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Why companies are implementing backup solutions for Salesforce

David Runciman on May 18th 2021


Many Salesforce teams are unprepared for disaster recovery. Too few are routinely backing up business data stored in Salesforce, and even fewer will be able to restore backup data reliably in the event of a disaster. In this post we'll explain why the sluggish pace of backup adoption in the Salesforce ecosystem is a problem, and look at backup best practice for disaster recovery and resilience.

Many companies have yet to adopt a backup solution

Just 58% of respondents to The State of Salesforce DevOps 2021 survey use a data backup solution. A slightly higher percentage, 64%, use a backup or release management tool to protect the Salesforce metadata that describes the shape of their orgs.

Just over 11.1% of respondents admit they never back up their orgs, while an additional 16.7% say they run backups on an ad hoc basis. That means almost 28% aren't regularly backing up Salesforce data.

Pie chart of backup frequency

The survey results show that 89% of respondents are backing up data in one way or another. But not everyone backs up data the same way. Given that 58% of respondents say they are using a backup solution, the other 31% must be backing up their data by another means, either using Salesforce's Data Export tool or another manual backup method.

Beware the false sense of security

Why do so many companies leave their business-critical data unprotected? And why is a small but significant minority content to continue without any protection? The truth is that many companies have a false sense of security.

Most companies trust Salesforce to look after their data and believe that the risk to their data is low enough not to worry about data loss or corruption. It's true that Salesforce is a secure and robust platform, but no platform can guarantee complete safety for data - Salesforce outages that lead to org corruption and data loss can and do happen.

Companies also need to recognize the more common risks to their data. To get a sense of just how easily and often data and metadata is lost due to user error, I highly recommend reading the dozens of entries in Elements.cloud's brilliant Org Confessions on the subject. Here's a typical example:

Confession about causing data loss

What about Salesforce's Data Recovery service?

Companies that haven't put anything in place to back up and protect their data are relying on Salesforce's Data Recovery service as a safety net. Why spend money on a backup solution when Salesforce has it covered anyway? But Salesforce itself emphasizes that its Data Recovery service should be a last resort. It isn't a backup solution.

Salesforce actually retired the Data Recovery service for several months, precisely because they weren't satisfied with the quality of the service. It's expensive, takes several weeks, and just provides a CSV file with a copy of data from a particular point in time. In other words, you'll have no guarantees that your most up-to-date data will be recoverable and you will need to upload the data to Salesforce manually. Importing large amounts of data this way is time-consuming and error-prone. It may also prove to be impossible if your org's metadata has changed and you haven't got a metadata backup you can restore from first.

Salesforce unretired the Data Recovery service due to popular demand, which confirms that companies do experience data loss and are caught without better options for restoring their orgs. But again, the service is nothing more than a last resort and won't ensure business continuity.

Disaster illustration

Salesforce's Data Export tool isn't a backup solution

Many companies are generating backups manually or using the Salesforce platform's native tools. Salesforce's Data Export offers automated exports of data at a regular cadence and may seem an obvious choice for backing up Salesforce data. But relying on Data Export in place of a backup solution has several drawbacks:

  • Data Export's automated cadence is limited to weekly or monthly, depending on org type. Most companies want to back up orgs daily at least.
  • Data Export just provides a CSV file of data. But metadata also needs backing up.
  • You must cover the costs of data storage and make sure you're complying with regulations such as CCPA and GDPR.
  • In the event of data loss, you'll need to work out how you find the relevant data in your backup files and how to get it back into your org.

This last point is crucial. It's easy to generate backup data and hope you never have to use it. But these backups have no value if you can't actually restore data from them within a reasonable timeframe. Test your restore process properly before feeling confident that you could face a data disaster.

Best practice for disaster recovery and resilience

What is the best approach to backing up Salesforce orgs? Salesforce itself recommends that you use a full-featured, Salesforce-specific, third-party backup solution, such as Gearset. Many businesses are beginning to heed this advice, with 20% of survey respondents saying they plan to adopt a data and metadata backup solution this year. Implementing a proper backup solution instead of using the native tooling currently available gives you confidence that you'll be able to restore your org. It gives you peace of mind that data loss won't result in massive disruption to your business.

The best approach to backups is to fold them into your DevOps process. DevOps and backup strategies aren't separate concerns. This point is stressed by those who use the term DevSecOps, emphasizing the role of security alongside development and operations. As we've written before, DevSecOps is really DevOps done well; security and resilience have always been key advantages of DevOps. Backup processes work well alongside other DevOps functions, such as metadata change monitoring.

What's more, DevOps solves the challenge of restoring from backups. Essentially, restoring data from backups is the same process as deploying data from one environment to another. Gearset's backup and restore tools are powerful because they make use of the same deployment engine honed over the course of millions of Salesforce deployments. And if an incident occurs, you can restore lost data and metadata from backups just as easily as running your normal deployments in Gearset. Using familiar tools and processes makes restoring data less stressful and much faster.

For all these reasons, it makes sense to integrate backups into your DevOps process. This is the best approach to protecting your orgs and guaranteeing a reliable recovery in the event of serious mistakes or other incidents.

Don't wait for data loss

Don't wait for a data disaster you can't recover from before thinking properly about backup. Our free 30-day trial includes access to Gearset's backup solution. Why not get started or book in a demo? We're always happy to advise you on the best backup strategy for your disaster recovery plan.

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