Simple online database collaboration

Forget e-mailing attachments. Specialized services make sharing spreadsheets easy.

If you have to jointly author a spreadsheet with a colleague, what is the first thing that you do? Email it back and forth. This can be painful, particularly as you try to keep track of your partner's changes and hope the emails transit back and forth across the Internet. Add a third or fourth person, and things get worse. Luckily, there is a better way, and a number of providers have stepped up with tools to make spreadsheet sharing a lot easier than sending attachments.

[ Work Smarter With Online Collaboration Tools ]

The process is very straightforward: you either copy and paste data or take your spreadsheet and upload it to the service, after creating accounts for you and your collaborators. Then you can make changes via your Web browser, no other software is required. Some of the services allow for more bells and whistles. Setup time is minimal; your data is properly protected by the service and safe from harm. And you don't need to learn any Web/database programming skills either.

For many people, the spreadsheet is still one of the most popular low-end database applications. The rubric of a table of rows and columns is easily understood and can easily be used as a way to view records and fields of a database. Plus, you don't need to design special reports to view your data entries, and you can easily sort your data without having to create data dictionaries or other database structures, just use the appropriate Excel commands. Having a specialized service that can share this data makes it easier to collaborate too, whether your partners are across the office or on the other side of the world -- as long as they have an Internet connection, they are good to go.

There are seven different services currently available, in order of increasing cost:

Online Spreadsheet Sharing Services

Service Price Storage limits
Pagos Spreadsheetlive.com Free now, $5/mo per user later this year 1 MB
Smartsheet.com $10/mo for up to 10 spreadsheets 30 MB
Box.net combined with Google Docs $15/mo per user 15 GB
DabbleDB.com $24/mo for 3 users or free* 250 MB per user
HyperBase $175 setup plus $44/mo for 5 users 1.25 GB
TrackVia.com $250/mo for 10 users 4 GB for entry plan
Intuit QuickBase $299/mo for 10 users 1 GB for entry plan **
*If you don't mind your data being public view for up to 15 users
**Can go to 20 GB for more expensive plans

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Next page: Pricing and support

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