Salesforce Data Loader: All You Need to Know

Over the years any IT professional will observe considerable difficulty when trying to transfer data to and from the cloud onto your servers. To make this momentous task a little easier, Salesforce has introduced the Data Loader- a client application designed specifically to make mass import/export of data a more convenient process. It is available with the Unlimited, Performance, Developer, Enterprise and Database.com distributions of Salesforce.

What it does

The Data Loader application is used to update, delete, insert or export Salesforce records and data. It can extract, read and load data from any database connection or from a CSV (comma-separated values) file. The output is always in the form of a CSV file. If you do not want commas in your record, you could replace it with any other delimiter like a tab or an asterisk.

The application offers an easy-to-use interface and can support huge files, containing as many as five million records. Custom objects are supported as well, and the dynamic application supports natural gestures like field mapping through drag-and-drop too. It is applicable to data from both Salesforce.com and Database.com.

Data Loader has an in-built CSV file viewer so that you will not need to shift onto a third party application to view the results of your operations. It is also capable of generating detailed error and success log files of operations, in CSV format. The application works across several operating systems.

How to Access

The Data Loader requires the Force.com Soap API to function, and hence is available in any distribution which allows access to the API, like Developer, Enterprise and Unlimited. To download the Loader, head over to the Setup Menu and find the option “Data Management”, under the “Administer” tab. Read more at http://www.flosum.com/salesforce-data-migrator/.

Modes of Operation

The Data Loader from Salesforce is a dynamic application which is extremely powerful, and also allows different users to use it in their own way, through the two built in application modes.

You could use the graphical user interface, to work interactively, map fields, and specify parameters of configuration and view files. This gives you a great deal of freedom to interpret what actually goes where, and some power to affect the outcome through toolbars, sliders and checklists.
The other option for more savvy users is the command line. Through it, you can do all the things the GUI can do, and a little more, in form of batch processing. You could write a large set of commands and store them in a batch file, to be executed sequentially once fed into the command line. This automated processing allows the client to work even when you aren’t on the workstation feeding in commands.

When to use Data Loader

The online Salesforce application comes pre-loaded with a set of import wizards which work fairly well when it comes to small packets of data. However, they fail miserably while handling large amounts of data. This is when you should shift to Data Loader.

Data Loader is extremely helpful when you’re loading a large number of records, anywhere between fifty thousand to five million in number. It is also ideal for loading object types which are unsupported by import wizards. Data loader allows you to export all your data, and also has a fantastic scheduling option which could allow night-time imports or regular exports, keeping your databases updated.

It is, however, a good idea to use the built-in import wizards if the number of records you need to load is within 50,000, or the object formats you need are supported by the wizards. A list of these supported formats can be found under “data management” in the Setup tab. The wizards also allow you to upload records filtered by site, account name, and email addresses of the lead or contact as well, thus preventing duplicates.

If used wisely, the Salesforce Data Loader can perfectly complement the import wizards and serve to be a pretty useful tool for your operations.

Author Bio: Margaret Johnson is an IT professional presently working at a CRM consultancy company. She is a prominent blogger as well and conducts research on articles like http://www.flosum.com/salesforce-data-migrator/ when she is free.