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Access or Excel

Added by LAURA NICOLE MASSARO KAUFFMAN , last edited by LAURA NICOLE MASSARO KAUFFMAN on Jun 02, 2010 10:44


Access or Excel

Should I Use a Spreadsheet or a Database?

Are you struggling to get the information you need from your Microsoft Excel spreadsheet?  You're not alone.

Many times we set up a data project in Excel, only to find it would be better suited to Microsoft Access, a database application.  Database applications include tables for storing data, queries for viewing a specific subset of the data, forms for entering data, and reports for printing and sharing data.

Microsoft estimates that 70% of Excel users putting database structures into Excel.  While Excel has some added features that are similar to those of databases, you still may find your data projects outgrowing the application. Here are three questions you can ask yourself:

  • How big is my data project?
  • Do I want to control the data entry?
  • How will I use my data?

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How big is my data project?

Spreadsheet

Database

I have less than 2000 records.

I have 2000 or more records.

This data file is for one time use, or is a template set up for a series of one-time use data projects.

I plan on using this data file repeatedly and expect that this project may grow.

I am the only user will will need to access the data in the file.

Many users will need to access the file.

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Do I want to control the data entry?

Spreadsheet

Database

I'm not very concerned what kind of values get entered into the a given data field.

I may need to restrict what gets entered into a field by data type or format, set default values, etc.

Duplicate records are unlikely or not a problem with my project.

I may need to restructure my data to minimize the possibility of entering duplicate data.

I'm more concerned with getting my records in quickly than making sure they are saved as I enter them.

I am more concerned with making sure my data is saved as each record is entered than I am about the quickest method.

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How will I use my data?

Spreadsheet

Database

My data will only be used and viewed in one way.

I need to manipulate my data to view it from many perspectives.

I mainly want to make calculations and generate charts and graphs.

I mainly want to store data, run queries, and generate reports.

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What if I need the best of both worlds?

Putting your data into a database does not mean you are limited to using only the features and tools a database has to offer.  Microsoft Access, and other databases have Import and Export commands so that you can pull data into a database from an Excel spreadsheet or send data out to one.

Store your data in the database, run queries and reports, then export a subset of that data to an Excel spreadsheet to make charts and graphs!

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