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Your Guide to Running a Salesforce Backup

When working with databases, it’s no longer a question of whether you should make a backup or not. After all, just a tiny error on the human side or a malfunction of software could ruin an enormous amount of data irreversibly. Things shouldn’t be any different with Salesforce and often the absurd amount of information stored in their ecosystem. Therefore, running a proper Salesforce backup has no doubt become a must!

There are many different ways of backing up your data as well as metadata and hundreds of different tools for doing so. What’s more, you can create a backup with several different native approaches too. 

We’ll explore different use cases and hopefully help you decide on the right one for you.

Why do a Salesforce backup?

There are many different situations where having a proper Salesforce data backup is a major advantage. People typically do a Salesforce backup to:

  • Mitigate the risk behind bulk import or update of data. Tools such as Data Loader allow you to import or update thousands of records in a matter of seconds. It’s a life-saver in many situations but can also be a major threat if you, accidentally, wipe out numerous records or amend them beyond repair. If that happens, you want to have a way to start over without any consequences.
  • Reverse a human error. We all make mistakes. Some are easy to reverse, such as accidentally deleting a contact or inserting a wrong value. Things get a lot tougher to fix when a complex workflow is changed in an unintended way or a buggy APEX script is deployed. Sometimes, the damage could be irreversible.
  • Analyze the data outside of the platform. Perhaps it’s not the most obvious one but certainly a very beneficial aspect of running backups. By exporting an extra copy of your Salesforce data, you can analyze it with the dedicated tools, a lot more powerful than what’s built into your SF dashboard. Not every backup method offers such possibilities but those that do can greatly benefit your business.

How to back up Salesforce?

The selection of methods depends very much on what it is that you wish to back up from Salesforce. Here, it’s important to distinguish between two types of data that are commonly exported out of Salesforce: data and metadata.

Data are any records you can find in Salesforce: contacts, deals, accounts, and others. This category also encompasses custom object records, uploaded files, as well as data generated within Salesforce Chatter.

Metadata, on the other hand, are the derivatives such as configuration, reports, dashboards, layouts, as well as any custom code.

To feel 100% protected, you want to look for solutions that will back up both types of data – ideally, in an automated and frequent manner.

Salesforce backup solutions

Salesforce used to have a service called Data Recovery Service. Through it, the Salesforce team would help you recover any data stored on the platform (no metadata, though). Caveat – the feature came with a hefty price tag of $10,000 per use and would take 6 to 8 weeks to fulfill a task. Even then, the team couldn’t guarantee that all lost data would be recovered.

Data Recovery Service was discontinued in July 2020, then shortly restored the following year only to be officially retired later in 2021. As the demand for such service was significant, Salesforce released a brand new service towards the end of the year called Salesforce Backup and Restore.

Salesforce Backup and Restore – the native Salesforce backup tool

Salesforce Backup and Restore is a native tool for creating backup copies of a Salesforce database, including all the data stored in the platform. As the name suggests, it can also restore select sets of data if the need arises to do so.

Among its features, there’s an audit of existing and upcoming backups, controls of who can access, handle, and restore backups as well as advanced criteria for restoring data. The Salesforce team also confirmed that users will be able to perform analytics on the backed-up data both in the tool’s interface as well as in the usual place for analytics in Salesforce.

The data backed up through this service is stored in a separate data center, albeit in the same geographical location. As such, a regional outage could, temporarily, make it difficult to access both the production data and the backed-up copies. Given Salesforce’s track record of maintaining a very high uptime, this shouldn’t cause much of an issue in the long run.

Salesforce Backup and Restore is a paid add-on with no fixed price tag. If you’re up for trying it, you’re encouraged to get in touch with your sales rep to discuss the details.

Salesforce data backup methods 

If Backup and Restore doesn’t work for you, there are a number of other methods available in-house. They may not be that comprehensive but will do the job for many of you.

Salesforce backup data export

The most straightforward thing is simply exporting the data using the built-in functionality.

In the Lightning version of the UI, you’ll find it by clicking on Data -> Data Export in the leftmost menu.

In the classic look of Salesforce, you’ll also want to click Setup in the top-right corner of the screen and then Data Management -> Data Export.

