Last updated on: November 8, 2021
You heard about companies that use both SharePoint and Salesforce. It made you question if there is any real synergy in using both applications. Can there be advantages to a Salesforce SharePoint integration, or is it simply not worth it?
In this article, we will consider the benefits and pitfalls of this integration so that you can decide if it makes sense in your scenario.
Benefits – Why should you go for a Salesforce and SharePoint integration?
It is widely known that Salesforce, also known as SFDC (Salesforce Dot Com), is one of the most expensive CRM tools. In 2021, and for the 13th time in a row, Gartner named Salesforce a Leader in the CRM Customer Engagement Center Magic Quadrant.
In August 2021, Salesforce made it to the top 5 on all relevant categories of the 2021 CRM Industry Leader Awards (best enterprise CRM software and solutions, best CRM for midsize and small businesses, best business intelligence and analytics, and best customer data platforms).
Why is Salesforce so successful? In the words of Kate Leggett, principal analyst at Forrester Research, Salesforce’s strength lies in “its broad end-to-end portfolio that caters to both B2C and B2B organizations (…) and its ability to deliver a platform that eases integration, automation, prediction, and prescription”.
Let’s focus on the integration aspect. Through Salesforce AppExchange, the cloud marketplace for anything Salesforce-related, you can get all kinds of solutions that integrate with Salesforce and expand its power. Out of all these integrations with Salesforce, the Salesforce SharePoint integration stands out as a popular choice.
One of the main reasons for that is that it is a money saver: you can save a lot in Salesforce’s storage costs. The amount of Salesforce storage that is included in your plan is 10 GB (File storage) + 10 GB (Data storage) with some additional storage depending on the number of users (check Salesforce.com for the precise Salesforce storage limits applicable to you and the way these storage limits are enforced).
For example, a Professional Edition org with 20 users receives 10.4 GB of data storage + 22.9 GB of file storage. For storing files and attachments, only the file storage is relevant, so we will focus on the 22.9 GB.
The standard SharePoint is 1 TB plus 10 GB per license purchased (exact limits depend on your plan). This means that for that case, the included storage is over 40 times larger (!) with a total of 1224 GB in SharePoint against the 22.9 GB in Salesforce. If that is not enough, you can buy extra SharePoint storage for $0.20/month for each extra GB. This is the first reason to integrate Salesforce with SharePoint – saving on storage costs.
The second reason is that SharePoint is better at storing many files than Salesforce. Yes, you can have Salesforce documents and notes attached to accounts, contacts, and almost anything really. But if you use that option all the time, those Salesforce documents - invoices, receipts, statements of work, contracts, and others - will start to pile up. They end up stealing valuable operating capacity, and degrading Salesforce performance. Keep in mind that Salesforce is not a document management system.
Moving the files to a document management system is a smarter option. A document management system will provide you with relevant features, such as:
- you can collaborate on documents with other team members,
- you can see the document’s version history,
- you can share files to external users.
Pitfalls - What should I look out for when doing a Salesforce integration with SharePoint?
If you try to integrate Salesforce with SharePoint using the tools you get with Salesforce, you will do it with Salesforce’s Files Connect (some online references will mention it as SFDC Files Connect – it is the same thing).
There are a few things you need to know if you go down that road. The first thing is that this will only work with SharePoint Online. It used to work for SharePoint 2013 / 2010 on-premises versions, but the most current documentation no longer mentions any of this, including the licensing options (the paid license “Files Connect for on-premises external data sources” no longer seems to be available).
Then note that with this integration, users will be able to access and share SharePoint files via the Files tab and feed, and search for them the same way they search their Salesforce content. But the file needs to be already in SharePoint to begin with. That might not be very intuitive to users, especially if they are already used to Salesforce but not so much so to SharePoint.
Next, you may not want to store financial and client-related files in the cloud. If you try to comply with data protection regulations like GDPR, you can’t do it like this. To guarantee that you know where your data is stored and who has access to it, you should store documents with personal information on-premises.
