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The Ultimate Guide to Salesforce Sandboxes

Like any important tool, you need to keep your Salesforce production org in good working condition so it continues to deliver value to your organization. That means implementing new codes, configurations, automation, and features that keep your org running smoothly.

While these changes are to the benefit of your company, it’s important to remember minor errors, accidental deletions, or bad code can cause sweeping shifts in your production org, which could cause hours or even days of work to undo. That’s why most developers plan and test their changes before deploying them to avoid compromising their live environment.

Fortunately, you don’t need to compromise your live production org test a new code or train a new developer; you can use a Salesforce Sandbox.

What is a Salesforce Sandbox?

Salesforce Sandboxes are replicas of your production org. They serve as a staging environment for admins and developers and are separated into their own environment, preventing corruption in your production org due to bad code, bugs, or even human error.

As the aptly chosen name suggests, any changes applied to your Sandbox will not impact your live production org. Just like a children’s sandbox, which serves to keep the sand in and away from the rest of the backyard or other parts of the playground, your Sandbox keeps any changes or new code separate and contained, preventing them from infiltrating the rest of your environment until you are ready to release it.

salesforce sandboxes

There are significant benefits of utilizing a Sandbox:

  • Develop new features: Your org will need upgrades and enhancements to continue to work its best and add value to your business. Sandboxes allow you to develop new features safely without risking your live data. Your developers can work in their sandbox while in development and later promote the feature – whether code, workflow, or app – to shared sandbox for review and testing, preventing accidental releases or overwriting.
  • Test and troubleshoot: After you develop your new features, you can test their functionality and ensure they work as you need them to, avoiding release of a bad code that takes weeks to debug or refactor. You can also troubleshoot how to solve an issue without affecting your production org.
  • Train new developers: Because Sandboxes are copies of your production org and can include all your data and metadata, your trainees can gain company-specific and relevant developer experience within your production org without comprising its integrity. They can practice writing codes, configuring settings, or creating customizations, all without risking your valuable records.

Consider this scenario Your developers are working on a new workflow within your production org. Unfortunately, there is a bug in the workflow, which begins to alter the live data in your production org. Once your developers find this mistake, it takes them weeks to undo the alterations and restore the data, and unfortunately, some information is completely lost. This could have been prevented if the developer was working in Sandbox.

salesforce sandboxes bugs

Types of Sandboxes

There are four main types of Sandboxes:

  • Full
  • Partial Copy
  • Developer Pro
  • Developer

Each type of Sandbox has a unique purpose. For example, Developer Sandboxes are the simplest form of testing environments; while they’re free, they only copy metadata and have limited storage capabilities.

Meanwhile, Full Copy Sandboxes are the only type that includes copies of all your live metadata and data, providing an exact replica of your live environment. Using this type, you can only refresh every 29 days, which could be limiting for anyone who frequently makes changes to their production org. Full Copy Sandboxes are also only available on premium or unlimited plans.

Which Sandbox Type you have access to will depend on your plan, or if you are willing to purchase add-ons to meet your needs.

What is Sandbox seeding?

You need to build and test changes before they go live in your production org. However, how can you accurately test something if the staging environment doesn’t match the live environment exactly? That’s where Sandbox Seeding comes in.

As we mentioned above, only Full Copy Sandboxes are exact replicas of your production org. The others must be populated with dummy data in order to serve as an accurate staging environment. This process of filling your Sandbox with data is called Sandbox seeding.

sandbox seeding

Challenges of Salesforce Sandbox Seeding

Unfortunately, Sandbox seeding comes with a host of challenges, including:

  1. It can be incredibly time-consuming and labor-intensive. Relevant, fresh data in your Sandbox is essential to run accurate tests. However, it can be tedious to find and populate relevant information, and things like maintaining associations, such as between “parent” and “child” records, make it all the more manual and complicated.
  2. It can be difficult to maintain data consistency. To make certain your two environments match, you would need to manually do your own change management to ensure your new data, custom metadata, etc gets deployed to both your live and test environments regularly, which is prone to errors. Ensuring data consistency is tedious enough, but worse is attempting to find the inconsistency between your two orgs when you notice something is off.
  3. It can be costly. Maintaining multiple Sandboxes at once can be expensive, which means you must either increase the cost of your plan or frequently go through the seeding process each time you need to test a new workflow, application, or feature.

While important – using real data is the only way to ensure whatever you are testing will perform the same way in your production org – these challenges can make developing an accurate Sandbox feel impossible.

How to Streamline Your Sandbox Development

Fortunately, there are tools available that can streamline your sandbox development. For example, leveraging a Sandbox template allows you to seed specific objects and data you want to be copied into your sandbox, which can speed up the process and create exactly the Sandbox testing environment you need.

You can skip Sandbox seeding all together with out-of-place restores, which enable you to create exact replicas of your org without the manual labor of creating dummy data or purchasing licensing for Full Copy Sandboxes.

salesforce sandboxes

Some Salesforce backup vendors will include these features in addition to their backup and restoration capabilities. For example, AvePoint’s Cloud Backup offers free Sandbox templates and out-of-place restores, in addition to backup and recovery, allowing you to create the most accurate Sandbox possible to test your workflows, triggers, and events exactly the way they would work in production.

Cloud Backup also helps unburden your admins with features like delegated administration. Admins have the option to grant seeding permissions through role-based access controls, giving users the ability to create new templates or edit existing ones.

By streamlining your Sandbox builds, you will simplify and speed up all testing, developing, troubleshooting, and training while unburdening your admins.

The Bottom Line

While it’s essential that you deploy changes, new applications, and updates to your production org, it’s also risky. Salesforce Sandboxes help you reduce the risks by providing an accurate test environment to develop, trial, and troubleshoot them. Most importantly, however, Sandboxes allow you to do all of this without compromising your actual data, keeping your production org clean and secure.

While valuable, Sandbox creation and development can be burdensome for admins and developers. To ensure the most value add possible, you should consider third-party solutions that streamline the process.

Avoid corruption in your Salesforce org by creating the most accurate Sandbox possible. Schedule a demo or check out Salesforce AppExchange to discover how AvePoint’s Cloud Backup – the Leader in multi-SaaS backup – can help.

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