Whichever way you follow, there are two options available. You can:

  • Export all or select data manually. You can choose precisely what type of data you need (e.g. contacts, opportunities). You may also include images, documents, attachments, and others if you’d like. 
  • Schedule data export. With this feature, you can automate the data export and receive the chosen types of data by email, e.g. on the 1st Monday of a month. Same as above, you can also choose to export all of your data (but not metadata).

Whichever method you choose, you can export data from Salesforce once a month or once a week if you’re on Enterprise, Performance, or Unlimited plan.

Check out another article where we explained how to export data from Salesforce in more depth.

How to create a Salesforce backup with Data Loader

Another viable way of exporting data from Salesforce is with Data Loader. 

Ironically, we refer to it later as a potential threat because it’s capable of updating or importing large data sets at once, potentially causing a major setback. Simultaneously, it’s also invaluable at exporting mass sets of data to form a Salesforce backup.

Data Loader is available as a downloadable client. Through it, you can manually export specific data entities or all your Salesforce data at once. Note that attachments won’t be included in such exports.

Compared to the built-in export feature, there’s no limitation as to the frequency of data exports. However, contrary to the alternative method, you can’t schedule exports, you would need to perform them manually. 

There are some tricks for pulling that off with the use of the command line but we can’t vouch for their effectiveness. Instead, we’ll show you viable, no-code, or low-code alternatives in the following chapters.

Restoring a Salesforce backup

When the need arises, you’ll need to restore the backup from the imported dataset. There are several native methods for doing that, other than the aforementioned Salesforce Backup and Restore:

  • Data Import Wizard is suitable for importing up to 50,000 records of any type. In Lightning, you’ll find it in the Platform Tools section of the menu, under Integrations -> Data Import Wizard. In the Classic look, head to Setup -> Data Management -> Data Import Wizard. Follow the steps provided to prepare the import file, map the fields, and review if everything is intact and you’ll restore your Salesforce data this way.
  • Data Loader is once again a very suitable tool, particularly useful when you have more than 50,000 records to restore. With it, you can import files of up to 5 million records. Download the app and follow the built-in wizard to prepare the import file and load it into Salesforce.
  • Dataloader.io is a MuleSoft’s cloud-based product also capable of moving your Salesforce data in either direction. Its free plan allows for moving up to 10,000 records/month and up to 1,000 related objects and attachments. Upgrade to higher plans for higher capacity.

Naturally, you can also use the Salesforce API to restore the backup data. When doing so, keep Salesforce API limits in mind.

Automatic Salesforce backup

A popular Salesforce backup solution is to use third-party apps, hundreds of which were created to facilitate the process. At the time of writing, there were 182 applications in the Salesforce Appexchange capable of backing up your data. Many more are also available outside of Salesforce’s ecosystem. 

Although each does pretty much the same thing, feature-wise they can heavily vary. Some are capable of pulling both data and metadata, while others will focus solely on specific data types. Some apps can perform both a backup and restoration of the Salesforce database. 

What’s more, certain apps not only back up the data but can also store it in a database or a spreadsheet app of your choice maintaining the highest level of Salesforce data security. This way, you can kill two birds with one stone and have both a secure copy of your data and excellent material for analysis.

One such solution is Coupler.io – a handy tool for exporting data from Salesforce as well as many other apps, such as Hubspot, Jira, or QuickBooks. With it, you can export the Salesforce data of your choice into Google Sheets, MS Excel, as well as BigQuery. 

All imports happen automatically, according to the schedule you set – weekly, daily, or even every 15 minutes. We’ll show you a specific example of exporting Salesforce data with Coupler.io in the later chapter.

Why use external Salesforce backup tools?

The native backup option isn’t bad by any means – many businesses rely on it as the only backup solution, and they likely haven’t been disappointed. There are, however, several reasons why third-party backups may be preferable:

  • Performance

Whichever tool you choose, running backups or exporting data must be their core business. As such, you can be confident they’ll do their best to ensure the constant uptime and the high performance of their service. If they can’t provide it regularly, they’ll likely go out of business sooner than later.

This is not to say that Salesforce backups are not reliable. It’s just one of the hundreds of features of Salesforce, and you probably can’t expect the same speed and devotion to solving problems as you would with a dedicated service.

