Airtable CSV Export
Protect Your Airtable Data With CSV File Exports
Securing your critical business data is an important process that is often overlooked. For many cloud-based services such as Airtable, the most common way to ensure your data is protected is to export the data in CSV files.
This article will give you some information about CSV files, their historical context, and why they are often the go-to choice for data backups and exports. You will also learn how to utilize CSV files to export and back up your Airtable data, along with some tips about good practices to secure your company's data.
- What is a CSV File?
- Why Use CSV Files for Data Backup and Export?
- Backing Up Your Data With CSV Files
- Good Practices When Using CSV Files for Data Backup and Export
What is a CSV File?
CSV, or Comma-Separated Values, is a common file format that is well-suited for easy export, storage, and data transfer. You'll usually see CSV files with the standard .csv file extension, which is easily recognized by tools such as Airtable, Microsoft Excel, and Google Sheets.
The CSV file format is very adaptable, so it can be used to structure and organize a wide variety of information sets in a simple and portable format. This versatility is useful for small to medium businesses, marketers, and indie hackers that may work with many data sources that do not have highly structured data schemes.
Airtable, like many cloud-based SaaS software tools, has chosen CSV as the file format that is created when you export your table data.
Why Use CSV Files for Data Backup and Export?
CSV files are not fancy, but they stand out as a reliable and efficient option when it comes to data backup or export.
One of the best characteristics of CSV files is that they are very portable between systems. CSV files can be opened and edited in many tools–including Airtable and Microsoft Excel–which makes it a reliable file format for data sharing between teams and organizations.
Because CSV files do not rely on proprietary file formats or versions (such as the many variations of Excel's .xlsx file format) that require specialized software, it's a portable format with high compatibility. And creation of a CSV file doesn't require the planning and technical expertise that more structured file formats such as JSON or XML may require.
For these reasons, CSV files are often used to facilitate the easy download of data from cloud-based tools so that organizations can export their own copies of their data or migrate to a new tool or database.
Backing Up Your Data with CSV Files
A good data recovery plan centers around exporting your data from the source, which could be a cloud service like Airtable or Google Sheets or Webflow, to a secure destination where it can be accessed in case of an emergency. Once the data is secured, the recovery plan also provides for regular verification of the data quality and a plan to import data into critical business systems.
Most cloud SaaS tools offer an option to import and export your data, but the capabilities can be somewhat limited. Due to the variety of use cases and data structures that can be created within many software tools, vendors often provide a basic CSV export of the raw data without the structure and functionality you've built within the tool.
When creating a data recovery plan, there are a few steps you'll want to take to ensure your data is secure and can be used in the case of an outage or accidental data deletion.
Step 1: Prepare Your Data
Data preparation is an essential preliminary step prior to beginning a recurring export process. Before setting up recurring backups, you'll want to inspect and clean the data to eliminate any extraneous information.
A few extra rows or columns of data may not seem significant within Airtable, but it adds up when you do multiple recurring backups. To minimize the amount of storage capacity needed to warehouse your backups, it's good practice to keep your tables clean.
Emergency recovery also benefits from smaller file sizes. When every minute counts, you'll be happy that you trimmed your data to a reasonable size.
With that said, you'll want to ensure you have a copy of all of your critical business data, so preparation should be done within reason. There's no need to remove important data that you'll need in case of an emergency.
Step 2: Export Your Data from the Source
Most cloud-based software tools offer easy options for administrative users of the tool to export data. You'll often find this option within your dashboards or account settings.
As an example, Airtable allows you to manually export the data from each table to a CSV file for external backup. Simply navigate to the view menu, select "Download CSV," and the data from the current table will be converted into a CSV file for you to download.
One limitation of the Airtable CSV export is that the tool does not provide a standard way to export all of the tables in a complex, inter-connected base at once. It can be very time consuming to export every table manually and, at the moment, Airtable does not offer an option to back up tables on a schedule.
Step 3: Establish a Secure Storage Location for Your CSV Files
Once you have your Airtable backups, you'll want to establish a secure storage method for your CSV files. This could be a local storage solution or a cloud-based document repository.
CSV files can be stored within your organization's standard document systems, whether that is Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, AWS S3 buckets, or other file repositories.
Step 4: Evaluate and Document Any Missing Functionality
While this post has extolled the virtues of CSV files for their compatibility and portability, it is important to keep in mind that the CSV files provided by Airtable (and other vendors) are often simple dumps of the raw data. Unfortunately, simply importing data from a CSV backup will not be enough to get your organization up and running if there is a system outage or a table is accidentally deleted.
It's a good idea to import one of your backup files into a new Base and compare with the original. You'll likely find that functionality such as formulas, automations, links, and more are missing.
When you find missing capabilities or functionality in your import, it's a good idea to document any missing meta information in a document (with screenshots) that you store with your backups.
Step 5: Document Recovery Steps
Create a simple, yet comprehensive, disaster recovery plan. This is a key component of safeguarding your business and ensuring your organization is able to operate after an emergency.
Be sure that you write clear documentation that everyone in your team can easily understand and use to execute the recovery steps. This is especially important if team members might be called into action to help support the business in other ways.
Remember, the right preparation can significantly limit disruptions and an emergency is not the right time to learn how to use an unfamiliar tool. You'll thank yourself in the future if you spend the time to document your process today.
Good Practices When Using CSV Files for Data Backup and Export
Using CSV files for data backup and export is a straightforward process, but it becomes more effective when you follow the simple best practice standards.
When creating your data guidelines, consider these tips:
- Regularly back up your data. At minimum, take a snapshot of your data on the first of every month. You may also want to add daily, monthly, quarterly, or annual backups depending on the importance of the data to your business, the number of people that rely on the data, and the way your teams use snapshots for data analysis. Regular backups provide an additional layer of security for your business data and becomes very helpful in case of data loss or corruption.
- Name the CSV files consistently. By choosing a standard naming convention, you'll be able to quickly identify the source of the data and the date the backup was created. You may want to use a standard naming convention such as source-description-date (e.g. "airtable-projecttracker-20231024.csv") for simple sorting and searching.
- Review your recovery steps. While it would be nice if a simple import of your most recent backup file was enough to recover from an emergency, it's not the reality. It's a good idea to regularly review the process for recovery, where the responsibility lies in the case of an outage, and any manual steps that may be recovered to restore full functionality. You may even want to conduct a regular exercise with team members to ensure that everyone knows the process and that nothing has changed.
- Maintain the security and privacy of your CSV files. By storing your data in a secure location that has access controls in place, you'll ensure that your business data is protected. Governance standards will vary for every organization, but remember that you are likely storing customer information in these CSV files so it is important to handle the data with the proper care.
By regularly backing up your business data that you create in cloud software tools, you can add an extra layer of protection for your business data. Most software vendors use CSV files to create an uncomplicated and efficient process that allows for data portability of your data. By following the steps outlined in this post and establishing a recurring data backup plan, you will have a good start toward guaranteeing the safety and accessibility of your business data.