Data Cloud / Admins / Marketers

Salesforce Data Cloud: 10 Things You Should Know Before You Enable It

By Lucy Mazalon

The purpose of Data Cloud is to combine a range of data points, from various data sources. This data can be both demographic and behavioral – for example, mobile app engagement, eCommerce purchases, customer support cases.  

You’ll face a learning curve while first working with Data Cloud’s numerous concepts and capabilities. However, it’s easy to misinterpret what Data Cloud does, and how it should be used. 

In the rush to take advantage of Data Cloud’s freemium version, we wanted to ensure that you know the facts before diving in (or equally, what will be useful once you’ve enabled it). We hope these 10 facts will help you to have a happy relationship with your Data Cloud instance.

1. Data Cloud (Starter) vs. Data Cloud for Everyone

At Dreamforce ‘23, Salesforce announced that customers can use Data Cloud, for free (for up to 10,000 unified profiles). This is what’s known as a zero dollar SKU – in other words, a Salesforce product line that doesn’t incur any costs. I’ve termed this ‘Data Cloud for Everyone’ (to distinguish it from the paid versions).

Data Cloud Starter is the lowest-tier paid edition of Data Cloud. 

There are a number of capabilities that you won’t have access to unless you upgrade to Data Cloud Starter (the paid edition of Data Cloud), including Segments and Activations (which we will revisit later), Data Services, Ad Audiences, and increased Data Storage

2. Regional Prerequisites 

At the time of writing, Data Cloud is reportedly only available for orgs that are located in North America and EMEA. The advice is to “reach out to your account team to discuss what options are available … For APAC and JP customers, account team should provision customers with an org located in the United States” (source).

3. Not Available for Sandboxes

You must activate Data Cloud in your production org – in other words, it’s not available in sandboxes.

Alternatively, you can sign up for a Salesforce trial (either Enterprise or Unlimited edition) and activate Data Cloud there.

4. What is a Unified Profile?

What I have termed ‘Data Cloud for Everyone’ (to distinguish it from the paid versions) has a limit of 10,000 unified profiles (which is approx. 100,000 if you are on Unlimited Plus edition). But what is a unified profile?

A unified profile is the result of identity resolution, combining a range of data points, from various data sources. This data can be both demographic and behavioral – for example, mobile app engagement, eCommerce purchases, customer support cases. This is the ‘golden record’ that people have been striving for ever since the conception of CRM. These are not static, but will adapt as the streaming source data changes.

Data Cloud is a usage-based product, meaning that you pay for what you use. There’s a difference between the credits you’re awarded, and how that translates into ‘unified profiles’. When you pay for credits, you’re paying for the processing power to unify data from various sources. Hence why the number of unified profiles is ‘approx’, as some organizations will be more demanding than others in terms of their data unification.

5. Data Cloud Doesn’t Merge Records

A unified profile combines a range of data points from various data sources. This data can be both demographic and behavioral – for example, mobile app engagement, eCommerce purchases, customer support cases.

Note how this is a unified profile. The terminology here is important, as Data Cloud unifies records and does not merge them. While they are combined data points, the source records (where the data has come from) still exist as they were.

Therefore, unified profiles are not the same as Salesforce duplicate rules. 

READ MORE: Data Cloud Match Rules vs. Salesforce Duplicate Rules

6. Understand Basic Data Modelling Concepts

Before you begin working with your organization’s cocktail of data sources, you need to understand basic data modeling concepts. This will enable you to effectively stitch together unrelated data being pumped into Data Cloud (that’s not necessarily structured the same), leading to better identity resolution. 

  • Primary key: The field that distinguishes rows of data in a data set from one another. For example, the Salesforce record ID. 
  • Foreign key: Used to connect data between two unique tables or sources. For example, OrderID could be found on a customer record, and also in an order details dataset from your eCommerce site. The OrderID connects the two tables together.

If you have worked with Marketing Cloud data extensions, it is highly likely you are already familiar with these concepts.

7. There’s No Activation with Free Data Cloud

As mentioned in the beginning, there are some capabilities you can’t harness unless you purchase a paid edition of Data Cloud (i.e. Data Cloud Starter, or above).

Activation is a major one. Activation is the process of sending these ‘golden records’ to a destination where they can be used for highly personalized interactions. “You can create segments on any entities from your data model, and then publish them on a chosen schedule or as needed” (source).

Examples of activation are Marketing Cloud (to kick-start a Journey Builder automated campaign), advertising platforms (to have more relevant adverts displayed to the individual, and other cloud repositories such as Amazon S3 (to have segments usable from that repository). 

READ MORE: 14 Key Salesforce Data Cloud Terms to Know

8. Data Cloud is Not a Data Lake

Data Cloud is not designed to be the single place that all of your enterprise data is stored. Data Cloud is designed for data to enter from various data sources, into Data Cloud. This is why a data lake/data warehouse may be required, so that you’re only fetching the data you need in Data Cloud from the swarm of enterprise data that you have. 

Snowflake is a popular option, loved by operations/data professionals alike. Snowflake was Salesforce’s data warehouse partner of choice; in 2022, a zero-copy architecture between Salesforce and Snowflake was released, meaning that Data Cloud can directly access data stored in Snowflake (and vice-versa) without moving or duplicating data. Snowflake and Salesforce continually work together to improve the infrastructure (for example, the Data Share feature that provides live data sharing from Salesforce to Snowflake).

Note: Data Cloud is a data lakehouse, which combines the benefits of a data lake and a data warehouse. 

READ MORE: Snowflake and Salesforce Data Cloud: A Practical Guide

9. Activations vs. Data Actions

While working with Data Cloud’s numerous concepts and capabilities, activation is what you will have been leading up to. There would be no point in going through the ingesting, modeling, mapping, reconciliation, and transformation to only have the perfected segment sit in Data Cloud.  

The two ways to activate your data are activations and data actions

  • Activations activate Data Cloud segments. The types are file storage, external activation (e.g. advertising platforms), Marketing Cloud, and Data Cloud (to publish to other Salesforce apps, such as Sales Cloud, Service Cloud).
  • Data actions activate streaming insights. The supported targets are Salesforce platform events, webhooks, and Marketing Cloud.
READ MORE: Types of Data Targets in Data Cloud (Activation Targets vs. Data Actions)

10. Have Your Use Cases Ready 

So, you’ve enabled Data Cloud, now what? It’s a good question, as you’ve now got keys to the Ferrari and not sure how to drive it. 

It’s important to nail down your use cases so you can see exactly how the product can bring you the most value. Here’s one use case example, with many more coming soon:

READ MORE: Data Cloud: Data Governance Use Case


If you are looking to enable Data Cloud (or have already enabled it) it’s vital to understand some of the key concepts to make it easier to organize the wide-ranging amount of data being channeled to you.

Understanding the power of Data Cloud can prove daunting, but learning its intricacies will be beneficial in the long run. Plus, Data Cloud skills are in high demand as more people make the most of its extensive capabilities. 

READ MORE: 14 Key Salesforce Data Cloud Terms to Know

The Author

Lucy Mazalon

Lucy is the Operations Director at Salesforce Ben. She is a 10x certified Marketing Champion and founder of The DRIP.

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