Tech Basic: Key Differences Between a Spreadsheet and a Database

Tech Basic: Key Differences Between a Spreadsheet and a Database

You’re not the only one if spreadsheets and databases confuse you. Designing databases is a whole field of research. A spreadsheet is regularly mistaken for a database, which is incorrect. While the phrases aren’t interchangeable, they do have a lot of similarities. While a spreadsheet resembles a database in appearance and functionality, it is fundamentally different.

Data management is an essential element of every business that aids in its growth and efficient functioning. Understanding the distinctions between spreadsheets and databases enables more informed data management and processing decisions.

What is a spreadsheet?

A spreadsheet is a data storage, analysis, and manipulation tool. A spreadsheet’s data is arranged in rows and columns and may be searched, sorted, calculated, and displayed in different charts and graphs. A specific spreadsheet program is required to develop an electronic spreadsheet.

What is a database?

A database is a collection of data that has been organized systematically. It connects the database and the users or applications, enabling them to update and manage data storage and organization easily. It has a complex interface for novices; however, it makes up for it by providing more reliable data integrity features.

How a Database Differs From a Spreadsheet

A database, like a spreadsheet, is made up of tables or collections of tables. Compared to spreadsheets, databases can hold a far larger number of tables. This is the most considerable distinction among several others.

A database is a computer program that stores, manipulates, and retrieves data in its simplest form. Most databases have a tabular structure that enables data from various tables to be connected and cross-referenced. Tables allow data to be searched, arranged, and reported on quicker.

Database tables hold unformatted data. The information is frequently formatted as a spreadsheet, and updating data might be time-consuming. Many databases provide forms or user interfaces that make entering and modifying data more accessible. Any field may sort data, and reports including only specific fields can be created.

Why choose a database rather than a spreadsheet?

Data Purpose

Spreadsheets are suitable for small amounts of numerical and text data. Databases may handle numeric and text values as well as photos and files. Data downloads from data loggers, GPS devices, cameras, drones, and other gathering devices can also be saved in databases.

Some database interface tools that do not need a query language are available in the market, such as the tool from Basedash. It lets the user interact with the database similarly to a spreadsheet.

Data Volume

Thousands of data points can be created for long-term projects with several monitoring stations. Spreadsheets, compared to databases, can take up a lot of hard disk space. It can be challenging to comprehend a spreadsheet with several fields or a substantial volume of data (thousands of rows).


Databases are easier to update than spreadsheets, mainly if the same information is kept in several entries or spreadsheets. A database can also do mass record updates. If environmental monitoring data for project sites are recorded in spreadsheets with regulatory requirements mentioned on each page, altering the regulatory standards necessitates updating the spreadsheets within the same database.

One of the great features of some database editors is that it enables easy configuration for your system. Self-hosted database editor is also available that is suitable for healthcare and financial businesses.

Data Integrity

Between databases and spreadsheets, data integrity is a vital distinction. To guarantee that the data in relational databases is dependable and accessible, they follow defined integrity requirements. Using primary keys and creating associations between data tables are examples of referential integrity.

Final Thoughts

Selecting suitable software to handle and store data is critical for any organization to operate efficiently. While spreadsheets have advanced considerably, thanks to Google Sheets and Google Drive; however, self-driven databases appear to be the trend of the future.

The ultimate decision is based upon your needs and the scale of your organization. This article intends to show the common parallels and differences between databases and spreadsheets and what would be best for businesses nowadays.