I was brought up with Pine-Sol.
If someone threw up on the floor, my mother would use a bottle of Pine-Sol to clean it up. If the floor needed to be mopped, it was water…and Pine-Sol that cleaned it up. If the room was a bit musty, a bit of Pine-Sol on a moist rag was what made it fresh again. If the carpet got stained, Pine-Sol would magically clear the stain. For many businesses, Excel, is their Pine-Sol.
I was recently lamenting with a technology executive how Microsoft Excel (and Microsoft Executives acknowledge this as well) is the biggest competitor to many business software. If you need an inventory list, staff database, customer contacts, payroll information – you name it – Excel is used. Businesses, big and small and all around the country use Excel.
Excel is also the biggest competitive threat to Intuit’s QuickBooks, Sage’s PeachTree and Microsoft Accounting. For all the companies not using an accounting software, and not including those businesses that are not using any computerized accounting solution, Excel is what these companies are using. Excel is fine for adding some numbers together and creating nice charts, but beyond numbers, most people really need a database, they just don’t know how to use one, let alone know they need one.
Excel is not what should be used, but a database.
The three biggest, software database solutions are Microsoft Access, File Maker Pro and Alpha Software. These software packages are powerful, feature rich and robust.
For the needs of many smaller businesses, especially those that need to quickly get online with minimal help online database solutions are an alternative and much easier solution. These solutions include Intuit’s QuickBase, Trackvia , Dabble DB and Google Docs.
I’ve extensively used all four of these solutions.
Intuit’s QuickBase is definitely the most powerful of the bunch. For workgroups or businesses that want to create powerful online applications, and especially have a “techie” on staff or for hire, QuickBase is good and enables you (or your programmer) to create online applications that could rival many desktop applications. Compared to the other databases it does have a higher learning curve and a bit of HTML programming is needed to create a web form for data entry.
DabbleDB and Trackvia are quit similar, but with different strengths. They are designed to quickly and easily create databases and forms so that anyone can enter information. Get trial accounts with both of these systems and see which one is best for you. I’ll write more about Trackvia in a separate post.
Google Docs does not have nearly the functionality of any of these tools. However, if you want a simple, fast and free way to enable people to enter data into a form and populate a spreadsheet Google Docs (use the forms tool) is a decent starting point. Of course if you need to share a spreadsheet, Google is a fast and easy option as well. But don’t use it like Pine-Sol.