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Many businesses today run into a similar, ironic, problem: their organizations aren’t at all organized. Of the long list of things that can quickly derail a business’s focus, poor organization is an absolute juggernaut. Poor organization leads to poor communication and sporadic thinking, which turns into lower motivation and, ultimately, lower productivity. It’s easy to see how poor organization quickly translates into business failure. Airtable aims to resolve this issue.
Putting the “Organize” in “Organization”
Luckily, Airtable offers a solution. Organization is the name of the game for Airtable. Airtable touts themselves as being able to “organize anything, with anyone, from anywhere.” That’s not only a bold statement, but a broad one as well. The words “anything,” “anyone,” and “anywhere” implies a sort of omnipotence of their product. These words also address not only businesses, but any sort of organization and even individual as target users. This article looks into just how Airtable can organize your business, your organization, and your life. Let’s take a look.
What is Airtable?
Since you’ve found this article, you’re likely wondering “What is Airtable?”. Airtable is a cloud collaboration tool founded in 2012. It fuzes the features of a database and the format of a spreadsheet in a way that lets users always know what’s going on. Airtable organizes through six components:
We’ll dive into each of these and see how they come together to create a great organization tool. The end goal is that you have an understanding of how to use Airbase before you’ve even launched the software.
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Anyway ... sorry for the interruption! Let's resume the rest of the article.
An Airtable Base contains all of the information you need for a project or collection. You’ll see that your workspace is made up of a number of different, unrelated Bases. Each Base should be unique, focus on one key area, and contain all of the information your organization has regarding that key area.
These Bases are like a spreadsheet, and can contain any number of Tables. However, Bases set themselves apart in the fact that they aren’t simply two-dimensional. A Base’s Table can be a calendar or a Kanban board. This makes Bases far more flexible than a normal spreadsheet. Take a look at how Bases are different from normal spreadsheets.
Airtable provides a number of Base templates that help users recreate common Bases.
Tables are the building blocks of Bases. Each Base includes any number of Tables. Tables are like worksheets in a spreadsheet. Each Table should hold information concerning one item. For example, a social media marketing Base could have a Table for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. These three social media platforms are relevant to the social media marketing Base, but each is unique from any other social media platform Table.
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Anyway ... we'll continue from where we left off above.
Views are the different ways the data in your Table are presented. For example, if your Table has a number of tasks with deadlines and production process statuses, you can view these tasks in either calendar or Kanban form. The calendar View helps you visualize the deadline of each task, while the Kanban will help you visualize the status of each task. Take a look at how we present the same set of data in a number of ways.
Fields are Airtable’s equivalent to columns in a spreadsheet. Each Field communicates the same kind of data across a number of rows. Unlike traditional spreadsheet cells, Fields have a number of different types. These types include file attachments, checkboxes, dropdowns, and more.
The above example has a Table of articles being made by a content creating organization. The Fields show important features of each article. We see that each article’s headline, section, sub-heading, production status, header image, author, and deadline are all communicated as Fields.
Records are the second part of an Airbase table. If Fields represent columns in a traditional spreadsheet, Records represent the rows. Each Record is a unique iteration of data defined by the table’s rows.
Using the same example seen when discussing Fields, we see that each unique article is a Record. Each article, or Record, has a number of characteristics communicated by the table’s Fields. Fields and Records then come together to help us visualize each article we are dealing with.
A Workspace is a collection of related Bases. While each Base is focused on a unique area, a number of Bases can fall into similar categories. Workspaces are the way Airtable categorizes and consolidates Bases.
This is what an Airtable Workspace looks like. You’ll notice that while product planning, product launch, user studies, and sales CRM are all unique Bases, they all fall into the overarching Marketing category. For this reason, these bases are all consolidated in the “Marketing” Workspace.
In order to answer the “What is Airtable” question, we have to take a look at Airtable’s pricing. Luckily, Airtable is very clear with its pricing.
Unlike many similar cloud collaboration software, Airtable has a Free pricing plan. This strengthens the idea that Airtable doesn’t necessarily have to organize a business team, though that is the company’s target audience. In addition to the Free plan, Airtable has 3 paid plans. These plans are Plus, Pro, and Enterprise.
Each plan varies in both the usage scale and the features provided. Airtable aspects that have limited usage include Records per Base, attachment space per Base, and revision and snapshot history (backing-up/restoring Bases). Airtable categorizes features into “essential features”, “advanced features”, “support features”, and “admin features”.
Let’s take a look at how each plan stacks up.
Naturally, Airtable’s Free plan is also their most limited. While all Airtable plans allow for unlimited Bases, Free users can only have 1,200 Records per Base.