  • Compliance

Third-party apps may help you comply with your own policies. If data from all apps you use is backed up hourly, so should the Salesforce data. Although Salesforce seems to be offering some frequency settings in its Salesforce Backup and Restore feature, third-party apps can certainly be customized further.

The same goes for the destination of your data. If privacy laws or internal regulations require you to store Salesforce backups in a particular location – e.g., on the EU-based server or on-premises – the native method may prove insufficient.

  • Easier backup overseeing

Many solutions allow backing up data from multiple apps on top of Salesforce. This can effectively save you plenty of time and make the setup easier.

It’s also far easier to manage all backups from a single console or a few of them at most. This way, you can easily monitor if all backups are performed as expected and offer timely troubleshooting should the need arise.

As such, the fewer backup tools you use, often the better.

Examples of Salesforce data backup tools

As we’ve pointed out, there are many Salesforce data backup tools in AppExchange. Here are some of our top picks.

  • Druva. This tool backs up both data and metadata from Salesforce and offers end-to-end protection. The backups are stored in the Druva cloud hosted on AWS. The app provides various levels of customization in terms of backup frequency and data format. If any data is lost, you can restore only the specific information rather than an entire database.
  • Spanning. The app is meant for pulling all your data, including also attachments, as well as metadata. Its selling points are an intuitive, user-friendly interface and its click-based approach to performing backups on demand and restoring them.
  • CopyStorm. This tool enables automated backups even every 5 minutes. Interestingly, the backups are stored in the relational database of your choice. You can access the data anytime and verify if it’s backed up as expected. When the need arises, you can choose to restore an entire database, specific objects, or even individual records.
  • Skyvia. With this application, you can only backup Salesforce data (no metadata backup). However, it’s one of the top solutions on the market in this particular field. The data is hosted on Azure and compliant by default with all major privacy laws, including GDPR or HIPAA. Using its intuitive dashboard, you can perform complete or granular restorations of your database. Skyvia also saves snapshots of your Salesforce, allowing you to restore to a specific point in time quickly.

Salesforce metadata backup

When it comes to backing up Salesforce metadata, there are several functionalities within Salesforce that can do the job.

Salesforce allows you to maintain multiple orgs within your account – a production org where all the business operations are run and other orgs, such as staging or development. These are commonly used for testing new apps, scripts, workflows, or any other changes that could influence the way your Salesforce functions.

Using the Change Sets, you can transfer the metadata associated with your production org to either of the other orgs for backup purposes. If you were to need it later on, you can always send a return transfer and recover your metadata this way.

Prior to making any major changes to your production org, you can simply create a new sandbox or refresh an existing one. When you do, the metadata will be copied into the new org, creating a backup. You restore it with the method described above.

Finally, you can also download and run the Ant Migration Tool. This command-line utility is meant for moving data between a local directory and your orgs, so it is also suitable for preserving the metadata of your Salesforce account.

Salesforce scheduled backup

The native method for backing up data can only be executed once a week or a month, depending on the plan you’re on. Such backup is rather useless when your entire company works with the tool on a daily basis. Even if you can restore the lost data, you’ll likely lose at least a few days of progress, possibly even weeks’ worth of records, contacts, and other invaluable resources. The rule is simple – the more frequently you run a Salesforce scheduled backup, the less data is at risk of being lost.

The aforementioned Salesforce Backup and Restore is capable of running backups even every 15 minutes, although the actual frequency depends on the size of the backup. For large databases, such a frequent backup may not be possible.

An alternative approach can be exporting the data with Coupler.io into a spreadsheet (Google Sheets or Excel) or a database (Google BigQuery). Rather than export an entire database, you pull the select types of data – hundreds of data entities are available. It’s then brought automatically into a destination of your choice on a schedule you choose.

If the need arises, you can always restore the data using the methods we described in the Restoring a Salesforce backup chapter. In the meantime, you can analyze the data directly in the destination app or move it further into, e.g. business intelligence tools such as Tableau or Power Bi.

How to create a Salesforce backup with Coupler.io?

