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End of Salesforce Recovery highlights need for SaaS backup

Experts say this retirement means little change for customers, because they should have been relying on third parties for Salesforce backup in the first place.

Salesforce Data Recovery Services retires on July 31, 2020, and experts say it will be met with a collective shrug.

Salesforce Data Recovery is a last-resort service for customers looking to restore lost Salesforce data. The data is restored from a copy of customer data that Salesforce maintains for disaster recovery (DR) purposes. It is a manual process, and Salesforce charges a flat rate of $10,000. The process takes six to eight weeks to complete and does not guarantee full data recovery. Salesforce said it will retire this service because it does not meet its quality standards.

Salesforce backup vendors and industry analysts said the end of Salesforce Data Recovery won't mean much to most customers. Customers who already have ways of backing up their data through a third-party vendor or through diligent manual exports are unlikely to need this last-resort service. Other Salesforce customers don't believe they need to back up their Salesforce data at all, and likely don't know about Salesforce Data Recovery.

However, the shuttering of Salesforce Data Recovery draws attention to Salesforce's limited native data protection options. Experts pointed out that customers looking for backup, DR and high availability for Salesforce are realizing how vulnerable they are and turning to third parties.

"The market, for a while, thought the cloud was doing everything for them," said Odaseva CEO Sovan Bin, whose company provides Salesforce data protection.

Salesforce relies on partners to provide backup

Joe Noonan, vice president of products for Unitrends and Spanning, backup vendors owned by Kaseya, said customers should have always been worried about their Salesforce data backup options, even before Salesforce Data Recovery Services shut down. Salesforce Data Recovery and weekly exports of Salesforce data aren't good enough, according to Noonan. The former is expensive, time-consuming and unreliable, and the latter restores data that could be up to a week old.

"They were not really protected in the first place," said Noonan.

Noonan cited a study from analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) last year that found a roughly three-way split among IT decision-makers. About one-third thought they needed SaaS backup, another third thought they didn't need any backup for SaaS apps and the rest thought their cloud company provided backup for them. Noonan said the situation has improved, as he has observed more customers investigating Spanning for Office 365 and Salesforce backup, but he said the study revealed a need to educate customers about their vulnerability.

"There's a whole portion of the market that doesn't realize they need this," Noonan said.

Noonan said Salesforce natively provides tools for bulk uploads and bulk data manipulation, but the processes are manual and not scalable. He pointed out that Salesforce suggests to its customers to shop for backup through Salesforce AppExchange, and Salesforce does not promote any vendors in particular. Salesforce relies heavily on its partnerships with third-party vendors to provide backup for its product.

Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting, said Salesforce isn't the only SaaS vendor relying on third parties to provide data protection. He cited a host of vendors that provide support for the Microsoft Office 365 suite of SaaS products, including Veeam and Rubrik. What's important is for the SaaS vendor to build out an ecosystem of partners so that customers don't have to use different backup vendors to protect different products. Staimer said Salesforce has a good range of partners to point its customers to.

"It's a given," Staimer said about using third parties for Salesforce backup. "It's not a big deal. Customers can use Datto, Asigra and all the other Salesforce partners."

A matter of availability

Backup is only one aspect of data protection, but availability is also important. For SaaS applications such as Salesforce, which is working with mission-critical data, downtime is costly. Salesforce's Master Service Agreement promises customers 24/7 availability except for planned maintenance and circumstances beyond the company's control such as natural disasters or internet outages, and the company has maintained a 99.9% or higher track record for uptime.

Christophe Bertrand, senior analyst at ESG, said there's no reason to believe that SaaS applications do not need high availability (HA). He said when Office 365 or Salesforce stops working, the businesses using them also stop working. He pointed out it doesn't matter that such events rarely happen -- natural disasters are also rare, but that doesn't mean businesses shouldn't have DR plans for their on-premises applications.

Bertrand said Salesforce shuttering its Recovery Services product because it wasn't good is small news, but it exposed Salesforce's weaknesses when it comes to backup and recovery.

Bertrand said for a product as important and popular as Salesforce, despite its uptime track record, its availability is actually lacking. Certain businesses such as call centers have low downtime tolerances, and it's not enough that they have only one Salesforce HA offering to turn to. Salesforce, by its nature, generates mission-critical data, yet not every organization can truly support it as a mission-critical application because it doesn't give them the recovery time objectives they need.

"Availability is one of the dirty little secrets of Salesforce. It's exposing big risk and giving opportunities to third parties," Bertrand said.

Bertrand sees Salesforce availability as a maturity problem, and one that will be solved over time. He said Salesforce has "a lot of growing up to do" when it comes to backup and recovery, and he expects the company to lean on its partners to come up with more BC/DR and HA offerings.

OwnBackup CMO Jamie Grenney said Salesforce has been transparent about what its responsibilities and capabilities are and actively directs customers to third-party vendors for more granular backup, business continuity and DR. He said from a business continuity and disaster recovery standpoint, Salesforce's uptime is generally impressive, and for most customers, service disruptions aren't a primary concern.

"Salesforce is not perfect, but it is world-class compared to what any company can provide on its own," Grenney said.

Nevertheless, unexpected outages still happen, such as the incident on May 17, 2019, when Salesforce went down for 15 hours.

Most Salesforce data protection products can keep customers' data from being corrupted, overwritten or deleted during an outage, but they can't keep the Salesforce environment available. Grenney said OwnBackup keeps the backup copies available and accessible, and Noonan said Spanning's logic can reconcile offline changes with the last good backup, which protects against data loss when Salesforce becomes available again. However, Spanning backup was not designed for DR.

"Our product is not designed to add more '9s' to the end of the Salesforce SLA," Noonan said.

Odaseva's ultra-high availability (UHA) addresses availability, allowing customers to fail over to an emulated Salesforce environment to continue working when Salesforce is down. Once Salesforce becomes available again, Odaseva re-synchronizes the two environments, performing what is essentially a failback.

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