PLM Online Data Sharing: From Spreadsheets to Databases?

PLM Online Data Sharing: From Spreadsheets to Databases?

What is the most popular PDM/PLM system in the world? My bet it is probably MS Excel. The flexibility and ease of availability, made Excel so popular between engineers. Managers probably don’t care… in the beginning. Later, companies started to hire CExO (Chief Excel Officers) to manage the complexity of Excel files. I’ve been reading Dropbox for File Sharing by Robert Green of Cadalyst. It made me think if a situation similar to Excel will happen with PDM/PLM on the cloud. I can see few CAD/PLM vendors are thinking “cloudy”. However, at the same time, the majority is not thinking about how to innovate on the cloud and still discussing a potential cloud adoption.

So, what cloud products will become the future Excel on the cloud. Rober Green is talking about Dropbox and sharing of CAD files. However, I want to raise a different point. CAD files can stay in the company. What if we will be able to share our fancy Excel spreadsheets. It sounds like a good alternative to our old friend MS Excel? We can add CAD files too. Dropbox is a good service. However,  are there any visible alternatives? I made a small research and want to present you few solutions, I found interesting.


This service is still completely free. It creates a very interesting “spreadsheet oriented” environment. You can think about multiple scenarios and implementations you can make. Services such as API is supported as well.

Google Docs

I don’t need to talk much about these services. This service is “really free” and “really unlimited”. You, of course, limited by your 2GB quota. At the same time, there is a nice feature that allows you to provide an access to the spreadsheet (view only or read/write).

Microsoft Live (Office 365)

Office Live is a similar environment as Google Docs, but made by Microsoft. It is free, but limited to 50MB. You can access spreadsheet for editing. However, if you have no account, you will be in a read-only mode.


Longjump is a full-fledged cloud database service. You can import spreadsheet by passing via CSV file. The service contains database, reports, pivots, etc .. However, it is not free, and you’re supposed to pay $500 depends on the plan. This is something that can remind you a bit your favorite PLM environment.

Intuit Quickbase

This one is the most expensive and the most polished solution I found. Your data will be imported and converted to a real database. Data cannot be converted from Excel and requires to pass via CSV format. On another side, Intuit has a very good reputation of trusted online service provider. You will be paying around $300/user/mo and will be limited to 1GB of data for an initial plan.

What is my conclusion? Online data business is growing faster than you probably expected. Very soon, engineers will have lots of opportunities to dump local excel files and move to something smarter. Will PLM providers catch them on this way and propose an alternative solution? A good question. The number of “PLM Excels” is huge. To catch some of them, can be a valuable business. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg


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