Spreadsheets vs Databases – Round 5: Cut’n’Paste Errors

As we reach half-way in this Spreadsheets vs Databases 10 round bout, we look at the perennial favourite, Cut’n’Paste Errors.  These are when a user cuts and pastes data from one place to another and loses something vital along the way, or just moves it to somewhere unsuitable.

We are all familiar with the headline news caused by spreadsheet horror stories.  Should this be an easy round for databases?

Round 5: Cut’n’Paste Errors


non-instant-reportingOne of the great assets of spreadsheets is their free form and flexibility.  You can start calculations in this sheet and then reference to another worksheet or workbook.  This is a great time saver when you start looking into complex calculations such as we carry out in our business lives.

This can also be a source of fragility however as a user can easily cut and paste vital information from any part of the sequence of calculation and thereby render the output wrong or indecipherable.

Many large organisations attempt to instruct their employees on safe methods and practices to get round this inherent frailty with spreadsheets.

Despite the ease of use with spreadsheets they are highly susceptible to errors in calculations because there is not integral control of the data and the structures behind how that data is recorded and manipulated.


no-cut-n-pasteLike all computer programs, databases are susceptible to human errors such as cut and paste errors.  I am sure we have all made a mistake with a cut and paste at one time or another.

However, in a database scenario, there is an underlying structure to the data and interface which means that you are less likely to create a serious problem with a normal, everyday user input error.

In addition, a well programmed database will also be checking the data that you enter to make sure that it is relevant and will not cause issues down the line.


This seems to be an easy with for the database in this round.  When the media reports on mistakes in data they almost always follow it up with the phrase ‘spreadsheet error’, and we can bet these are often cut’n’paste errors.

Maybe spreadsheets will make a come-back in the second half of the bout.  But, at the half-way point, scores are:

Databases 4½ : Spreadsheets ½

Here are some other articles you may find interesting:

  1. How To Get Your Team on the Same Page
  2. How to cross reference spreadsheet data using VLOOKUP
  3. Want To Delegate To Your Team? Give Them The Right Tools

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