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Salesforce is a cloud-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. It is widely regarded as the world’s leading CRM platform and has served over 150,000 paying clients in the past two decades.

The Salesforce CRM  provides a robust database largely based on Oracle.  The database also uses features of PostgreSQL and a few other languages for its functions.

This article explains the structure of the Salesforce database and its operational aspects that lead to its tremendous power as a CRM tool.

What is the Salesforce Database?

The Salesforce database caters to hundreds of thousands of customers and manages all their data and requirements.  

The storage, organization, and manipulation of such vast amounts of data require a strong, robust database.  The core of the Salesforce CRM platform is the Database Class that uses a tabular technique to organize and handle data.

Being a hub that stores large amounts of data obtained from many users, the Salesforce DB has many special features that enable security and easy handling. This large repository enables Salesforce to load more than the system RAM.  The database can be accessed simultaneously by multiple users and admins with seamless operations that enable fast retrieval of data.

The history and evolution of the Salesforce Database

Salesforce has since its inception, emerged as a popular CRM tool that is used by many companies effectively to communicate across teams, improve customer relationships, and enhance user experience.

It enables sales, marketing, commerce, and tech teams to work on a common platform. This means a lot of data must be stored within the platform, with logical interconnections and groups for easy navigation and communication.  

These data include, within a single company’s operations, names and details of all employees, names and details of all customers associated with the company, lead management details, marketing management details, dates, numerous communication threads, and technical and financial data involving all operations.

The Salesforce database has evolved through the years to enable easy data management, seamless sync, easy access and data security.

The Salesforce Database architecture

The Salesforce db is not just a repository of customer and company data, but also offers numerous custom services. These services include, among many others, the capability of building custom apps, pages, components, etc. Such services are possible because of the Salesforce database’s  well-designed multilayer architecture.

The Salesforce architecture is built of stacked levels and offers a flexible and adaptable interface that is easy and efficient to use. Some essential features of the Salesforce database architecture include:

  • Combination of various layers for a multi tenant architecture
  • Multi-tenancy assures consistency of functions across the growth and evolution of the user enterprise.
  • The inclusion of custom setups, functions, and scripts in the metadata allows for easier browsing of the site.
  • Rapid sharing of information between the components of the Salesforce db is enabled by APIs that can locate metadata.
  • APIs, data services, and AI services comprise the fundamental layer of services provided by Salesforce.

The Salesforce database is made of three functional components – Objects, Fields and Records. Let us see each of the components in detail:

1) Salesforce Database Objects

The database in Salesforce is relational in structure, which means that the data is stored in tables.

In Salesforce, these tables are called Objects. The tables or objects comprise columns that indicate the type and rows that are the records. The entries are called fields or data records. Multiple objects can be associated with a single record, and these objects are interconnected using unique identifiers.

Multiple objects in the Salesforce database are interrelated through different types of relationships, often set by the user.

There are many types of objects that may be used in the database of Salesforce:

  • Standard Objects are pre-created by the Salesforce platform and may be used directly. Details like leads, accounts, contacts, etc., are examples of standard objects.
  • Custom Objects can be created by the user according to their needs that are driven by business processes or functionalities
  • External Objects can be created to map data stored outside the organization.

Various combinations of these types of objects allow businesses to manage different kinds of data and make the platform flexible for their use.

2) Salesforce Database Fields

The column of an object is the field. Each field indicates a specific type of data.

Fields are of two types in the Salesforce Database.

  • Standard Fields and common to all objects on Salesforce that are prebuilt and provided on the platform.  Some examples of standard fields are:

o   Identity: a 15-character, case-sensitive field that is automatically generated when a new record is entered.

o   System: a Read-only field that holds the information about a record.

o   Name: The name of each record that helps in creating a distinguishing feature. These can be text or auto-numbered names.

  • Custom Fields: Fields that are created by the user on standard and custom objects on the database of Salesforce.

