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When you think of database apps, your mind probably pictures Microsoft Excel first. The app has been the de facto market leader for at least two decades.
But it’s not the only show in town. There are plenty of web-based database apps that are just as simple as using a spreadsheet. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses and are targeted at different types of users.
Why Use an Online Database?
Databases can be about so much more than simple rows and columns. You can use databases to control workflows, manage your stock and inventory, provide the backend to an app, track newsletter subscriptions, and more.
So, if you’re wondering which online databases are worth your time, keep reading. We’re going to talk about a few different options.
Airtable is designed for people who want to organize their daily workflows in database form. It’s like a cross between Trello and Excel. Anyone who works in marketing, project management, ad agencies, and product experience teams will find the app useful.
Airtable has five primary tools: Grid (like Excel), Calendar, Kanban, Gallery, and Form. The app also has a unique feature call Blocks. It lets you mix and match various parts of the five primary tools to create a workflow dashboard that exactly matches your needs.
Pricing: The app has a free tier. It restricts you to 1,200 records per base, 2GB attachments, and two weeks of revision history. The paid plans start at $10 per user, per month.
Microsoft Excel has a few key drawbacks when used as a database tool. Errors are notoriously hard to audit and correct, it’s hard to work on two worksheets at the same time, at it lacks native “big picture” tools.
Therefore, Ragic positions itself as a more streamlined and easier-to-use replacement for Excel. As long as you’ve used Excel in the past, you will feel right at home using the app.
Designing a database in Ragic is just like developing a spreadsheet in Excel, but the end result is more powerful.
Ragic comes with dozens of ready-to-use templates, or you can also design your own. Other noteworthy features include mobile access, advanced search tools, user management, and compatibility with the other Microsoft Office apps.
Pricing: If you’re happy with three custom sheets and 1,000 records per sheet, Ragic is free.
If you need to create a database application, you should try Caspio. It lets you get create forms and publish databases online, even if you don’t have any coding experience. It’s perfect for both internal documents and customer-facing apps.
Caspio supports database deployment on a number of platforms, including content management services, personal blogs, a company portal, and even Facebook and SharePoint.
If you do have coding experience, you can extend your database application using any programming language thanks to the open API.
Pricing: The basic plan allows unlimited users. It costs $59 per month.
Knack is another business-focused app. Some of its clients include Intel, Seattle Seahawks, and Harvard University.
Once again, it’s easy to draw parallels with Excel. Like the Microsoft products, you have control over the structure of your data and how your data connect together. You can also add your own equations and formulas to get the outputs you need.
However, Knack also offers a frontend, letting you interact with your database in a way that Excel does not allow. For example, you can use Knack to make apps such as customer portals, donation managers, event calendars, store locators, and a whole lot more.
Pricing: The Starter plan costs $39 per month. It lets you create 20,000 records and three apps. It also throws in 2GB of storage.
5. Zoho Creator
Small business owners looking to unify their data should check out Zoho Creator. It’s another online database that straddles the divide between spreadsheet and app.
Naturally, the backend is a great way to store data. But the 31 types of collectible information mean you can also create customized front-end apps for all parts of your company. The data itself covers everything from barcodes to location coordinates.
If you don’t want to make your own apps, Zoho offers the App Deck tool. It’s a repo of ready-made apps. Example apps include Logistics, Support Desk, Employee Management, and Project Trackers. Zoho adds new apps on a regular basis.
Zoho specifically recommends the app for people who work in education and non-profit.
Pricing: The entry-level plan costs $10 per month. It can hold 25,000 records and lets you make three apps.
Sonadier offers a drag-and-drop app builder. Therefore, once you’ve created your database, it’s straightforward to access and interact with it in many different ways.
The app also deserves a special shout-out for its Zapier integration. Zapier is like a more powerful version of IFTTT. As such, it’s easy to tie your database to real-time events and keep it automatically updated accordingly.
Other features include extensive sharing management options, a built-in file manager, and support for mentions and comments.
Pricing: Sonadier is free to use for up to five users. The first paid plan starts at $5 per month, per user.
We end with a slightly more complex app—Anvil. It requires knowledge of how to work with Python. However, because you can code directly into the app, Anvil is arguably even more customizable than the other six services in the list.
You can run your code on servers and client devices, and you can easily integrate your database with other third-party services by using Anvil’s APIs.
Pricing: Anvil is free for light traffic. Paid plans start at $49 per month.
A Lack of Free Options for Online Databases
As you’ve been reading, you’ve probably noticed the lack of outright free options. That’s not an oversight on our part—there simply aren’t any 100 percent free online databases apps that are worth recommending.
If you don’t fancy paying for one of these options, and instead would like to learn more about how to get the most out of Microsoft Excel, check out our articles on how to collect survey data with Excel, and then how to do basic data analysis with Excel.