Access versus Excel – When a Database Makes Sense

Microsoft Access and Excel are not interchangeable. Excel is for dealing with a small, focused data set. Access is a database that gives you the tools required for managing and updating a wealth of related data.

Access And ExcelAll too often people think that Microsoft Access and Excel are interchangeable, and that can lead to some serious problems with data. If you have ever worked with someone who does not know the difference, you know just how difficult it can be to manage large amounts of data in a few spreadsheets. It isn’t functional, and it definitely isn’t secure.

If you are not sure which is the right solution, here is a quick comparison.

The Purpose of Microsoft Excel

Excel is the best way to manage flat data. This is data that is easily tracked in a single spreadsheet with columns and rows. Great examples of data to store in Excel are things like customers and their contact information. When you don’t need any other details, you do not need more than a spreadsheet to manage the data.

It is also a great tool for executing complex calculations, creating pivot tables, and designing graphs on your data. Excel has some great tools that work with flat data. While there is some basic capability to do more complex functions, the primary focus should always be on a few focal pieces of data. You should not be tying together numerous tabs or worksheets. The more tabs and worksheets with the related data you manage, the more likely it is you need to switch to Microsoft Access.

The Purpose of Microsoft Access

MS Access DatabasesAccess gives you a way to create and manage databases. The data you store in a database is all related. When you have a lot of related data, you keep it in a relational database.

One of the greatest benefits of Microsoft Access is that you can write queries to pull specific data for review. You can tailor the queries to focus on a client, a type of purchase, or data in specific locations.

The other big draw to Access is that multiple users can be updating the database at the same time. Since it can be linked to external sources, you can get data from multiple sources. Excel locks down the worksheet when a user is in the file. Access does not have this restriction.

Naturally, you will run into problems from time to time when using Access. Whether you are trying to clean up your data or have faced security issues, you can try to repair Access file so that you don’t lose too much data or time.

Finally, Access has a better mechanism for securing data. In the event that data is lost, you can more easily restore it. You can also encrypt your database to keep unauthorized users from tampering with your data.

Working Together

Ultimately, the best way to use these Microsoft products is in coordination with each other. You should be managing and storing all of your data in Microsoft Access. The queries you can run are then exported into Excel. With Excel you can start to manipulate and present your data in a way that makes sense without changing the data behind it.

Author Introduction:

Victor Ren is a data recovery expert in DataNumen, Inc., which is the world leader in data recovery technologies, including repair xlsx and word recovery software products. For more information visit

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