The attachment space for users (total size of files like Word documents, images, etc.) is also limited to 2GB. This can quickly become an issue, especially for visually-oriented teams that will be incorporating a lot of images into their Tables.
Free users will only have access to snapshot and revision history up to two weeks in the past. As somebody who has dealt with databases, I can vouch for the value of being able to restore Bases to previous states. The last thing you want is to make a mistake and have weeks or months worth of work now inaccessible. Still, so long as you restore a Base immediately after some mistake is made, this two-week frame shouldn’t be an issue for Free users.
Free users don’t have access to Airtable’s advanced features. These features include:
- Blocks (plugins that really bring your Base’s data to life).
- Color and styling options.
- Advanced calendar features.
- The ability to replace Airtable branding with custom branding.
- Personal views.
- Restricting shared views to password or email.
- Early access to new Airtable features.
Airtable limits Free plan customer support to email support and access to their self-serve knowledge base. Additionally, Pro and Enterprise users’ tickets have priority over those of Free users. Free plan users also receive no onboarding and training from Airtable staff, a luxury reserved for Enterprise users.
Free plan summary:
- Not good for teams incorporating lots of pictures.
- Little to no UI customization.
- Limiting customer support.
Feature-wise, the Plus plan is identical to the Free plan. Any feature you get in the Plus plan is available in the Free plan. The way Plus differentiates is through usage limits. Take a look at how the upgrade effects usage limits:
- 1,200 Records/Base → 5,000 Records/Base.
- 2GB attachment space/Base → 5GB attachment space/Base.
- 2 week revision and snapshot history → 6 month revision and snapshot history.
These differences may seem negligible, but there are some things to consider. The Plus plan can be beneficial to specific teams. Teams that incorporate a lot of images into their bases may benefit as the Plus plan provides more than twice as much attachment space/Base. This means you can attach more higher quality pictures to your Records.
Another thing to consider is the revision and snapshot history. I mentioned that one mistake can ruin a database, and if you aren’t backing data up, this can be one of the worst feelings in the world. If the 6 months of added insurance means a lot to your team, the upgrade may be worth it.
Plus plan summary:
- $10/user per month (billed annually).
- No additional features to the Free plan.
- Larger attachment space and Records/Base limits.
- More insurance on restoring Bases.
The Pro plan is where things get really awesome. This is the first time we see features added in addition to what the Free plan offers. While the Free and Plus plans offer none of the advanced Airtable features, the Pro plan offers all of them. This means Pro users get access to blocks, brand personalization, advanced calendar features, early access to new features, and more.
Following the trend seen with the Plus plan, Airtable’s Pro plan also comes with an increase in usage limits. Here’s how the plan’s limits compare to the Plus plan.
- 5,000 Records/Base → 50,000 Records/Base.
- 5GB attachment space/Base → 20GB attachment space/Base.
- 6 month revision and snapshot history → 1 year revision and snapshot history.
In addition to advanced features and higher usage limits, the Pro plan comes with priority customer support. Pro plan users will have their support issues addressed with priority over Free or Plus users. This is great if you hate waiting to have issues addressed, but you have to ask if this, in addition to the other improvements, is worth the price increase.
Pro plan summary:
- $20/user per month (billed annually).
- Inclusion of advanced features.
- Priority support response above Free and Plus users.
Most SAAS tools have some sort of enterprise plan geared for larger, usually multinational, corporations. These plans usually don’t have an associated price tag as they are more catered to the customer’s unique needs. Airtable is no different, as they offer an Enterprise plan that requires calling to get a price quote.
If your team is able to get your hands on an Enterprise plan, it can be an absolute game changer. Not only are more features added, but the usage limit is crazy. The number of Records/Base is unclear, but the attachment space/Base increases from 20GB to 1,000GB (1 Terabyte). This will likely meet your teams needs, no matter how large the Base.
The Enterprise plan has the same advanced features that come in the Pro plan, but there are some nice additional features. There are additional security and admin features that the Enterprise plan offers that may be important to or required by large companies. You can also create a federated company account and have access to an unlimited number of workspaces. This essentially allows an entire organization, not just a team, to use Airtable.
The level of support is also significantly better in the Enterprise plan. Each Enterprise team receives their own success manager and individual training sessions. These added features ensure everybody knows how to use Airtable.
Enterprise plan summary:
- Must contact sales for a quote.
- Maxes out Base usage limits.
- Receive improved security and admin features.
- Tailored support, onboarding, and training.
So what is Airtable? Airtable is one of the best tools out there for organizing anything capable of being organized. It links databases and spreadsheets in a way that helps users visualize business data in a unique and valuable way. I hope you enjoyed and learned a lot from this read. Feel free to reach out to us with any project management questions!