And then there is the problem of getting the Files Connect integration to work. Just for starters, you have to work your way through the 137 pages of the official documentation (links at the end of this section), which is mostly outdated… it was written when Files Connect was launched back in 2015 and the updates to it have been scarce (most of them were last updated in 2016). As SharePoint online was significantly overhauled in 2018, some terms are not the same and some actions need to be performed differently.
Many users follow the integration instructions only to end with an ugly error such as:
- “Can’t access external source – External data source is unavailable because of an error”
- “You are not authorized to perform that operation”
- “An unknown error occurred while accessing Files Connect”.
Argh! It can’t really get much worse than running into an unknown error like that. When you see this kind of thing, you know it is time to look for an alternative.
Learning to integrate Salesforce and SharePoint using Files Connect (Salesforce Documentation)
Alternatives - Is there a better way to integrate Salesforce with SharePoint?
The alternative to Files Connect is to use a third-party integration tool. There are plenty of Salesforce integration tools in the Salesforce ecosystem.
Document Extractor Built for Salesforce platform™ is such an integration tool, and it is the #1 option for a SharePoint Salesforce integration. You can find it on AppExchange and on Connecting Software's website.
Document Extractor automatically transfers Salesforce documents to SharePoint and replaces the original documents with links pointing to them at SharePoint. You can also look at it as a compliance & migration tool, because moving the files in this way can help you in meeting GDPR and other regulations requirements.
The general idea is that the end-users still access the files where they originally saved them – in Salesforce under the respective accounts, lead, or any kind of object.
In the background, Document Extractor automatically detects the files, moves them to the corresponding libraries in SharePoint and leaves links in Salesforce in their place.
The user sees a link in the exact same location he expected the file to be in Salesforce, so for them it is the same – the user experience doesn’t change.
Document Extractor also transfers the information about the Salesforce document creator, editor, and owner to SharePoint for easier tracking of the documents. The name and extension of the original files are also transferred, so users can still search for those files by both name and extension in Salesforce. The version history is also kept.
Moreover, when the service finds two documents with the same name at the same location on Salesforce, it creates two documents on SharePoint, and it adds a suffix that allows both files to exist on SharePoint.
Whenever you add a document to a new object in Salesforce, Document Extractor will automatically create the correct folder to store it on SharePoint. This works for a Standard object like an Account, Contact, Lead, or Opportunity or a Custom object. Furthermore, Document Extractor will keep the same structure as well and all documents related to that new object.
Several new features were recently added to Document Extractor. Out of the long list of new features but here is my top 5:
- Full sync with SharePoint – even when users directly upload files to SharePoint, or when they do file moves, deletes, and renames in SharePoint
- Better Filenames = Easier Search - renames of files in Salesforce are also synchronized to SharePoint and you can now customize the filename in SharePoint using a Salesforce custom field
- Save on SharePoint licenses – Get documents from SharePoint without the need for users to have SharePoint license
- File previews (beta) – See the preview in Salesforce for all file types supported by SharePoint
- Blockchain Sealing Integration Available – you can put an end to tiring and repetitive paperwork verifications and get the highest security possible by integrating with CB Blockchain Seal for SharePoint
We added these new features to accommodate the feedback we got from the growing customer base of Document Extractor. Interested in knowing what our customers say of Document Extractor?
You can read a review of Document Extractor by one of our private sector customers
“With Document Extractor, the process is seamless to my end users. They don’t even know it is there, which is what we wanted”
You can also read the review by one our public sector customers, whose consultant company was happy to find Document Extractor in Salesforce AppExchange so that they could fix a complex situation in an easy way
“When we first found Document Extractor, we thought that if it did what it said on the tin, it would tick all our boxes. And it did: just basic configuration, and it worked first time!”
What if I already have my documents in SharePoint and want to link to them in Salesforce?
If you are already using Microsoft SharePoint and all your files are in SharePoint, before you start with Salesforce, you naturally would like your Salesforce objects to have links to those existing documents.
