wondering if a database is better than Excel?

Spreadsheets are a great way to collect, save and run calculations on data, but when it comes down to it, relational databases are much more powerful than spreadsheets. If you’re working with large datasets or you have more complex data needs, you should use a database instead of a spreadsheet.

Where Excel would get bogged down with large amounts of data, databases make it so much easier to store unlimited amounts of data, manage it, and search and retrieve it whenever you need. There was a time when databases were used only by those with coding skills. But with user-friendly no-code tools like Baserow, you don’t need any coding skills to create a database and use it efficiently.

Benefits of using a database like Baserow instead of Excel

1. Powerful collaboration capabilities

Baserow is a collaborative database that brings information and people together. Easily invite others and collaborate in real-time, drop comments and mentions within rows, and share your data in the view of your choice by creating a public link.

2. Efficient data management

Organize and maintain your data for all of your projects. Visualize and customize your data using various views including Grid, Gallery, Kanban, Calendar, Form, Survey, and more. Easily create relationships between tables and include formulas for greater productivity.

3. Pre-built templates

Build your own template or take inspiration from Baserow’s library of 60+ pre-built templates. From project management to CRMs, product roadmaps, and more, Baserow’s ready for any use case you can imagine. Drag and drop files to tables, use one of the many rich field types, make fast calculations, and more.

4. A familiar spreadsheet-like interface

Baserow combines the familiarity of a spreadsheet with the power of a database, making it the perfect tool for those transitioning from Excel to a database. The learning curve is low and the flexibility is high. Anyone can create, manage, and share a database with no technical knowledge required.

5. Automation and integrations

Baserow is API-first, making it easy to connect with other software and automate your workflows for greater efficiency. Make complex and time-consuming tasks simple and fast, saving time and costs while freeing up your teams to spend time on what matters most.

6. Lightning fast

Work with 100,000+ rows per table without any problems. Baserow’s architecture is built for speed, stability, and scalability, even working with huge volumes of data. Connect all your data across your organization into one database for all workflows, keeping everything in sync and getting the job done with greater speed and security.

7. Competitive pricing

Baserow offers a range of hosted and self-hosted pricing plans, including a generous free plan. The Premium plan is priced at $5 per user/month, and the Advanced plan is priced at $20 per user/month. Or check out the Enterprise plan for larger teams. Baserow’s open-source core means you can run Baserow independently on your own server with no vendor lock-in!

Project Tracker template screenshot

How to move from Excel to Baserow

If you’ve decided to move from Excel to a database, and you want an open source, no-code platform, then Baserow is the best choice. Get started with exporting your spreadsheet data and importing it into Baserow using our handy guide.

Ready to get started? Create an account with Baserow today!

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