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6 Reasons Spreadsheets Are a Risky Choice for Key Logs — And What to Use Instead

6 Reasons Spreadsheets Are a Risky Choice for Key Logs — And What to Use Instead

As someone responsible for key management in your organization, you understand the importance of maintaining up-to-date logs. Since you likely already have access to Excel or Google Sheets, spreadsheets might seem like a straightforward, cost-effective solution for managing key control data. But this method isn’t as effective as it might appear.

The Pitfalls of Using Spreadsheets for Key Control

Despite spreadsheets’ widespread use, there are several reasons they don’t make ideal key logs:

1. Security Gaps

Anyone with access to the key control spreadsheet can potentially copy, delete, or manipulate data. Even if you password protect and encrypt the file, employees can bypass these measures if they share the password with unauthorized people. Also, spreadsheets only address the recordkeeping aspect of key control. You’ll still need a secure way to store keys.

2. Inaccurate Data

Manually entering information into spreadsheets invites mistakes. It’s easy for someone to make a typo, double enter data, or enter inaccurate information. A single mistake can cause you to lose track of a key, jeopardizing security.

3. Limited Functionality

Spreadsheets don’t provide any key control functionality beyond maintaining key logs. For example, they can’t offer in-depth user management or automatically send managers customizable key control reports. If you manage different types of keys, have users with different access requirements, or need to provide stakeholders with key control reports, spreadsheets aren’t the answer.

4. Wasted Time

Having staff manually update and cross-reference data in spreadsheets wastes valuable time. Hours spent on tedious data entry could be better invested in more productive tasks that contribute to your core operations.

5. Complicated Key Audits

When you store and track keys separately, someone must manually verify that the data on the spreadsheet matches the keys in inventory. This process can take days, weeks, or months. And any discrepancies can cause compliance challenges.

6. Scalability Challenges

As your organization grows and evolves, so do the number of keys, users, locations, and assets you need to track. A spreadsheet will quickly become difficult to manage and keep up to date. In addition, different departments might have different ways of managing data, making comprehensive reporting inconsistent and difficult.

KeyTrak Spreadsheet Key Control Comparison Infographic


What to Use Instead: Electronic Key Control

We've established that spreadsheets aren't ideal for effective key management. Instead, invest in an electronic key control system. This technology provides a range of benefits spreadsheets can’t, including:

Enhanced Security

Unlike spreadsheets, key control systems create a verifiable audit trail by automatically authenticating authorized users. It can even log every user’s actions on the system to help detect when someone might be altering data. In addition, these systems secure keys in electronic drawers or panels, so you don’t have separate solutions for key tracking and storage.

Automatic Audit Trail

Rather than having users manually enter every transaction, key control systems automatically record when keys are checked out or returned. This feature not only eliminates human error but holds employees accountable for using keys appropriately.

Advanced Software Capabilities

Key control systems can restrict who has access to specific keys and when. It can also send managers security alerts or automatic reports.

Streamlined Operations

User-friendly interfaces and automated features free up valuable staff time previously spent managing spreadsheets. Plus, you’ll be able to run comprehensive reports for various areas of your operations or for specific types of assets.

Faster, More Accurate Key Audits

With an electronic key control system, you no longer have to manually cross-reference spreadsheet logs against your key inventory. When you need to audit your keys, system reports automatically show the current user and status of every key. These records ensure you have an accurate view of your key control process for compliance purposes.


As your business grows, your key management needs to evolve as well. Electronic systems adapt easily, accommodating additional keys and users.

Related Reading 

Transitioning to an electronic key management system offers a secure, automated, and scalable solution for your organization. Don't compromise on security and efficiency by relying on spreadsheets for key logs.

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