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Hugh Jorgan asks:  I can create tabular data blocks inside my AutoCAD drawings using TABLE entities. When is it best to store data that was as opposed to linking it from an Excel spreadsheet?

Dave says: That’s a great question, Hugh. And a great name by the way. The answer is: it depends.

In general, the two questions to address when it comes to where data should be stored are these:

1. Who pays the best bribe money, and
2. What’s the least I can spend.

Just kidding, of course.  The actual questions should be…

1. Who or what will be the predominant “user”, and
2. What repositories are best suited

The first relates to whether the majority of access requests (inserts, deletes, updates, or reads) will be from one place or another.  The second relates to the technology or framework in which it will be stored.

This quickly becomes a Rubik’s cube of Rubik’s cubes. Take these scenarios as examples:

If the primary “user” of the data will be other entities within the drawing, or application-layer programs which will interact with the data and perform actions upon entities within the same drawing, then store the data inside the drawing.

If the data will be used by application-layer programs which will interact with multiple drawings, store the data in the drawings, or in an external medium which is tuned for easiest use by the programs.

If the primary “user” will be programs outside of the drawing, then store it outside the drawing.

If the data is structured in a particular format, prioritize the candidate storage mediums by those which are best tuned to working with that format. In this example, it might be a spreadsheet, XML document, database or a proprietary container (e.g. Microsoft Office document)

If the data will be evenly accessed by numerous consumers, and each uses a unique internal format or structure, or its own unique framework for interacting with the data, choose a storage medium which is tuned for shared access and agnostic i/o. In this example it might be a relational database.

Clear as mud? Trust me, if you close your eyes while reading this it will make perfect sense.

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