Have you outgrown spreadsheets? Part 2: Who's using the spreadsheet?

Have you outgrown spreadsheets? Part 2: Who's using the spreadsheet?

business / spreadsheets
Chainlink fence

Multi-user access

More and more people will want access to a spreadsheet as it starts becoming valuable, which is great! It’s possible to share the file on a network drive so that it can be used by multiple people at the same time, and this is probably fine where there aren’t many people using the spreadsheet and you have the technical expertise to set the server permissions to meet your requirements.

This article is the second in a multi-part series explaining how spreadsheets can start to become a liability as your company grows, and how investing in bespoke systems can alleviate these issues, as well as bringing additional benefits.

It could, however, start to be a problem if you need to allow access to people who don’t have access to the network drive—maybe they work remotely or they travel as part of their role. Perhaps the employee uses a tablet and doesn’t have a copy of Excel. Even if all users are accessing it from their PCs on the network drive, as the number of users grows so too does the risk of data being overwritten, often inadvertently due to save-conflicts.

Bespoke systems can be used by any authorised user with a modern web browser. If it makes business sense, access can be given to people who work outside the office and there is no need to buy any additional software. Unlike with a spreadsheet, it’s not possible for a user to save a copy of the system, meaning that you can be certain that your data is kept within your business.

Permissions levels

The primary ways to manage access with spreadsheets is to only make them physically available to people who are authorised. This works if you have simple needs but it’s possible someone will be accidentally CC’d the document in an email or perhaps they need access to the particular document on a network drive but they aren’t allowed to see anything else in that folder. Granular access to the data starts to become a real nightmare.

This is a solved problem with a custom system—you can decide exactly what information particular types or members of staff can view and who is allowed to edit which bits of data. For example, some people may have read-only access to data and others, who are directly responsible for it, would have the ability to modify the data. Others may not have any access at all.

These rich permissions features also help you keep your data secure and auditing features can be included, where this is appropriate and necessary for your industry.

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Owner and chief coder

With nearly a decade of professional development experience, I have worked in the educational sector with the University of Cambridge, and with many private sector companies, including 118 118.