Excel Online – Not meant to be a database

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One critical mistake many small businesses make is when they choose Excel Online as a database solution. In fact, a large number of businesses use spreadsheet application exclusively to hold all of their data. Over the years, this mistake has led to some respectable businesses paying a hefty price.

Don’t be one of them.

Heed the advice: most of them regret their choice – as can be expected – when they chose to use the wrong tool to perform a sensitive task.

Using Excel Online as a database can be dangerous

Excel Online was never intended to be used for more than a desktop data processor. And even then, anyone who has worked with bulky data knows that the application’s data processing power is very limited. It is also labor-intensive; entering formulas, filtering data for searches, and formatting it all for proper consumption is a tedious and repetitive affair.

But, there’s worse; you could put your confidential data at risk. There are, in fact, many ways you could be inviting data corruption, leaks, and breaches to occur. Let’s have a look at a few of these ways:

Excel can be copied and saved locally

All it takes to copy all the data on an Excel sheet is to type “CTRL+A” and then “CTRL+C.” On a new sheet, the user can then paste it (“CTRL+V”) and it would be over. They now have their very own offline copy of the data to do with as they wish.

Now, think about how a disgruntled employee could dump this stolen data online. Let’s not even think about how someone who intentionally stole the data could put it to malicious use, affecting customers’ privacy and their financial security – in real life.

Data integrity is almost impossible to maintain

When everyone with write privileges edits a worksheet at the same time it guarantees someone will either:

    • Overwrite someone else’s data
    • Mistakenly delete others’ work, or
    • Intentionally make changes to further their own agenda (think payroll or attendance data, for example)

Unless someone remembers to revoke the write privileges of a user, they can come back and make changes years from now. It isn’t uncommon to go into Google Drive and still find files that had been shared a while ago.

Copies can be easily made and lost

If an employee in your business saved an Excel file (or a copy) on, say, a thumb drive, and then the drive were lost or stolen, it would result in a catastrophe. How big of a calamity it would be depends on the sensitivity of the leaked information.

Then there is the fact that there is really no way of keeping track of who has which version of the same file. A confused employee could present their version of a data compilation as a final version unaware that some changes had been made to the data at the last minute, but were saved on another copy.

Thus, any decisions made based on the erroneous worksheet could lead to wrong plans and forecasts.

Data captured using Excel is unreliable

People make mistakes; they can do it right from the get-go: when inputting the data. Even when cells, columns, and whole sheets are protected, there can still be issues caused by formatting.

An example could be inserting a title in a row that was in the middle of the sheet to make the printouts look better. The result is that summations of columns would be interrupted because of this title row – as anyone who has tried to automatically fill in an entire column based on the first cell well knows.

Links and Excel sheets can be sent to the wrong people

Sharing datasets isn’t Excel’s strongest point. It isn’t uncommon for people to forward emails (with databases attached) to colleagues who weren’t supposed to be privy to them. If someone were to mistakenly include an email address that was outside the organization, it could mean the leak of sensitive data.

Also, linking to data from one worksheet to another is an even riskier affair as the target worksheet could have been tampered with or simply moved to another location.

It is not secure to use Excel for a database

When data is stored in a format that can be read by anyone that has access to it, it is only a matter of time before someone does exactly that. When people entrust a business with their personal and financial information, they expect it to be kept in a secure database that prevents unauthorized access. Excel can’t guarantee that.

Online cloud databases solve these problems

This is the age of cloud computing and storing data securely – in a place that is accessible from anywhere in the world – is becoming the industry standard. The business plan of today should include a good databases as the baseline of their data storage schema. Because, based on this schema, scaling-up to build their data storage and retrieval infrastructure of tomorrow becomes an easy task.

After all, why would you, a business owner, want to put your data and, more importantly, the safety of your clients’ personal information at risk, when all you have to do is move it to the cloudstraight from Excel, no less?

Finally, we need to remember that designing online cloud databases and migrating data into them isn’t rocket science anymore: with low-code technology and straight-forward data importing available, everything has become a breeze. So, why not take advantage of it?

Don’t worry, just contact us. We can do it all for you.