Airtable - Spreadsheets of the Future

Airtable a bright vector image of a colorful cubed business logo.

Airtable is a robust cloud-based system for intelligent data storage in the cloud. However, its intuitive design makes it easy to start using quickly, despite its power. In this article, we'll explore the pros and cons, free, essential to advanced pro features, and some ways our clients have leveraged the power of the world's best project management software.

Table of Contents:

Accessibility and Collaboration

Customization

Linked Records

Scalability

Portability

Integration

Use Cases

Accessibility and Collaboration

With cloud hosting, access your business data anywhere with an internet connection. Best yet, if you want to look something up on a tablet or mobile device, Airtable has built-in iOS and Android apps. Collaboration has never been easier, whether your team operates from the same office or oceans apart.

Pricing Includes Free Tier

Finally, a project management software platform that offers a generous free tier which includes:

  • Unlimited bases
  • 1,200 records per base
  • 2GB of attachment storage per base
  • Grid, calendar, kanban, form, & gallery views

Plus Tier

For $10 (billed annually or $12 monthly) per account per month, the offering is upgraded to include everything in the free tier plus:

  •  5,000 records per base
  • 5GB of attachment storage per base
  • Automatic table syncing features

Pro Tier

For $20 (billed annually or $24 monthly) per account per month, the third package includes everything in the Plus tier in addition to 

  • 50,000 records per base
  • Unlimited apps
  • 20GB of attachment storage per base
  • Personal and locked views
  • Field and table editing permissions
  • Access to scripting

Enterprise

They also often custom enterprise packages for businesses looking for maximum firepower. Understandably, prices are quoted on a case-by-case basis.

See all pricing details here.

Customization

Airtable is highly customizable, both in the types of data, it can store, in its ability to filter data, and even how data is viewed.

Column Types

The intuitive platform incorporates 'bases' and supports a much richer array of data types than Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. A quick overview of some of the most common column types are:

  • Text
  • Number / Currency / Percent
  • Attachments (PDF, png, jpg, CSV, etc.)
  • Checkbox (true/false)
  • Single Select (dropdown)
  • Multiple Select (dropdown)
  • Collaborator (attach another user to a record)
  • Date /Duration
  • Rating (stars)
  • Barcodes
  • Buttons
  • Formula (automatically calculated column)

Filters and Group By

With simple dropdown menus, you can easily group similar data. For example, group all orders by a particular customer or all inventory items by the supplier. You can also easily apply filters with dropdown menus and basic logic to view specific data slices. For example, consider all orders in the Due Date column within seven days or all orders priced over $1000.

Views

Finally, you can easily save your filters and groups in individual views. This feature allows you to quickly click on different perspectives to see data sliced and sectioned in different ways. For example, one image or page may contain all appointments scheduled for the upcoming week, while another view shows the number of canceled appointments for the current month.

Linked Records

One powerful feature that genuinely sets this work tool apart from Excel and Google Sheets is its ability to model relationships. Like the powerful databases powering tech giants such as Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google - Airtable can link records in one table to records in another table.

The exceptional feature allows users to model very complicated relationships in a very intuitive way. For example, you can link a record for a product to a specific supplier. You can connect an employee to a particular order and a particular client. You can pull data from the other tables over, granting access to a tremendous wealth of connected data in a single view by modeling relationships. Why have multiple Excel workbooks or sheets when they can all be easily aggregated into a single table for free?

It's great to link a single item to a single supplier, but what if your situation is a little bit more complicated? What if each product can have multiple suppliers? No problem, the platform delivers solutions and can model these complex relationships, too, so connect as many records as you need! 

Scalability

Overall, Airtable seems to perform exceptionally well at scale. There can be minor delays but are expected with 10,000 records containing 50 columns. Many other systems would be prone to freezing up and delays of 30 seconds or more at large scales.

There is an unfortunately hard limit of 50000 records in any table at a time. The limit is undoubtedly a limitation; however, after helping dozens of business owners, we have yet to see anyone come close.

Portability

Suppose you're a Microsoft Excel wizard and prefer to run your analyses and data wrangling outside Airtable, no problem. You can easily export any table or view of a CSV file. This action can also be an excellent way to pass on important bookkeeping information to your accountant without worrying about giving them access to everything stored in your database.

Integration

For us, this is a significant selling point. On top of the incredible interface, Airtable makes integration with other systems very easy. With a little bit of Python or JavaScript, data can be read, inserted, updated, or deleted automatically in this system. Need to look up the supplier email for a specific inventory item to generate an email for them? Not a problem; custom coded algorithms can quickly look up the product by name or SKU, find the linked supplier record, and extract their email address and representative's first name. That data can then easily be used to generate an email in Gmail.

Use Cases

Here are some exciting ways the DataCose team has worked with business owners to improve their workflows.

eCommerce - Inventory/Product Management

Keep track of inventory levels and critical product details such as photos, suppliers, and variants. Then, have emails automatically generate when inventory levels drop below a set threshold. Using additional external tools such as AirPower, it's even possible to sync product information to and from Shopify!

Business Coach - Email Campaign

After offering a comprehensive 40-page personality assessment to prospective clients, use very custom insights programmatically extracted from the generated data to create an 8-week targeted email marketing campaign. To avoid a flood of interest, automatically enroll five leads who have completed the report each week and progress those already registered to the next week of content.

Trucking - Driver Assignment and Invoicing

Create a custom, easy-to-use interface for assigning drivers to new transportation orders, using the calendar view to avoid double-scheduling a driver simultaneously. Assignments are sent automatically through Slack. Finally, after successful delivery, a custom invoice is automatically generated at the click of a button. But the automation doesn't end there, the invoice is not only stored inside of an Airtable Attachment column, but a templated draft email is also generated in Gmail with the invoice attached. The email already has the customer's email pulled from the database with their name, invoice number, and total amount on the invoice. All that is left is for an employee to review and press send.

Using client data entered into Airtable, automatically generate required PDFs populated with the customer's name, address, and other required information. Automatically saving copies in both your 'base' and DropBox.

Business Consulting - Scheduling Appointments/Custom Interface

The software used to schedule appointments did a great job handling various consulting calls. It also had great reminder features that the firm couldn't live without, but it did have one major drawback, it was critically slow and challenging to use. The user interface posed a severe limitation on their ability to scale and even created embarrassing moments with clients on the phone waiting several minutes to book a single appointment. Thankfully their scheduling system had a public API. By integrating Airtable with the API, they could easily link clients and times to new meetings at lightning speed and, once finished - push a button to launch it into their scheduling software.

When you are ready for custom API integrations and take your Airtable to the next level of performance, contact us at DataCose.

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