Imagine you want to upload a huge amount of data to your environment. Let’s be more specific, imagine you want to upload about up to five million records. Now of course for a certain number of records we can just go the usual way and upload a CSV file but for five million records we need something else.

For this we need to use data loader. Data loader is an easy to use tool that allows you to import, export and delete data in Salesforce. Having understood what data loader can do, lets dive in by understanding what is data loader, how can one use it and get to know some non-conventional use of data loader.

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What is data loader?

The data loader is a tool that allows users to upload records in bulk to their Salesforce environment. Users can choose between a wizard type of interface or for more technical people the command-line interface. Files are simply mapped via dragging and dropping and the data loader allows users to upload bulk data to any objects no matter if it’s standard or custom.

Data loader vs. web-based import wizard?

Salesforce offers you multiple ways to get your data into the system. Let’s take a closer look when which way is the most recommended. If you are loading less than 50.000 records you probably want to upload data using the import wizard. This however means that the object you want to upload the data too needs to be supported by the import wizard. A quick way to check which import wizards are out there simply enter ‘Data Management’ in the quick find box under support. If you however have a big amount of records, and by big we mean really big like up to five million you will need to use the data loader. The data loader is also your friend and go-to tool to upload records if you want to upload them to an object that isn’t yet supported by an import wizard. And finally, if you want to schedule regular data uploads you’ll need to use the data loader as well.


Using the data loader to import records

The data loader allows you to insert, update, upsert and delete data. What is upserting you ask? Upsert is a combination of updating and inserting. It means that if a record in your file matches an existing record in your CRM the existing record will be updated with the information that the file contains, if there is no existing record a new record will be created. In other words this means you can add new records or modify or delete existing records. Once you start using the data loader you can define which of these operations you want to perform.


Non-conventional use of data loader

Of course the conventional use of data loader is to upload data into Salesforce. However, in case some cases you may need to mass edit the records. Let us say that you wrote a new trigger which will update some information with Salesforce. You would want the platform to do this manipulation for existing records. You may run a mass edit to all the records and data loader will trigger the logic.

However, before going full fledged on this, it is important to know how governor’s limit can impact this update. Get to know the various kinds of Governor’s limit in Salesforce  with examples.

Downloading data loader

You can download data loader by logging into Salesforce and going to setup section. You can then navigate to Administer -> Data management -> Data loader. This is also shown in the picture below.

Data loader download path

Salesforce data loader step-by-step guideData Loader - 6 valuable tips

Please follow the steps below to gain a hands on experience in using data loader. Starting with data loader could be time taking. Use the tips in the below figure to get a jump start.

  • In order to now finally get data into your environment open the data loader and choose what you want to do.
  • You can click insert, update, upset, delete or hard delete (the deleted records will not be stored in the recycle bin) based on what you want to do.
  • Then you’ll need to enter your Salesforce username and password to login.
  • After you’ve logged in you will need to choose an object to which you want to upload the data. So if you want to insert account records, you choose accounts, if you want to upload leads, you choose leads.
  • If the object you want to upload the data too doesn’t show up in the list you can check from show all objects to see a list of all objects available.
  • Once you selected the object, click browse to select the CSV file.
  • Then you’ll only need to click ‘Next’ and the CSV upload will start once you also click ‘OK’.
  • If you decided to upset data, your file needs to contain a column that acts as ID for the records. In other words a column in the CSV file against which the tool checks in the system.
  • This column can be an external ID (a custom field called External ID) or the Salesforce record ID.
  • Select which field to use for matching and click next to continue.
  • While you are using the data loader you also need to define how the columns in your CSV file map to your Salesforce fields.
  • You can use an existing mapping system or create a new way to map the records.
  • Lastly you will need to hit Finnish and yes to confirm.

After using the data loader you will see a window that summaries your results such as how many new records created, updated or deleted, depending on what you were doing.


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A note about field mapping

Finally, a note of caution: no matter if you are bulk uploading data or just uploading small amounts of records it is extremely important to have a clear view on how fields from a file will map to the CRM. The same is even true when you are manually updating data. You need to be in your mind aware which field of the business card you are looking at will contribute to which field in your CRM. Now it sounds easy, the email is the e-mail, the phone number is the phone number and so on. But what if you have more information. What if you have a rating and a grade as lead fields in your CRM how do you update those? The main thing here is to follow through field mapping in a consistent manner. Another best practice is to use fields in the file that correspond already to your CRM setup. For example if you are at an event where you can use devices such as lead retriever try to set the fields up as much as possible like you have them in your actual object.