Let’s just acknowledge right now: Backup and Restore is like life insurance. You should pay for it and hope you never get more from it than peace of mind.
Here’s the good news: Salesforce is extremely robust. I don’t know of any instances of data being lost because of a problem at the server or data center level.
Plus there is a free weekly export service that you should enable to download a backup of all your data to store somewhere within your control. You can set this up right away while you think about what to do longer term. No–really! Stop reading this blog, follow the steps in that link to set it up, then come back to read the rest of this post. I’ll wait…
The bad news: If you actually needed to restore your data from that weekly backup it would be an incredibly painful process.
I. Mean. Miserable.
There’s no convenient way to compare what records changed between your current state and the backup. Re-importing records with their relationships intact is also no mean feat. Plus the export service backups are only weekly and they require someone (probably you, if you're reading this blog) to actually download and archive them in the first place. Can you fully count on someone always doing that? So, this is a last resort kind of option. Better to have a copy of the state of the data last week than nothing at all, sure, but not much better…
And now let me give you the really bad news: The main cause of data loss (or corruption) is people. People make mistakes. People sometimes even do nefarious things. And I’m guessing that your organization is full of people. You, dear reader, are probably also a person. I–Let me be clear!–am a person. I make mistakes.
People make mistakes. 🙁 I’m guessing that your organization is full of people.
Backup and restore services continually monitor your system and automate recovery from problems. That allows you to recover from mistakes, problems, and bad behavior. You know you need this for your personal computer. If you've ever had a problem with your phone (or just transferred to a new one), you know you need backup for your phone.
There are a couple of options in the backup and restore space for Salesforce and none of them are cheap. Also: Nobody has entirely transparent pricing. I recall quotes starting at least $3,000/year and it’s been a little while since I last priced things out. The main services that I’ve priced in the past are:
Spanning – This one I’ve actually gotten to use because my former employer went with Spanning and one of my current clients also has it. It works well to run a comparison of what's changed recently and then tag records to be restored. I haven’t used more than relatively simple restore functionality. (And thank goodness for that!) The last time I actually went through the (not so fun) process of getting quotes, Spanning came up significantly cheaper than OwnBackup. I believe it to be around $40/user/year at nonprofit pricing.
OwnBackup – If you only looked at marketing and who attends and sponsors Salesforce events, you could be forgiven for thinking OwnBackup was the only vendor in the backup space. They’re the vendor everyone has heard of and from what I can tell have a very solid product. In recent years I’ve seen them place marketing emphasis on the data monitoring that’s part of their product. So they not only can restore, but they can alert you when a lot of records have changed in a way that might indicate you need a restore. I’ve never actually been a true user of OwnBackup because they’ve been a lot more expensive than Spanning. [Also, they’re rather “salesy,” which always annoys me, personally.] But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider them. Like I said, OwnBackup seems to be the main product to beat. But the last time I priced it, I believe the minimum contract was $6,000 for a nonprofit.
Gearset – I recently learned that Gearset offers a backup solution, though I haven’t had a chance to try it. It’s an add-on to their Continuous Integration platform, so technically you’re paying for more than just backup and restore, though I think it's still competitive, pricewise. Gearset has a relatively transparent pricing structure, so you can see what their (list) price would be. It looks like even if you were just in it for the backup it’s cheaper than OwnBackup and may be competitive with Spanning. According to the first FAQ question on this page, data backup is $3,000/year for up to 100 users (in addition to a Gearset license.)
A backup service is paying for peace of mind. 😌
One other thing that backup and restore services can do is insert data into a sandbox to use for testing and training. (This is referred to as “sandbox seeding.”) That’s potentially very useful. But when I’ve looked into it in the past, from Spanning and OwnBackup, it was an add-on cost that I wasn’t going to be convincing an employer/client to pay. (Sandbox seeding might actually be free with Gearset–I can’t quite tell from the website.) This definitely falls into the “nice to have” category. But when you find yourself spinning up a fresh sandbox to do training or testing, it could be a huge time saver. I use some developer-focused tools to do sandbox data seeding at times, but they’re not very convenient, to say the least.
I highly recommend that you go get yourself some quotes. And I know that for most organizations, this could be your single largest Salesforce-related line item cost by a wide margin. I'm sorry to be the bearer of that news.
Fundamentally a backup service is paying for peace of mind. You plan to never use the actual tool. But it’s still worth every penny.