Airtable - Spreadsheets of the Future
Airtable is a powerful cloud-based system for smart data storage in the cloud. Despite its power, it's intuitive design makes it easy to start using quickly. In this article, we'll explore the pros and cons, basic to advanced features, and some ways our clients have leveraged the power of Airtable.
Accessibility & 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 their own iOS and Android apps. Whether your team operates from the same office or oceans apart, collaboration has never been easier.
Airtable 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
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
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
They also often custom enterprise packages for businesses looking for maximum firepower. Prices are quoted on a case-by-case basis. See all pricing details here.
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.
Airtable supports a much richer array of data types compared to Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. A quick overview of some of the most common column types are:
- Number / Currency / Percent
- Attachments (pdf, png, jpg, csv, etc.)
- Checkbox (true/false)
- Single Select (drop down)
- Multiple Select (drop down)
- Collaborator (attach another user to a record)
- Date /Duration
- Rating (stars)
- Formula (automatically calculated column)
Filters and Group By
With simple drop down menus, you can easily group similar data together. For example, group all orders by a particular customer or all inventory items by supplier. You can also easily apply filters with drop down menus and basic logic to view specific slices of data. For example, view all orders with the Due Date column within the next 7 days or all orders with a total price over 1000.
Finally, you can easily save your filters and groups in their own views. This allows you to quickly click on different views to see the data sliced and sectioned in different ways. One view may contain all appointments scheduled for the upcoming week while another view shows the number of canceled appointments for the current month.
One powerful feature that really sets Airtable apart from Excel and Google Sheets is its ability to model relationships. Just like the powerful databases powering tech giants such as Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google, Airtable can link records in one table to records in another.
This 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 link an employee to a specific order and that order to a specific client. By modeling these relationships, you can pull data from the other tables over, granting access to a tremendous wealth of connected data in a single view. Why have multiple Excel workbooks or sheets when it can all be easily aggregated into a single table in Airtable?
It's great being able 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, Airtable can model these complicated relationships too and connect as many records as you need!
Overall Airtable seems to perform quite well at scale. There are sometimes minor delays, but after more than 10,000 records with 50 columns each, this is to be expected. At such a large scale, many other systems would be prone to freezing up and delays of 30 seconds or more.
There is an unfortunately hard limit of 50000 records in any table at a time. This is certainly a limitation; however, after helping dozens of business owners, we have yet to see anyone come close.
If you're a Microsoft Excel wizard and prefer to run your analyses and data wrangling outside of Airtable, no problem. You can easily export any Table or View as a csv file. This can also be a good way to pass on important bookkeeping information to your accountant without worrying about giving them access to everything stored in your Airtable.
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, supplier, and variants. Have emails generate automatically 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 reports to create an 8-week targeted email marketing campaign. To avoid a flood of interest, automatically enroll five leads who have completed the report in the campaign each week and progress those already enrolled 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 at the same time. Daily driving assignments sent automatically through Slack. Finally, after a successful delivery, a custom invoice is automatically generated at the click of an Airtable 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 Airtable as well as their name, invoice number, and total amount on the invoice. All that is left is for an employee to review and press send.
Law Office - Generate Legal PDFs
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 Airtable and in DropBox.
Business Consulting - Scheduling Appointments/Custom Interface
The software used to schedule appointments did a great job of handling the wide variety of different consulting calls. It also had great reminder features that the firm couldn't live without but it did have one major drawback, it was terribly slow and difficult to use. This posed a serious limitation on their ability to scale and even created embarrassing moments with clients on the phone waiting several minutes just to book an appointment. Thankfully their scheduling system had a public API and by integrating Airtable with the API, they were able to easily link clients and times to new appointments at lightning speed in Airtable and once finished, simply push a button to launch it into their scheduling software.