3) Salesforce Database Records

Records are the actual entries of the tables in the database of Salesforce.  Records can be created for leads, tasks, opportunities, notes, and accounts. Records are the data that are stored.

Records may be of numerous types depending on the business processes, nature of users, customers and admin. These records run and link different business processes and collate the activities that include users, customers, and admins.

Features of the Salesforce Database

Other important features of relational databases are keys and relationships.

1) Keys

Keys are unique identifiers of the columns in the tables of the database. Each table also has a unique key. So, the unique key can be used to link to other tables. The column keys and the table keys produce a massive web of tables that are interconnected.  This interconnection allows for exceptional functionalities like tracking, measuring and utilizing vast volumes of customer data.

The Salesforce DB, like all relational databases, uses two kinds of keys to identify the columns in the tables:

  • Primary Key: A Primary key is a column or a combination of multiple columns that uniquely identifies the record in an object. When multiple columns are used as the primary key, data from every column is used to determine the uniqueness of a record.
  • Foreign Key: A Foreign key is a column or a combination of multiple columns of the table (object) that refers to the primary key of another table (object). The Foreign key may not always point to a primary key in the other table, but will always uniquely identify a row (record) in a table.

2) Relationships

Relationships are defined to connect the tables (Objects) in Salesforce with each other. Object relationships allow the creation of intricate dynamic webs of data. Salesforce also allows the setting up of  Object relationships with custom objects. Standard objects come with prebuilt share relationships.

The Two Types of important types of Relationships in Salesforce are

  • Lookup relationships: Wherein related objects are “looked up” from within the object itself.
  • Master-Detail relationships: This connects a master object with a detail object, the former controlling the latter. Thus, a customer contact master object can be connected to a customer sales detail object. Deleting the detail object won’t delete the master object, but deleting the contact master object will delete the sales detail object as well.

While lookup and master-detail are the main types of relationships used in Salesforce objects, other relationships are also used for sharing, deleting and accessing data. Some relationships types used in the Salesforce Database are

  • Many to One
  • Many to Many
  • External lookup
  • Self
  • Hierarchical

3) Schema Builder

Schema builder is a tool used to visualize, understand, and edit data models. It can help create fields and objects.  It provides a clear visualization of the data flow within the system.

Syncing Data from Salesforce

An important aspect of Salesforce Database management is the transfer of data from Salesforce to other external systems. The external systems could be data handling applications, warehouses, other databases, etc. The procedure for Syncing or Migration of data from Salesforce greatly depends on the format, size, and accuracy of the source data involved. When the migration involves a large volume of data, there arises a risk of errors. To overcome this problem, Salesforce uses a virtual space called Org that helps in the accurate migration of data from the Salesforce Database to external systems.

Org migration involves moving an org of a Salesforce instance to another. Salesforce has many System of Records (SOR) that are used to store metadata and customer data. Customer data can be stored in SOR after copying from relational databases, FileForce, and NoSQL Databases.

Salesforce’s org migration tool can also be used to move one Salesforce SOR to the target SOR. The multitenant architecture of Salesforce makes simple migration difficult, but a ‘custom data copy’ tool that runs on Salesforce application servers can be used to migrate data.

Some of the efficient tools offered by Salesforce for importing and exporting data are:

  • The data import wizard allows the import of objects such as contacts, accounts, and leads into custom tables (objects) in the database of Salesforce. Over 50,000 records can be simultaneously imported using this tool. An easy-to-use interface is provided to specify configuration parameters, field mappings, and data sources. Field mappings support mapping the field names in the imported file with the field names of the Salesforce database.
  • The Data Loader can import over 5 million records at a time. The advantage of the data loader is that the data can be of any type, and the source can also be any database connection. GUI and command line windows are used to operate this tool

Data can be exported automatically or manually in one of two methods:

  • The data Export Service is a browser service that can be accessed using a setup menu.  This tool can be used to export data weekly or monthly.
  • The data Loader is a separately installable tool that works on GUI and command line prompts to automate the export process.  

APIs can also be used to integrate Salesforce with other systems.