As a database developer for small businesses in the service industries, I’ve found that Microsoft Access is still their database tool of choice. It’s the logical first step for small business databases. If you’re storing your business data in spreadsheets, here are some questions to consider:
- Do you find yourself entering the same information in more than one place? Databases eliminate redundancy. Spreadsheets often require repeating information on two or more tabs in a workbook or multiple tabs in multiple workbooks.
- Are your spreadsheets getting so large they are unmanageable? Are you scrolling all over the place to find or see what you need? Databases can hold vast amounts of information. An Access database can hold up to two gigabytes of data in one database file and Access has tools that make it easy to find the information you need and display that information the way you want to see it.
- Does more than one person need to use the data at the same time? Spreadsheets are difficult to maintain and use with multiple simultaneous users.
- Have you had data integrity problems? It’s easy to make a mistake in a spreadsheet leaving a mess that’s difficult to clean up. The classic example is selecting an entire column (instead of a single cell in that column) then sorting on that column. This mixes up the data and can’t easily be fixed unless caught immediately.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re probably ready to graduate from a spreadsheet to a database. Access is a great choice for your first database because it’s inexpensive, easily upsized to enterprise databases (like SQL Server or Oracle) so it can grow with your business, and fully customizable so you can get the database you want instead of settling for something that’s not quite right.
If this seems too daunting or you simply don’t have the time, consider hiring a professional to do this work for you. For a nominal investment, you could get up and running in no time.
Cook Software Solutions, LLC