If you have an underlying rule in the filename or the folder structure, you can use our Connect Bridge integration platform to create URLs in Salesforce that then point to those documents in SharePoint. The result would look identical to what you see in a normal Document Extractor installation: links in Salesforce to documents in SharePoint. It is important to note that the URLs I mentioned could be created under any of the standard objects and also under custom objects in Salesforce.
What else can I integrate with Salesforce?
You can actually integrate any type of dataset with Salesforce in a similar way, using the CB On-prem Database to Salesforce Sync solution. This solution is based on the Connect Bridge integration platform mentioned above and can be used as a SQL Server - Salesforce connector.
In reality, this integration platform is quite flexible and can do more than connect Microsoft SQL Server to Salesforce. You can also connect any local database management system (DBMS) such as Oracle, SAP HANA, MariaDB, or MySQL to Salesforce.
You can get the data from Salesforce to SQL Server or another local database or do it the other way round: get data from the database and put it into Salesforce.
This means you can create all kinds of flexible migration or synchronization solutions, as you can connect to any existing database. It is a great way of maximizing what you can take out of a Salesforce integration, as you can get a perfect fit for your data integration needs without any of the normal hassle and problems of a custom solution.
3 Simple Steps to Get Started
Ready to start moving your Salesforce documents to SharePoint? Here are the necessary steps:
Step 1 – Check requirements
You should first check if the SharePoint and Salesforce versions you would be using are in the list of the supported versions of Document Extractor: • Microsoft SharePoint 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 and Online (Office 365) • Salesforce Professional, Enterprise, Unlimited, Force.com, and Developer – both Lightning Experience and Classic
Step 2 – Download Document Extractor
As mentioned, the trial is free, but you do have to follow a normal shopping cart procedure and place an order at the cost of $0.00. Once you do that, you’ll receive instructions via email.
Step 3 – Install on Your Sandbox
Once you get the instructions email, you need to click Complete Your Registration.
From there, installation will start. We always recommend that you start by installing Document Extractor on your sandbox, and then you can move it to production. You should therefore use Test/Sandbox on the Instance field rather than Production for now.
When you choose Test/Sandbox, you’ll need to type your sandbox service username. This is simply a dedicated system administrator. This user should have elevated access rights to allow modifications of the system. Please also make sure this account is not used to access your Salesforce by anyone else. You’ll need the service user password and the security token so that you can test the connection.
If you want to see how the configuration is done in further detail, check out this tutorial installation video.
Document Extractor uses the help of a managed package with a set of Apex classes and triggers to stub your documents from Salesforce to SharePoint. Once installed, you’ll see the package listed in the list of the installed packages.
Next, you’ll need to provide your SharePoint settings. You need to have a user with enough permissions to read and write documents to the document library where documents will be stored.
Document Extractor uses “Push notifications”, which means that the service detects new documents uploaded to Salesforce. The service also uses “Full Scan Polling” as a backup mechanism to ensure that all files were stubbed. We recommended you increase the interval of the “Full Scan Polling” to optimize your API calls consumption.
Document Extractor is the trustworthy Salesforce third-party integration tool that can better handle SharePoint and Salesforce’s integration.
This tool is available in Salesforce AppExchange. You can read through the product description and features, try it for free or buy the SaaS version.
If you are going for SaaS deployment, another option is ordering the product directly from the Connecting software’s website. Yet another option is the self-hosted version, which is a favorite with larger organizations that prefer to be in full control of the product.
Article last updated on October 12, 2021
More on Document Extractor Built for Salesforce Platform
If the Salesforce SharePoint integration is something you are interested in, have a look at the articles and case studies below.
If you are looking for a way to support Salesforce Exchange connections with multiple Exchange servers involved, check CB Salesforce Exchange Sync.
Technical advisor at Connecting Software
I have been a software engineer since 1997, with a more recent love for writing and public speaking. Do you have any questions or comments about this post or about Connect Bridge? I would love to have your feedback!