SQL vs. Excel: How Can SQL Server and Excel Work Together?

Are you an experienced Excel user? This article will explore the reasons for learning SQL for individuals who are already proficient in using Excel.

Is that only applicable to large corporations? What are the reasons for learning it? Let's determine.

Commonalities between Excel and SQL Server

What similarities exist between Excel and SQL Server?

  • Both of them are capable of storing data.
  • Both have a wide range of functions that can be utilized in formulas to manipulate data or combine multiple sets of data.
  • Subsequently, you can utilize the completed outcomes in your analysis.
  • Nevertheless, the similarities end at that point.

Contrasts between Excel and SQL Server

Inputting information into Excel

Excel is superb for presentations but has drawbacks for data entry. The data is stored in an unstructured format, allowing users to input information anywhere within the spreadsheet. 

For accurate data analysis, ensure that the dates are stored in column A in the image. The user was able to insert dates into columns A, B, and F in Excel without encountering any errors due to Excel's lack of limitations.

The data in a single column can be of different types. Users may input dates, text, and numbers into a single column, complicating the analysis process. Merging cells can be useful for presentations but can complicate data analysis. Indeed, this is particularly accurate when employing advanced analysis methods like PivotTables.

You can utilize the data validation tool to prevent this occurrence. Data validation ensures that users are entering the appropriate type of data in each column. You can safeguard the spreadsheet by restricting users from making structural modifications, like merging cells. In my experience, these safeguards are rarely utilized.

Inserting Data into SQL Server

SQL Server utilizes strongly typed data storage. Each column in this context is restricted to a singular data type, like text, date, or number. It is impossible to input data into a specific column that does not match its designated data type. You can input the value "1" into a text column to convert it into text. You are unable to insert the word "hello" into a number column due to conversion limitations. Attempting this action will result in an error. SQL Server lacks the capability to merge individual cells within tables.

Your data is promptly validated in SQL, enhancing data integrity and enabling more dependable analysis.

Integrating functions into data in Excel

Within Excel, if you possess a dataset with 100,000 rows containing FirstName and LastName columns, you may wish to generate a FullName column. Creating that formula is straightforward using a formula similar to the one below:


= CONCATENATE(A2, " ", B2)

Nevertheless, you will need to generate this formula for every data row. This results in an increase in the computation time and file size, as Excel needs to retain these formulas.

There are solutions to this issue in Excel. You have the ability to:

Utilize more sophisticated array formulas

Generate computed columns within an Excel Table

Utilize Get and Transform or Power Pivot to generate additional columns.

The default setting requires you to create a formula for each of the 100,000 rows.

Integrating functions into data in SQL Server

Only one formula needs to be added to SQL Server. SQL is an acronym for "structured query language," which can be utilized to incorporate this formula. You can add a computed column to your table or create a SELECT statement that concatenates these columns.

Retrieve the first name, last name, and full name by concatenating the first and last names from the table named myTable.

You can preserve the outcomes of these SQL queries by saving them as Views or Stored Procedures and regenerating them at your convenience. It can also be applied in advanced areas such as data science.

Excel Security

Excel lacks robust security features. This may be a concern if you possess sensitive information, such as personal or salary data.

You can password-protect your spreadsheet when saving it. You require the password to access the Excel file.

SQL Server security

SQL Server prioritizes security as a fundamental aspect of its Database Management System.

Accessing an SQL Server instance requires a set of credentials. This could refer to your Windows login credentials or a distinct username and password.

To access a database in that instance, a valid SQL user linked to that login is required.

The user account will dictate the level of access you have to the data. You may have limited access to specific tables or queries. You may have the capability to input data exclusively, without the capacity to retrieve or view it.

SQL Server is suitable for version control. If you added, modified, and then removed some data. In an Excel spreadsheet, only the final outcome would be displayed, indicating that no changes were made. In SQL Server, you can retain the complete history if desired for tracking purposes.

Is it possible to integrate Excel and SQL Server?

Can data stored in SQL Server be utilized in Excel? Indeed, it is quite simple to accomplish. Access data from SQL Server in Excel by navigating to the Data tab and selecting Data – Get Data – From Database – From SQL Server Database.

Retrieve information in Excel

This could be either the raw data or the processed data. SQL Server can process the data, allowing Excel to create the desired visualizations from the analysis.

Excel can contain approximately one million rows in a single spreadsheet, while SQL Server tables can store vast quantities of data. If you are importing large data sets into Excel, you have two choices:

  • Pre-process the data in SQL Server to facilitate analysis.
  • First, import the data into Get and Transform for analysis.
  • To update the data, right-click on the table and select Refresh.

This implies that:

You can have your data analysis updated at any time you prefer.

Concurrent access to data is allowed for multiple users.

Concurrent data input by multiple users is possible into a centralized database.

It is not straightforward to accomplish this task in Excel. Using SQL and Excel in conjunction is more efficient.

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