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Spreadsheet or Database? What's the difference between them?

Updated on June 19, 2013

An Example of a Spread Sheet


Now I run a company which supplies administrative systems called Custom Business Solutions Online. We supply services to businesses ranging from start-ups to large national businesses and one of the main questions I get asked is do I need a Spreadsheet or a database?

So I thought I’d write and article and direct people to it so that they can make there own informed decisions.


There are 3 main questions which you need to think about before deciding which solution is best for your needs.


  • How big is my data project and how large will it grow?
  • Do I want control over the data entry?
  • How will I use the data?

Difference between Spreadsheet and a Database

Visulisation of Large

How big is my data project?

Now this is meant as a general rule of thumb and should not decide on it’s own which method to use.


  1. If you have less than 2000 records
  2. It is only going to be used for short term use
  3. Only one user needs to access and change the data at any one time


  1. If you have over 2000 records
  2. It is for long term use and is expected to grow
  3. Multiple users may needs to access and change data at one time.

Data Integrity

Do I Want to Control Data Entry

Now this is a very important question:


  1. Not concerned with the types of data for example format, style, data types etc
  2. Duplicate entries is not a problem
  3. More concerned with quick entry rather than saving as I enter data


  1. Concerned with datatypes, format of data or anything to do with data structure.
  2. More control over duplicate entries e.g. usernames
  3. more concerned with saving data than quick entry, data integrity.

How will I use the Data?

Finally How will I use my data, this is an important question, but maybe not as important as the others because both excel files can be converted to databases and databases can be converted to spreadsheets. Though converting spreadsheets to databases is much harder and requires more knowledge to be successful.


  1. Only Viewed Once/used one way
  2. For Calculations and Graphs


  1. Manipulated from many prospectives
  2. Store data,
  3. Run queries to find small data within big sets
  4. Produce reports.

An Informed decision

 Now that you are in possession of the key questions, you can now make an informed decision to benefit your business and customers. One final point is that databases are easier to control access and security systems. So if you are storing sensitive or confidential data including customer information then I advise you use a database with access privilages to ensure only those that need the data have access to it. I hope this helps and if you need any more information then please either leave me a comment or contact me team.  


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    • Naveed Ahmed 624 profile image

      Naveed Ahmed 2 years ago from Bahrain

      Hello Dipless,

      I want to implement a Database with my blog, but I am totally naive to how I could do that. I am just a Blogger with writing skills and have no idea how I can connect a Database to my blog. Do I require to hire some technical experts to manage that task, or I can do it by buying some premium services from Online service providers. Give me an idea how I could do that? Also let me know, if there are any free ways to connect a database to my blog.


    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 2 years ago from Ljubljana

      An average user don't distinguish between a database and a spreadsheet, especially due the fact they share many characteristics and with time the differences more and more often fall into gray area. Thanks for detailed explanations!

    • zanaworld profile image

      SA Shameel 4 years ago from Bangalore

      The hubpage gain my attention as I love databases! Though I am more proficient in spreadsheet. I love the columns and rows and manipulating the data.

      Currently I am teaching excel free to some of my pals living near my home.

    • profile image

      ed77burns 6 years ago

      you really put in a lot of effort to make this very informative.Nice hub.

    • profile image

      barbara trevino 7 years ago

      I too like william henry cannot hear a thing and would like to know what is being said in the presentation im in excel

      class and would like to know what is being said.

    • williamhenry profile image

      williamhenry 7 years ago from Australia

      Hi dipless,

      I am an amateur database user with moderate success in writing applications for my personal use and for my son's retail and customer service business. Some years ago I created a successful database application to control the movement of shipping containers for a large transport company. I was excited to see your blog but found great difficulty in actually hearing what you were saying. I tried to adjust the sound level but this did not respond. It seems a shame that you should put time and effort into your blog and we can't hear what you are saying. Please do not take this as a criticism I just though you may be able to rectify the problem and more people could benefit.