Electronic-Database-Management-System- vs-Microsoft-AccessThere is no way you can conduct an effective environmental site investigation without well-organized data that’s readily available. Anything less and you face frustrating delays and potentially costly mistakes caused by your system’s inherent inefficiencies.

Unless you’ve already adopted an environmental database management system, you’re probably using a collection of programs, trying to coordinate them as best you can. Many organizations are still using something like Microsoft Access to store and sort their data.

The fact is, an environmental database management system outperforms any other type of software. That’s because it has been deliberately created for those working in the environmental health field. It’s a single-source, comprehensive program that supports every aspect of data gathering, storage and retrieval, query-building and analysis.

You can’t get organized using software designed for the common denominator. 

Access has come a long way over the years. But in an effort to make the software more widely useful, Microsoft has made it truly a product for the masses. Unfortunately, the kind of complex scientific work typical of environmental investigations is anything but average. And you still need Excel or other applications to accomplish your work.

Engineers, geologists, hydrogeologists and chemists working on your investigation have to review and analyze enormous amounts of data. An environmental database management system enables you to focus on science and thought-based activities, rather than spending inordinate time on unskilled tasks such as data entry and simple arithmetic.

An EDMS organizes your work by:

  • Storing unlimited volumes of data to build a permanent reference library that includes legacy information from previous projects as well as newly-incoming data collected from labs, field instruments, documents and field work.
  • Capturing data in real-time from any source in any format.
  • Housing everything in one easily-accessible central database.
  • Automatically converting data so it’s ready to use when you need it. And when it comes time to evaluate alternative cleanup solutions, an EDMS also assists with “higher” math, providing immediate answers to infinite custom queries and performing calculations to help you analyze cost comparisons.

Better organization means better collaboration.

In addition to the scientists on your team, property owners, regulators, attorneys and others working with you need access to project information, too. One of the primary benefits of an environmental database management system is that your entire team – separately or together – can retrieve and use data simultaneously. Any time, from anywhere.

While Access has always been a multi-user program, industry experts say Microsoft’s assertions about the number of concurrent users are radically overstated. And performance degrades with too many users.

Even more on point, an EDMS interfaces easily with GIS and other visualization applications. You can quickly create graphics that depict your site in 2D, 3D, GIS, contouring, etc. to show surface and subsurface features and plume detail including detailed chemical analysis for each sampling location.

Access can only interface with other Microsoft products or apps that work in a Windows environment. It’s not compatible with web-based platforms or browsers. And although it comes with plug-and-play templates, customizing them to fit your actual needs can be daunting unless you’re knowledgeable about relationship database design and coding. Who on your team has time or the inclination to take on a second career in this field?

Access can trip you up in other ways, too. Unless your colleagues all have the same Windows operating system, data can become corrupted when uploaded. Sharing can require data conversion if Access versions are different. Table editing is even slower and more cumbersome than using Excel. And remote access can be slow, too.

With an environmental database management system, you’re completely organized. Everyone on your team has information at their fingertips and it’s easy to work together. An EDMS enables you to get right to the meat of each investigation, dramatically collapsing the amount of time needed to complete your work while helping you produce better-than-ever results.

Photo Credit: Jlodder