Backing Up Data in Salesforce and Other Cloud Apps

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Salesforce (as in Salesforce.com) is a strong contender for the title of ‘King of SaaS’. Its popularity has mushroomed to make it the largest on-demand cloud-based CRM company in the world. Its revenue is now well over the billion dollar mark. Many enterprises use Salesforce for low-cost, enterprise quality customer relationship management – anything from following up sales leads and making revenue forecasts to tracking customer contacts, concerns and problem resolution. That means that all those enterprises also trust Salesforce with their valuable, confidential data. But how do you safeguard and back up data in a cloud app like Salesforce that is constantly being modified and updated by your own employees?

Is It Really a Problem?

As a trustworthy and reliable cloud service provider, Salesforce.com pays attention to data integrity and confidentiality on behalf of its clients. Other SaaS vendors also take data security seriously. They can use their distributed cloud storage and replication facilities to make sure all the data remain safe and uncompromised, at least from their side. However, that still leaves customers exposed to other risks. Dangers include human error, internal misconduct and account hijacking by phishing for customers’ account IDs and passwords.

Digging Out Your Buried Treasure

It’s in there somewhere – but where? As a business using Salesforce.com, you have access to your area in the cloud application, which is where you input and manage your Salesforce data. However, you have no access to accompanying databases, application stacks or computing platforms. Salesforce.com offers SaaS level services for customers. Allowing an individual customer to access at IaaS or PaaS level the platform that also supported hundreds of other customers would be a breach of security in itself. So you need a solution adapted to the situation to let you extract what is truly and exclusively yours – your own customer data.

Your Options

The following options are for Salesforce.com in particular. But if you’re using other cloud applications for business (including social networks), you may find similar possibilities.

  • Use the Weekly Data Export function in Salesforce. Depending on which version of Salesforce you use, you can request a weekly export of your data on a free or paying basis. You then receive your data in CSV file format.
  • Write or use a script that accesses the API available in Salesforce to extract your data.
  • Use a data extraction/backup application from AppExchange, which is the business app store from Salesforce.

If you don’t use any of these solutions or if your data backup fails when you need it, Salesforce offers a manual data recovery solution that it calls a “last resort process”. It is an expensive option. Salesforce.com recommends first exhausting other possibilities first such as restoring from the Salesforce recycle bin, recovering from a CSV file (if you can) or accessing the API to recover deleted records.

The Moral of This Story

As with all applications, put a process in place to regularly back up your data and test your backups. Make sure your backup data cannot be compromised or corrupted, and that you can use the data to reload and recover your enterprise operations. Or you can cross your fingers and hope nothing goes wrong, but you’ll have some serious explaining to do if it does!

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Hadley Jones

Hadley Jones


Hadley Jones is a 20 year veteran of the IT industry, having worked in support, technical writing and marketing roles throughout his career. He now writes about IT and cloud computing as regular contributor to... See the full bio