Small businesses usually choose Excel Online as their first database or bookkeeping software solutions; they even find some more innovative ways of using it. If you are a small business yourself, you will probably have started out with this spreadsheet application from Microsoft Inc.
Excel has drawbacks
Although Excel is an excellent spreadsheet solution, it is just that: a spreadsheet application. Trying to use it for purposes other than what it was designed for, or encumbering it with data and processes it was never meant to handle, is simply asking for trouble.
And so, if you happen to be using Excel Online (referred to as simply “Excel” from here on), here are the drawbacks and security risks you are putting your own data in:
- Lack of data integrity checks means that things will start going wrong right from the start – when users are inputting data. This becomes a big problem when the information that is extracted using these very data sets is vital for lifesaving decision-making, for example.
- The audit trail is not available; after an Excel file has been passed around the office a few times, it will be almost impossible to track who did what. This will have an impact on accountability and data recovery – after all, if you don’t know what was updated, by whom, and on what date how will you be able to restore the original data?
- As people work with Excel sheets, they will make changes that include hiding columns, creating new columns or using new formulas – unless the next user is briefed about such changes, it will lead to confusion, data mismatch, and even erroneous reports
- Tracking workbooks is next to impossible; most people prefer copying an original Excel file and then working on it to make sure they have the original data safe in case there is an error. If everyone along the business hierarchy makes a new copy before sending it on to the next person in line, it is only a matter of time before there is a version mix-up. With a number of copies of the same Excel workbook floating about the office, it will eventually lead to a major mix-up.
- Anyone who has tried collaborating on an Excel sheet knows how difficult it can be. While some collaboration is possible, it is really asking for trouble when more than two people are involved in updating a sheet. There is always the risk of overwriting one another’s work.
Apart from problems with the data itself, we should consider facts like:
- Creating forms to manage data input can be a pain, to say the least, when it comes to Excel
- Even when done correctly, the forms won’t have enough methods to control and validate inputs from the users – this means there is always the chance of erroneous data capturing
- As the size of data grows it becomes increasingly impossible to work with Excel. This is because the application’s performance plummets as the size of the data it holds increases. When simultaneous access is added to the mix, everything comes to a grinding halt – if the users can open the sheet at all.
Last, but not least, we have security issues: imagine the username and password of the person responsible for creating the Excel sheets (or even those of a person with editing privileges) were stolen. That means the person who now has access can do anything with the data in it – right up to deleting everything.
Now imagine you have a column that holds the confidential information of your clients – something like their bank account details and credit card numbers. There is no way to encrypt a column which means that whoever accesses the sheet now has all that information at their disposal.
You see where we are going with this, right?
Where to go from here?
If you are using Excel, you know now is the time to go with an online database. Towards this end, your new data storage solution should have features like:
- Cloud computing and data storage capacities: users should be able to read and write data from anywhere in the world
- Secure storage: the new databases you create should have security features that include access control, audit trails, and data encryption
- Easy database design: in the age of low-code database designing and creation, it shouldn’t take a technology expert to have your database up and running or to build the forms that will be used to interact with the database
- Simple data migration: your new database should be able to import your data directly from your Excel sheets
- Expert advice and tech support: a sign that you are dealing with a reliable cloud database software solution provider is their willingness to bend over backward for you, their client – round the clock and 365 days a year