Salesforce data archiving best practices

Salesforce data archiving best practices

David Runciman on

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At its core, your Salesforce org is a database. It holds vast amounts of critical business data, and every day your end users are adding more information on leads, opportunities, accounts, contacts and so on. As a result, teams responsible for the Salesforce platform need a strategy for data lifecycle management.

Archiving is a key aspect of data management that helps you prevent data from ballooning uncontrollably. In this article we’ll consider best practices for data archiving, guiding your strategy for retiring CRM data in a way that helps with performance, compliance and storage costs.

Why archive your Salesforce data?

The volume of data in your Salesforce orgs is ever-increasing with end users constantly adding details of leads, opportunities, accounts and much more. Over time, that has three significant implications:

  • Storage limits. Salesforce will allow you to add more data beyond your official storage limit — up to 110%. But after that, end users will no longer be able to add or upload data.
  • Storage costs. Your Salesforce storage allowance correlates with your Salesforce spend — it’s based on your Salesforce edition and number of user licenses. Each edition gives a base level of storage, and each user license adds a bit more storage. You can purchase more storage beyond that, but it’s expensive and unpredictable.
  • System performance. Automated processes slow down when there’s more data to process, and obsolete data creates noise in end users’ search results.

One option for removal is simple: delete obsolete data. But that’s not a viable option for all data types due to compliance, as some data regulations require you to keep information for a set period. Instead, data can be archived, so that it’s removed from the datasets your end users work with day to day — either using Salesforce’s native archiving functionality or a third-party solution that stores data off-platform. Archived data can always be recovered if necessary.

Archiving best practices

Since archiving involves removing data from Salesforce, it obviously needs to be handled with care. Using the following best practices, you can make sure your archiving process serves the right purpose, stays on the right side of compliance, and works the right way.

Define your data archiving strategy

Having a strategy always helps to make decisions down the line. Your team should start creating an archiving strategy by aligning on how your business will define “obsolete” data in Salesforce that can be archived. Depending on the size of your orgs and how your end users are accessing data, that might be data that hasn’t been accessed for seven years, or files used by ex-employees. Then you need to consider how all the following best practices apply to those data sets and configure your strategy accordingly.

The first iteration of your archiving strategy doesn’t need to be the final word. Strategies shouldn’t be something decided once and then gradually forgotten. Make sure your approach is determined with a team-wide discussion involving relevant stakeholders. Review the strategy periodically and update as necessary.

Understand your org’s data

In the Setup menu in Salesforce, you’ll find the Storage Usage page. This shows you how much of your data storage, file storage and big object storage you’re currently using. Further down the page, you’ll find a breakdown of record types, from largest to smallest, so you can see which objects or files are taking up the most storage space.

Salesforce doesn’t offer a way to see how storage has changed over time, so implementing an archiving policy is a good way to get more insight into data usage in your orgs. Look for archiving solutions that give you an overview of what data has been archived and how your archive is changing over time, alongside the ability to dig into specific archived records or files.

Gearset screenshot: Archiving history in Gearset

Archive your data off-platform

Salesforce has its own native archiving offering, which removes data from search results. But since the data is still held on Salesforce, it doesn’t do anything to reduce storage costs. Third-party archiving solutions like Gearset, on the other hand, pay for themselves — the cost of the solution is more than offset by the savings in Salesforce spend.

Automate your archiving process

It’s possible to export data from Salesforce and carry out a manual archiving process. But the time this takes, not to mention the room it leaves for human error, means an automated process is much more efficient and reliable. Archiving records daily is the optimal way to keep your org lean, and that cadence is only realistic with automation. With Gearset, you can configure an archiving policy to determine which data will be archived automatically.

Confirm regulatory compliance

The regulations your business has to follow will vary by region and industry. If you’re archiving PHI data, for example, you’ll need to use a HIPAA compliant solution. But there are common themes for compliance, and some regulations that the majority of businesses need to comply with. Regulations like GDPR mean you’ll need a way to comply with people’s right to be forgotten.

You’ll want to set a data retention policy for archived data, so that records are eventually deleted permanently. Different regulations can be in tension here: some encourage a longer retention policy to preserve historic transactions; others encourage a shorter retention policy to minimize the risk of personally identifiable information (PII) being kept longer than necessary. A retention period of 7 years is a good balance for many teams.

It’s also worth bearing in mind where your data will actually be stored, since you may be constrained by rules around data sovereignty. Make sure the data center your archived data is stored in is within the relevant jurisdiction.

Encrypt your archived data

Salesforce helps you to keep data secure, including with encryption. To make sure your data is equally well protected everywhere, your archived data should also be encrypted in transit and at rest. This is why a manual process for archiving can be a significant risk to data security, without careful consideration of where the data will be stored and with what security measures.

Maintain parent-child relationships between data

Salesforce records don’t exist in isolation — there’s a complex web of interdependencies between the records in your orgs. Archiving data as simple data sets, without any consideration for dependencies, means restoring that data will be much harder. Record relationships will need to be recreated manually. Make sure your archiving solution or process will help you to restore records with relationships intact.

Test your restoration process

Archiving data is one thing. Being able to restore archived data when needed is another. There are a few different archiving solutions on the market, but they’re not equal in providing an intuitive and robust restore process. So however confident you are in your tooling or processes for restoring data, it’s essential to test that process regularly.

If your solution combines backup and archiving, the restore processes should be similar, and so can be tested together as part of rehearsing for disaster recovery. It’s good practice to set a cadence for testing your data recovery performance, e.g. quarterly. It’s also well worth running through the process on an ad hoc basis, such as when a new colleague joins your team.

Explore Gearset’s archiving solution

Adopting an automated archiving solution is a no-brainer. You spend less money overall to improve the performance of Salesforce. Gearset’s archiving solution will help you follow all of the best practices outlined in this article. To learn more, explore our archiving solution and book in a tailored demo with one of our Salesforce data experts.

Try all of Gearset for free