The Salesforce platform is not lacking in ways to import new data into your organization. Is it an embarrassment of riches? Or too much of a good thing? The jury is still out … but understanding the benefits and limitations of each method is crucial before beginning any data import. To get you pointed in the right direction, we've outlined the high-level use cases of each import method, beginning with the most user-friendly and moving toward the more robust. Once you have a better idea of which one is right for your current project, detailed instructions for each tool are available in Salesforce Help & Training. 

1 - Import My Accounts & Contacts: Are you a Salesforce user that has a short list of your personal leads or contacts that you want to quickly import? Maybe your contacts from Outlook or Gmail? Or a few leads you found at a trade show? This easy-to-use wizard was designed just for you. Keep in mind, although this method is fast and user-friendly, you don't want to make the mistake of rushing through the process and loading bad data. Carefully check your import file for accurate data and consider loading a test set of around five records before importing your entire file. (For more tips on preparing for a data import, check back for an upcoming blog post containing a downloadable checklist for importing records into Salesforce.)

2 - Data Import Wizard: Do you need a higher-level of functionality, such as importing records owned by different users or loading more than 500 records at a time? The Data Import Wizard may be your solution. Typically reserved for administrators and power users, the Data Import Wizard is the most commonly-used method for importing records into Salesforce. It combines the ease of a step-by-step wizard with the power of loading large amounts of data into several different Salesforce objects with duplicate detection. But you'll quickly realize that while it's a great tool, the Data Import Wizard has serious limitations that require a more robust method of importing data, which brings us to ...

3 - Data Loader: As the powerhouse of Salesforce's data import methods, the Data Loader is the right choice in many situations. Do you need to upload opportunities or cases? Is your import file larger than 50,000 records? Do you need to do nightly imports from an outside application? Export your data? Schedule nightly backups? Import into a sandbox? Any of these reasons or many others will require you to use the Data Loader. It's robust functionality utilizes the API - so if your organization uses the Professional Edition of Salesforce, you'll need to ask Salesforce for temporary API access or contact a Salesforce partner for help.

4 - Excel Connector: Finally, the beloved Excel Connector. Why would we include an open-source, unsupported importing tool on this list? I'll answer that question with another question ... what is your go-to application for quick and easy data manipulation? I'm willing to bet that most of you would say Microsoft Excel. The beauty of the Excel Connector is that it allows you to import/export/update/delete Salesforce data, all from within the comfort of an Excel spreadsheet. It's available for most Salesforce editions (Professional and higher), is easy to download and install from Force.com, and can connect to your production environment or your sandbox. There is also an active user community within the Salesforce support forums if you run into problems or have questions.

To sum it all up, we've created a visual roadmap that can help you quickly determine which method to use based on your current situation. This guide certainly doesn't contain every consideration, but will point you in the right direction based on your project parameters. Feel free to email us and we'll send you the full sized version!

Need more guidance? To see how C5 Insight can help your business succeed with Salesforce, click here