The AppAssessor #14: Spanning Backup

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One-line Pitch: – Protect critical Salesforce data and metadata with automated, daily backup and fast restore of lost, deleted or overwritten data and metadata.
Highlights

– The default choice for set-and-forget Salesforce backup.

– Metadata Backup: leave no stone unturned.

– Metadata Restore: detangle the fabric of your org.

– Color-coded and engaging interface

Introduction

Be honest, does data backup excite you?
The mention of data backup probably stimulates some feelings, and in most cases, excitement is not one. Instead, there are associations with arduous, long, drawn-out process, a topic devoid of allure for the system admin, each carrying around their own versions of the same deep-seated fears, and even horror stories.

CRM data is the lifeblood of our business, so data loss or corruption doesn’t bear thinking about; however, we are tempting fate, not thinking about it until it’s too late.

Why do we bury our heads in the sand?

  • Salesforce Orgs are becoming ever more complex – a complete sweep of an org takes significant time, and metadata items are frequently missed.
  • Demands on admins are increasing – as the Salesforce platform grows, more is expected from admins. The strain of manual data backups using the Salesforce data export function gets unbearable.
  • Users are more distracted – our org’s data is susceptible to errors when users are trying to squeeze more into their days.

If these 3 factors don’t paint a concerning picture, the topic of Salesforce Backup is mysterious.

The reality is that a large portion of the Salesforce ecosystem is unaware of why Salesforce standard backup is insufficient. Salesforce themselves recommend engaging a third-party vendor, but there’s a lack of education as to ‘why’.
Spanning stepped in to take on that education.

Salesforce’s world-renowned security will protect your org’s data from external malicious forces – “but they can’t protect you from you”, said Lori Witzel, formerly Spanning’s Senior Product Marketing Manager, and life-long product advocate. It’s a phrase that communicates the urgency for backup, and Spanning’s positioning alongside Salesforce’s own features; in short, you may be a well-intentioned admin or avid superuser, but you are not immune to mistakes when performing migrations, making customizations, or updating small or large data sets.

Spanning Backup’s mission to save Salesforce customers from themselves has spread far, now serving over 1.4 million Salesforce users. Functionality and value for money has attracted organisations of all sizes – “one of the larger orgs we protect has more than 27,000 active Salesforce users!”, Lori points out.

I had the pleasure of assessing Spanning’s features, ideal use cases, setup effort, and potential impact adding this product to your Salesforce Stack could bring. Even if you are not passionate about backup, you will feel at ease handing this responsibility to a team that are passionate about backup.

 

Features

Interface – Keeping a Close Eye

Was keeping track of org backups one reason you dread the topic? Monitoring backup jobs are time-consuming and more than likely to drive you mad, double-checking the date, time, storage location, and the dataset itself.

An app’s interface is the first thing I scrutinize. In the shoes of an admin, would I be able to keep a close eye on my backups, and deduce what’s happening at a glance?

First off, Spanning is ‘native’ to Salesforce, meaning that it’s built on the Salesforce platform. Simply put, the two integrate very well; there’s no need to leave Salesforce to track backup status – moreover, you don’t feel like you are in a 3rd party tool.

Dashboard

Every good tool is able to provide feedback to its users. The Spanning Dashboard is ‘at a glance’ at its best – comprehensive, clear, and colourful. See a summary of your latest back up, with quick actions to back up again, or perform a restore. See also an activity stream in ‘Recent History’, and monitor/control how Spanning is consuming API calls.

‘Comprehensive Protection’ – explained

Spanning allows you to back up your standard and custom objects – as you would expect from a leading backup and recovery provider – but also metadata, files, and Force.com apps. Being both a powerful and flexible platform, it’s more than likely you have extended your Salesforce customizations left, right, and center! ‘Comprehensive Protection’ means that Spanning will pick up all customizations, even those buried deep in your org.

On-demand Backup

We live in an on-demand era, where we need tools that can perform reliably. In addition to scheduled daily backups, you can, fortunately, initiate a backup with one-click from Spanning.

Having the most up-to-date org snapshot to hand before any configuration changes or mass imports (enough to give any Salesforce pro the jitters), means you can restore quickly in the event something goes wrong – business continuity, no disruption.

The on-screen progress reassures you the backup cycle has completed; there’s something strangely satisfying about watching the object record totals rack up (or maybe that’s just me?).

Restore Settings – Overview

Moving from backup, on to restore. Using Spanning for data restore opened my eyes to two things:

  1. Data restore is a headache, especially when required to restore from a date in the past without rolling-back any org customizations that have happened since (an intertwined set of changes).
  2. The wide-ranging options for restore – something I had not given much thought to. However, now presented with the choice, I see how a savvy organization would put each into use.

I will walk through the Restore Settings to illustrate this. They give you control that I, personally, never imagined possible. Search for, and select exactly which data, which fields and how ‘deep’ to go (whether to restore child records), as you see below:

Be savvy and perform 2 actions at once: restore and upsert, by taking advantage of the “Overwrite field values” setting, giving Spanning specific instructions through point-and-click:

You’re allowed to be picky, as Spanning allows you to get granular.
Say I want to restore an account record to last month. Using the date filters, I can compare field values on the selected date vs. the current state, and select/deselect what’s relevant (reminds me of the record merge interface).

This is run-of-the-mill record restore. Next, I cover a major Spanning unique selling point (USP).

Metadata Restore – detangle the fabric of your org.

