Document Storage Options with Salesforce

Document Storage Options with Salesforce

Working with so many nonprofits using Salesforce, we’ve seen lots of different configurations for how they choose to manage files. Many organizations continue to use a “share drive” which is maintained by their IT department. Others realize the benefit of having a cloud-based solution, and many ask us which one is “best” for integrating with Salesforce. I won’t go so far as to describe which is best, but rather, give a rundown of some popular options (knowing there are MANY more) and describing how they interface with Salesforce. As I mentioned in my Spring ’14 Release Notes post, I’m quite excited about Salesforce Files (beta), which will make integrating with all of these options better and more seamless. For now, here is a quick description of some options with highlights of their features as well as some considerations for their use.

Salesforce Content

Salesforce Content is an incredibly robust option that is directly within Salesforce. Content includes many nice features. One is the ability to create “Content Packs” which allow you to bundle multiple documents into a single grouping. This grouping can then be provided as a link to internal or external users. As internal users update documents within the system, the links will always provide the most current content, regardless of when the link was sent. This ensures that the Content provided to external users (such as Volunteers, Patients, or even Staff Members) is always up to date.

Content Deliveries and Related Content can also be added as a related list to Case records, allowing for a clear history of what help topics/documents may have been sent to a constituent. Another feature that many organizations find helpful is the ability to organize documents into Libraries. Each library can have different permissions, allowing for tight control in organizations where many departments use Content. Overall, it is a very nice solution but some organizations with a lot of documents may find that the document storage costs can become prohibitive, or it may not be workable if not all users have access to Salesforce.

Chatter Files

Files can be added directly to a Chatter feed. This can be extremely useful for keeping documents directly within the feed on the record. These documents are also added to the Notes & Attachments related list of a record. These count towards file storage as well. Chatter files will soon integrate with other document storage solutions directly through Salesforce Files, so these will likely become more heavily used in conjunction with some of the other tools mentioned here. As with Content, external users do not have access to these files.

Google Drive

Google Drive is a very popular option for organizations who are already using Google Apps for their business (such as for email). Google Drive allows for collaboration on documents quickly and easily. However, there is little version control available. Google Drive does allow folders, similar to libraries within Salesforce Content. In addition, the creator of a Google Drive folder has control over who may have access to the content within that folder, and even which documents they are able to access. Users can collaborate on documents by making changes, adding comments, and chatting directly with users who may be viewing the document at the same time. Salesforce Files will be able to sync directly with Google Drive, bringing documents into the Chatter feed and being updated as documents are updated. In the meantime, there are various options for syncing Google Drive to Salesforce, including Zapier, itDuzzit, and custom integrations. Some organizations simply add a web tab or custom link within Salesforce which displays their Google Drive. Links to Google documents can be shared with anyone, including users external to your organization, to allow them visibility and potentially allow for collaboration.

Box

Box is a document storage tool which allows sophisticated folder structures, collaboration with internal and external users, and the ability to assign tasks on individual documents. There is currently a tight integration with Salesforce using the Box for Salesforce App, but with the advent of Salesforce Files, this could improve even further. This app makes it easy for an administrator to control which employees have access to folders and files and there is also the ability to track document usage. Box allows external users to access documents, and you can use password protection for those links should you desire. Box has full-text search, making it much easier to locate desired documents (ie you do not need to know the document title). The tools for organizing files are robust, including tagging and an intuitive folder structure that is managed by an administrator and consistent for all users. Box is also mobile-enabled so that staff can access documents directly from mobile devices. A defining feature not found in some other tools is the ability to have comments about the document as well as to assign tasks for other users directly from the document. An exciting beta feature is automated task assignment and file moving directly in Box, similar to Salesforce workflow rules.

