Both spreadsheets and databases are fantastic tools for businesses, the key is to know when to use the right tool for the right purpose. We see companies struggling to scale business operations because they rely on complicated spreadsheets with multiple tabs containing numerous calculations that are reliant on data from several worksheets within a spreadsheet. Multiple employees use and enter new data into the spreadsheet leading to errors in the data as well as an enormous number of columns and rows. After time the spreadsheet becomes less manageable, which leads to a bottleneck in operations. At this point, the spreadsheet needs to be transformed into a database.

Before we get too far into the signs when a database should be used rather than a spreadsheet, let’s define what is a spreadsheet and what is a database.


A spreadsheet is a software program that contains textual and numeric data arranged in a tabular format within rows and columns. The spreadsheet programs most used today are Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. Spreadsheets are useful tools for making quick calculations or organizing data in a systematic format.


A database too is designed to organize data electronically with a computer system or in a cloud application; however, the data is organized via a structured query language (SQL) in rows and columns within numerous tables. The database structure enables an efficient method for querying the data within the database.

When is it time convert your Spreadsheet into a Database?

Below is a list of business requirements that should have you thinking database instead of using a spreadsheet.

  • Data size has exceeded the capacity of the spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel limits are up to 1,048576 rows and up to 16,384 columns)
  • Multiple users are using or entering data into your spreadsheet
  • Data quality issues (you can set rules for data entry to help with data quality
  • Integration with an application (for data input and/or reporting/dashboards)
  • Data Security
  • Ability to have role level access to data (remember with a spreadsheet all the data on the worksheet is revealed)
  • Advanced ability needed to filter and query data
  • When you need better data organization
  • When you want data insights – databases allow data scientists to quickly explore data and conduct data analysis
  • When you want to aggregate data from not only your spreadsheet, but from other sources to create one data repository

Types of Databases:

Depending on what you are trying to achieve with organizing your data, there are many different database options.

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Database Conversation Case Studies:

Our Scalesology team over the years have had the opportunity to transform businesses needing to convert paper or spreadsheets into a database/data warehouse/data lake to scale their business. Check out how we ensured these businesses scaled with the right technology:

The key to a successful implementation of a database application is working with an experienced team to build the right database solution to tackle the needs of today without limiting the scalability of what will be needed in the future.

Is it time to convert your business spreadsheet to a database? Wondering which database solution is right for your organization? Give us a call, we are here to help. Our team at Scalesology is ready to help you with all your data needs.