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What is a Salesforce Data Loader and What Are Your Options?

A data loader is software that enables automated, high-volume import, export, and storage of Salesforce data. Marketing and sales professionals can’t do their job properly without lots of actionable data, and a data loader gets that data into the CRM at scale.

Manual entry simply cannot do this, so the data loader does the heavy lifting.

Executive summary

  • Data loading is a phrase used to describe mass data updates like adding or deleting hundreds of thousands of records; it also suggests converting from one format to another.
  • Salesforce data loaders are client applications that allow users to add, update, and edit large amounts of data at once.
  • Admins, developers, and consultants can use a data loader to insert and mass delete for 50,000+ files in minutes.
  • There are many third-party data loading apps on Salesforce AppExchange, in addition to the de facto Salesforce Data Loader.

Inputting, handling, processing, and deleting data is an essential skill for any Salesforce admin if they’re going to serve and empower their team.

In addition to the native, de facto Salesforce Data Loader, there are multiple apps designed to do the task. These have various differences in abilities, features, and of course price.

This article defines data loading, looks at the best apps for the task, and looks at how they actually work.

What exactly is data loading?

Data is fuel for Salesforce. Its many functions are powerful, but without good data, it’s an idle machine. CRM data can be in the form of individual records, like a business card, or long lists of contacts such as lead lists acquired from a third party.

Companies need their data to be high-quality so they can personalize their services, run effective analysis, and gauge performance and ROI, among many other tasks.

Data entry is necessary at some point, whether manually or through some type of automation.

Manually entering tens of thousands of records and getting them in usable shape just isn’t possible; especially for small business, SMEs, etc. And all forms of data entry can introduce problems such as duplicates and dirty data.

That’s why we have data loading – mass data input and/or updates.

What is a Salesforce data loader?

A Salesforce data loader is a universal tool used for bulk importing and exporting of data. It provides a user-friendly UI or command line access. Using it, you can rapidly get high volumes of data into Salesforce, track the transfer, and provide some structure for all this data. You can also use it for moving large amounts of data around, such as between orgs.

A data loader can input, update, and completely delete large amounts of Salesforce records. You might use it to put in a list of thousands of contacts, such as after capturing event leads. Or you might have it running nightly data uploads.

When importing records, a data loader will read, extract, and load information from CSV files or from a database. Exported data can similarly be output to CSVs, and then added to another database elsewhere or kept as a spreadsheet.

You can also use a Salesforce data loader to move customer data from one system to another, mass upload new data, and export records to make a backup or move them to another system. A data loader is for high volume of at least 50,000 records. Less than that can be handled by the Salesforce Data Import Wizard and various app integrations.

Scan to Salesforce is itself a data loader when dealing with smaller batches of contacts and loading in accurate data. In the same way, it can be used to organize Leads and Contacts and keep data clean and dupe-free.

A few of the main data loaders are discussed below. No matter which one you go with, there are some best practices for bulk importing/exporting data in Salesforce:

  • Make sure to create a backup CSV file before you start deleting files
  • Before moving a large number of records, test a small batch first
  • Ensure that profiles and sharing permissions are required for data import

Which data loader should you use?

Among the many apps on AppExchange, Salesforce’s official app marketplace, you’ll find a few dozen data loaders from different developers. These offer various alignments of export/import options, data limits, and and other such functions, as well as varying UIs.

Some are a bit long in the tooth and could perhaps stand an update. A few seem to have been valiant efforts. And a few stand above the rest, at least based on their 4.5- or 5-star ratings.

Your choice depends on what you want to accomplish in Salesforce.

Key considerations for choosing a data loader include:

  • Are you dealing with volume of 50,000+? If not, try the Data Import Wizard.
  • Who/which department will access it and how will access be controlled?
  • Rules to avoid duplicates.
  • How often you need to update records and if you need it automated>
  • What Salesforce objects you need to load to?

The top data loader options for Salesforce

As mentioned, there are many data loaders to choose from. But there are some clear frontrunners. These ones are widely used, have high record limits, and they’re free or low-cost, which is of course is good for constrained budgets and smaller businesses:

  • Salesforce Data Loader: This is the default data loader app in Salesforce. It can be used as a web or local app. While the basic plan is free, it has paid plans with additional features.
  • Salesforce Data Import Wizard: The Import Wizard is a built-in data migration tool for smaller numbers of records. You can access it within your Salesforce Setup. Seeing how this is a native Salesforce app, the interface is recognizable to all users and it’s pretty easy to learn.
  • Jitterbit Data Loader: This app is a part of the Jitterbit Harmony platform but it can be used outside the platform for free. Although it still doesn’t have a designated web app, the desktop app is easy to install and use for all levels of users.
  • This is a much more modern and accessible spin on the native SFDC data loader. It offers a completely cloud-based solution with a more user-friendly UI. While it was an independent product’s it’s now acquired by Salesforce. Import/export can run through Box, Dropbox, FTP, and SFTP.
  • XL-Connector: This plugin is for the Excel fans who prefer to simply work in a spreadsheet. The tool lets you pull your data off Salesforce, work on it in Excel, and sync it back into Salesforce. XL-Connector 365 is also available.

Side-by-side comparison chart

Salesforce Data LoaderData Import WizardJitterbit Data Loaderdataloader.ioXL-Connector
Record limit per use50,000 to 5 million50,000Unlimited100,000/monthn/a
Save functionsYesNoYesYesYes
Automated exportsHourly, daily, weekly, monthlyWeekly and monthlyUnlimitedHourly, daily, weekly, monthlyn/a
Manual exportsLimited on a monthly level1 per weekUnlimitedYesYes
SchedulingOnly through CLINoYesYesNo
Export #UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited1,000 at a timen/a

If you need to move data but don’t want to deal with CSVs, Prodly offers an intriguing option in that it uses data set templates between orgs.

If you’re an admin, Scan to Salesforce can help with your data management – watch how

Conclusion on data loaders

Salesforce data loaders are a powerful and user-friendly way to load large amounts of contact and other data into Salesforce.

Data loaders are a curious breed of app, because some have been around for a long time and the UI shows it. But they still work fine. But you’ve got newer cloud-based options like

If you’re an admin, sandbox a couple and see what feels right. If you’re a smaller business, you might be quite comfortable with one of the lesser known options on AppExchange.

Happy loading.