SharePoint

Sharepoint is a tool which is made by Microsoft. It is an enterprise file storage system with sophisticated controls for security, folders, workflows, and sharing. Users can also have discussion boards and RSS feeds which can sync directly to their Outlook. With the newest version of Salesforce, there is now a feature called “Sunlight Search” which allows users to search documents in Sharepoint directly from Salesforce. The internal Sharepoint search tool is not its strong suit. With Salesforce Files, users will also be able to sync files with Chatter. The largest drawback for many users of Sharepoint is its cost, as well as the fact that it cannot be made public for documents to be shared with those outside the organization. Also, because it is very sophisticated, it may be a bit of “overkill” for smaller organizations that do not require all of its features.

Dropbox

Dropbox supports multi-user version control, allowing users to edit and re-post files without overwriting versions. When a file in a user’s Dropbox folder is changed, Dropbox only uploads the pieces of the file that are changed when synchronizing. Files deleted from Dropbox may be recovered from any synched computer for up to 30 days by default and indefinitely with the purchase of a Dropbox add-on called Packrat. Single sign-on is available with Dropbox for Business. There is an optional web service and browser extension, cloudHQ for Dropbox, that allows Dropbox to sync Google Docs and allows editing Dropbox documents in the browser.

File It – Dropbox Connector for Salesforce allows complete access to Dropbox directly in Salesforce. It allows management of a user’s Dropbox account from within Salesforce, including the ability to add and share files and attach Dropbox files to Salesforce records. One significant benefit is the ability to bypass the file-size limit restrictions in Salesforce. By utilizing Dropbox’s syncing capabilities, files are accessible in Salesforce, Dropbox, and locally. When attaching documents to Salesforce records, a folder structure is automatically created in Dropbox to mirror the setup in Salesforce.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a lot of tools available (many more than those mentioned here), and what is right for your organization will vary based on cost, features, and current system use. If many people within your organization do not have access to Salesforce, some options may be more attractive than others. Likewise, if you want to encourage further adoption of Salesforce by existing users, using a tool within Salesforce or tightly integrated with it will only further encourage people to go to Salesforce for all their needs. Finally, if you already use one of the tools above, it can be time-consuming to migrate all your files from that solution to another. What is your favorite document storage tool? Have you used any of the integrations above? Comment below with your experience!

Mary Pustejovsky

About Mary Pustejovsky

A 2013 Salesforce MVP, Mary joined Heller Consulting in 2006 and has been helping nonprofits be more effective with their data ever since. At Heller, Mary has worked with clients of all sizes and types, from small schools and hospital foundations to large international relief organizations. She has a passion for nonprofits that drives all of the work that she does with clients. She strives to truly understand the business needs of an organization and help clients to find the solution that is best for them. Mary consults on The Raiser’s Edge as well as Salesforce.com and various Apps in its ecosystem, and enjoys helping clients be more successful with the software they have, or determining what will help them to meet their needs in the future. She is a Salesforce.com Certified Advanced Administrator and Certified Developer, as well as a Luminate CSP Consultant and Technical Specialist.

5 comments

  1. Just wondering….we store our invoice PDFs on a local Windows file server, but I want these PDF’s to be viewable from within Salesforce.
    Is there some way to open a file on a local shared file server using the new Files features of Salesforce, or do I have to copy all my invoice PDF’s to Salesforce, Sharepoint or Google to meet this need?

    • Mary Pustejovsky

      Chris, Salesforce Files lets you have a local file folder. I am pretty sure you can just drag/drop your files there and they will appear in Salesforce.

  2. Susan Kenna Wright

    I just saw that the Spring ’14 Salesforce Release includes a file storage limit increase. Very cool.

  3. Hi Justin,
    Thanks for the comment. We use Office365 at Heller and it works for us. I have just heard from some folks that other options (like those mentioned above) were a better fit for their needs and were more affordable. But $4/user/month seems pretty reasonable to me!

  4. Thanks for the post! I think having revisited posts in this kind of information is helpful to find out what has developed / surfaced since a particular NPO last checked their choices.

    I was interested if your work with Sharepoint included Office365? I have found it a pretty simple interface with a web based or Desktop based Document Management functions. I knew that prices ranged on MS365 depending on your subscription, but somewhere between $4 / $20 / user/month.

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