Metadata differs from object data (ie. the data stored in Salesforce records). Metadata goes one step deeper; examples include reports, page layouts, workflows, and more – all key to your Salesforce org, no doubt.

Does your pulse start racing when I tell you that Metadata backup is not included in the Salesforce weekly data export function?

Spanning supports no less than 17 types of metadata – unrivalled in this respect. This is key, so I have listed the types here: Dashboards, Reports, Email, Layouts, Objects, Permission Sets, Profiles, Roles, Triggers, Workflows, Classes, Pages, Flows and Flow Definitions

Here’s what metadata restore looks like in Spanning, where I am able to pull in the Profiles, Page Layouts and Objects from my org to select for backup. This collapsible, organized interface does wonders to detangle the fabric of metadata:

API Usage

Monitor and control how Spanning is consuming API calls, accessed from the dashboard. 

 

Use Cases

Spanning is a tool that breeds use cases across the organization, to fulfil needs you never knew you had. Here is a handful of popular ones, often not on our radars.

Dataloader Correction

Forgive yourself, it is easy to accidentally map the wrong field when using the Salesforce Dataloader. As your culprit import file will contain the Salesforce IDs of the affected records, you can upload straight to Spanning’s restore flow – define the desired restore settings, and Spanning will be able to take care of the rest.

User Self-restore

Admins can give users self-restore capabilities – a fantastic differentiator, I should add. Rest assured, Spanning always respects the roles/permission sets from your Salesforce org, so what users can view/update from Spanning mirrors what they would be able to in Salesforce.

Sandbox Refresh

No more nerves before a sandbox refresh. The ‘Compare Metadata’ tab gives a direct comparison between customizations deep within your production org and sandbox. The color-coding tells you if something has been added (‘Only in one’) or modified (‘Changed’). Invaluable!

Sandbox Seeding

As we saw earlier, ‘Cross-org Restore’ means you can restore data into a different org (instead of production). Leverage this to insert data into a Sandbox for rigorous testing, anonymising fields with ‘Random Values’ as appropriate:

When saved as a preset, you and your developers have the ability to refresh this data fast.

Impact

Three words surface frequently in customer feedback: ‘Peace of mind’. Of course, ‘peace of mind’ means different things to different teams in your organization, which means the potential impact Spanning can have is eye-opening:

Alleviates Admin Workload

Spanning is an admin-centric tool for many reasons, and supersedes the alternative.
Using Spanning is more efficient for Salesforce Admins who continue with manual data backups using the Salesforce weekly data export function.

Another Admin anecdote that’s echoed: Salesforce metadata has to be exported using a separate third-party app. Evidently, this would not be the case when Spanning is able to handle both data and metadata backups, freeing admins from additional processes and logging.

Empower Superusers

Empowering users for low-level record restore in a safe way (see: ‘User Self-restore’ in Use Cases). In turn, this alleviates Admin workload and reduces the number of distractions caused by low-level tasks.

Time To Value

As a plug-in-and-play app (see: Setup), Spanning can have a transformational impact in a short space of time. While skimming through AppExchange reviews, my thoughts were echoed in mentions of ‘using for a month, everything has gone well’ / ‘3 months, very happy’. Moreover, retained customers prove the value of this tool does not diminish over time: ‘one and half years down the track…’, one contented customer shares.

Compliance

Spanning logs all activities that are run through it: the legal department will breathe easy knowing that no backup, restore, or export will go unaccounted for. Being on top of what data was backed-up/restored, who accessed it, and when that access occurred could save your skin down the line.

One Single Tool, Beyond CRM

Here’s a bonus – Spanning has equivalent products for Outlook / GSuite in their offering – so you could keep to one vendor for both CRM and email client backup.

Setup

When you think backup, visions come to mind of long, drawn-out installs, neck-deep in code. I’m pleased to report this hasn’t been the case with this assessment.

This tool receives an AppAssessor-approved setup status of: Painless.

Getting started with Spanning has been well thought out. Once you get into the practical setup, the Setup Guide covers the process meticulously; what may seem extensive at first glance isn’t at all arduous in practice, as most configuration will be enabled as default, leaving you to only verify.

If you have worked with connected apps, and know how to navigate profiles, then assigning the Spanning Connected App to the correct profiles will be a breeze. Finally, granting VisualForce Page Access completes the setup. I estimate it took 30 minutes (which included some poking around!).

Pricing

$48 / user / year

It may be hard to measure the precise impact of ‘peace of mind’ across your organization, but you can put a price on it. For what Spanning is capable of, it’s a great value solution, even for a cost-conscious business – a transparent cost as it covers unlimited storage of all your Salesforce data. No surprises! In a hyper-audit era, it’s a route to the protection that’s a form of insurance, too.

Psst, quick! Take advantage of the limited time offer Spanning is running until the end of the month. Click here to view the details now.

Concluding Comments

As my investigation comes to a close, I see no reason why Spanning does not qualify as the default choice for set-and-forget Salesforce backup.

This native Salesforce AppExchange app is easy to work with start to finish, with an intuitive interface, and unparalleled Salesforce integration. It’s an exceptional tool that breeds use cases across the organization, to fulfil needs you never knew you had, reaching a decent return on investment quickly.

I will leave you with a next step – that you take time to look at Spanning, particularly during their limited time offer. Although I have repeatedly referenced the value of this tool, this review is the tip of the iceberg – you will discover plenty getting your hands on the tool itself.

For more background reading on the urgency for backup, and it’s positioning alongside Salesforce’s own features, take a read of Lori’s post.

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