We’ll now show you step by step how to set up Coupler.io for a Salesforce backup. First things first, create a Coupler.io account if you don’t have one yet. Otherwise, log in with your Google or Microsoft account.

  • On the home screen, click the Add new importer button and name your importer. Then, pick Salesforce from the list of Applications.
  • Press the Connect button and log in with your Salesforce account. Authorize Coupler.io to export the data on your behalf and then click Continue.
  • Next, decide on the specific data entity you want to export from Salesforce. If you want to fetch multiple types of data, it will be as simple as duplicating an importer and amending a few details later on. For instance, we’ll go with Contacts.
  • As the final step, you can (optionally) add some filtering criteria to, for example, pull only the contacts with a certain status and/or updated between specific dates. Follow our Salesforce integration documentation for more examples. Click Continue.
  • Now it’s time to set up a destination. Pick either from the available list. We’ll go with Coupler.io’s Salesforce to Google Sheets integration and pick Google Sheets.
  • Same as was the case before, click to Connect an account. Log in, authorize Coupler.io to use your account, and then press Continue.
  • Specify where the data should be imported to. Rather than select a sheet or table, you can also type in a new name and Coupler.io will create a new space for you.
  • At this point, you can click Save and Run to launch the data import. In most cases, though, it’s worth completing one final step to add a schedule for data refresh. Click Continue several times to jump through several optional settings and finally into the Schedule section.

Salesforce daily backup

Toggle Automatic data refresh ON. 

In this section, you can decide when precisely your importer should run. For a Salesforce daily backup, it makes sense to set the Interval to Every Day. Below, you can decide whether an importer should run every day, or perhaps you would like it to pull data on weekdays.

Decide also on the best time for the data refresh and adjust the time zone if needed.

Afterwards, press the Save and Run button.

Salesforce weekly backup

If you want to schedule a Salesforce weekly backup, you need to try a different approach. There’s no Every week position in the Interval menu. You can, however, incorporate a workaround.

Keep the Interval as Every Day. Deselect all weekdays but one and choose a suitable time. For example, we want to have our weekly backup to be pulled every Monday at 7 am so we’ll go with something like this:

Once you’ve finished the setup, click Save and Run. Wait for a short while until the import has finished and then click the View Results button in the top-right corner of the screen. You’ll then be taken straight to the freshly imported data.

If you’re happy with your importer and would like to pull more data, jump to the list of importers, press the three-dots to the right of your importer, and then Copy.

In the wizard, change the data entity to another one. Also amend the destination sheet/table so that the previously imported data is not overridden and run the importer. Repeat as many times as you need.

Salesforce data backup best practices

The most basic principle that we can recommend to everyone is doing regular backups of your Salesforce data. You want to schedule a regular time when all essential data will be backed up and stick to it.

What’s more, prior to deploying any major changes to your data, you want to perform an on-demand backup. These situations are the most prone to errors so a very fresh copy of your data in case things go south will be very appreciated.

Another aspect to look at is the frequency of backing up the data. The native solutions allow for scheduling a data export on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on your Salesforce plan. In most cases, this won’t be enough. 

When choosing a Salesforce backup solution, you want to look for tools that perform at least a daily backup. Ideally, you want to back up the key data hourly or even every 15 minutes. However, doing so will likely incur higher costs due to the amount of data exported with each backup. 

Finally, it’s not said anywhere that you should have one solution for backing up both data and metadata. The native methods for backing up metadata that we described in the Salesforce metadata backup chapter will work just fine for most Salesforce users. For data, you can use any of the solutions we described throughout this article.

Finding the right Salesforce data backup tool

To say that there are just a few ways to back up Salesforce would be an understatement. There are hundreds of tools capable of running backups as well as a number of native solutions ready to do the job. Give at least a few of them a try before you commit to one.

There are also several questions that may help you narrow down the search:

  • Do you need to back up specific data or need a way to back up the entire Salesforce database?
  • How often do you need the backups to run? Are additional runs worth the extra investment?
  • How often do you perform Salesforce deployments? The more often you do, the higher the risk of losing data in the process and the greater the need for a more comprehensive tool.
  • What will the restoration process look like in case any data is lost?
  • Finally, what’s the budget?

We hope these will help you choose the right solution for your needs. Thank you for reading.

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