Effectively managing your data using databases

Published : Sunday 7 May 2006

Managing data effectively is key to business success and many quickly outgrow the likes of Excel and need something more advanced ...

Please note: this content is 15+ years old, from a time when I produced content for SEO and key word purposes. It may be of lower quality and no longer accurate.

Effective data management can really empower your business giving you the edge over competitors, improving efficiency, reducing costs and increasing revenues.

We often work with companies that are using a confusing mess of spreadsheets to manage their data (and in some cases even paper based systems) which can make the day to day business process more complex and involved especially if you aren’t familiar with the system.

In this article we will discuss the benefits of organizing your data and moving to a simple database such as Access.

Benefits of databases

A simple database is often a lot better for managing your data than a flat file system such as Microsoft Excel or Works. Microsoft Access is the ideal solution for most small to medium businesses to manage their data. Beyond Access there is Microsoft SQL Server (and also the desktop edition MSDE) for larger enterprise data applications.

The list below addresses some of the issues that we find users struggling with when working with flat file systems that can be overcome by using Microsoft Access.

  • A user interface can be designed with built in reports and queries to make use of the system more intuitive and easier to learn.
  • The data is available to multiple users simultaneously for adding, editing and updating.
  • Databases are a lot more efficient when dealing with large amounts of data particularly if the data is relational.
  • Data quality and integrity can be maintained through constraints and relationships reducing errors and duplication.
  • Your data is highly available and can easily be queried and analyzed to gain better understanding of your business and customers.
  • Access will export tables and queries to a multitude of formats should you want to work with your data in Excel or similar.
  • ODBC databases such as Access are easier to integrate and link in with other data systems to allow cross system reporting and querying.
  • Access databases can be scaled fairly easily to larger database solutions such as Microsoft SQL server if your data needs grow.

Should I be using a database?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions then you should be seriously considering using a database even if just Microsoft Access.

  • Is your data relational (e.g.relating product sales to customer)?
  • Do you have more than a few thousands rows?
  • Do you need more than one user to have concurrent access to the data?
  • Do you want to run complex queries (particularly across relational data)?
  • Is a lot of your data textual rather than quantifiable?
  • Are you already using multiple spreadsheets or workbooks?
  • Do you find there are duplicate rows in your existing spreadsheets due to data relationships?

Why don’t people use databases when they should be?

Effective database design isn’t something that can be learnt overnight, it takes time to understand your data and then be able to convert that understanding into a usable database.

There are then all kinds of other issues when it comes to designing the user interface with forms, reports and queries that often need at least some basic programming skills to achieve the desired result.

As a result many will simply reach for something simpler like Excel as their “database”. It provides an easy way to manage data and for simpler smaller applications this can work, but quite soon it becomes a chore and businesses outgrow what it can really do.

What’s the solutions?

The key is to take time to get to grips with at least the basics of Access and database design. There are plenty of online resources and developer communities where you can get useful information and support.

The alternative is to get in someone who can understand your business and data requirements and come up with a solution for you. It doesn’t have to be complex, it may only be a handful of tables and forms. Why not contact us to see if we can help?


While efficiently managing your data isn’t always the simplest of tasks it is certainly worthwhile analyzing your requirements thoroughly even if it means getting a third party involved. At the end of the day it may cost you to get an effective database application in place but it will give you the edge over competitors and in the long run, potentially save you thousands and even make you money!

Dan's Blog

Information Technology, programming, health, fitness and photography enthusiast.

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