Salesforce downtime: what to expect and how to prepare

CRM Expert and IT Architect

Published:

With an unprecedented level of dependence on data and technology today, an occasional Salesforce downtime is a real nightmare for companies as it may result in a full service failure. So, it makes sense to prepare for a service disruption in advance to be able to survive it with minimum losses. Our Salesforce support specialists are ready to uncover what stands for the figure of 99.9% uptime, what impact Salesforce downtime has on businesses, the difference between a planned and unplanned downtime, and more.

Salesforce downtime

Understand the numbers correctly

Since CIOs want to know what to expect from their service providers, all of them are interested in getting a Service Level Agreement (SLA) as a guarantee of uninterrupted system performance. While the golden standard is five nines, or 99.999% availability, hardly any service provider will be able to offer that. Nonetheless, it seems that customers have nothing against the figure of 99.9%, which means the downtime is 0.1% only. Sounds impressive until you do the math. A pipe dream of 99.999% is 5 minutes 26 seconds, 99.9% uptime implies 8 hours 46 minutes of downtime per year, whereas a service level of 99% uptime means that the annual average downtime will amount to 87 hours 40 minutes. Therefore, before signing an SLA, it’s necessary to fully understand and accept the fact that your company may be left with the service down for many hours − all within the terms of the agreement.

Salesforce’s approach to SLA

While not binding itself with a standard SLA, except for specifically negotiated cases, Salesforce has come up with a Master Subscription Agreement. According to it, the service provider makes a rather vague commitment to “use commercially reasonable efforts to make the online Services available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week”. In addition, the vendor states they have the proven reliability of 99.9+% uptime record for years and has provided a community page for real-time information on system performance and security to display hosted uptime and service disruptions for the prior month.

Face system maintenance downtime and failures

At the time of the always-on business, downtime is increasingly not welcome − be it for maintenance reasons or failure.

1. Maintenance or, in other words, planned downtime, though still out of favor, is perceived as a necessary and unavoidable procedure aimed to upgrade, check and/or repair the system to ensure its reliable and optimal operation. Because planned downtime is scheduled and occurs upon prior notification, it is less likely to cause serious damage to the workflow. For example, Salesforce provides information regarding its maintenance windows so that its customers could plan their activities correspondingly. However, the dates are subject to change at the vendor’s sole discretion.

2. Unplanned downtime or, in other words, failure, happens as a result of system malfunction, force majeure, or a hacker attack. In contrast to maintenance, it is fraught with far graver consequences since users are not notified of outages in advance and, therefore, are not prepared for them. And although Salesforce guarantees their customers’ data retention for such cases, the whole experience may prove to be deplorable for many of them.

Let’s now consider the implications the Salesforce downtime may have for a business.

Evaluate the impact of Salesforce downtime on business

Used for data centralization, Salesforce is universally considered as a single source of truth for marketing, sales and customer service, where they refer to for answers related to campaigns, leads, accounts, contacts, opportunities, quotes, deals, analytics, and more. Therefore, if the system is down, it directly impacts these departments. Considering that Salesforce is tied directly to business processes, lack of availability to its tools means the workflow comes to a standstill entailing customer communication delays and temporary collapse in business operations. This results in higher expenses, customer dissatisfaction, spoilt reputation, loss of productivity, and an impossibility to comply with regulatory requirements. Even worse if it happens during the core service hours, as the financial impact in this case will be more tangible amounting to thousands or even millions of dollars.

Prepare for unplanned downtime

As a system outage is more a matter of when rather than if, IT and business departments should develop an emergency plan. We advise this plan should cover the following:

  • Develop a communication plan beforehand. This will allow all impacted parties to stay informed about an incident and not to fall into panic. Communicating to users the details of a downtime and your expectations for the system recovery will make them feel calmer about the situation and not overreact.
  • Develop a data backup and recovery strategy. Salesforce performs real-time replication to disk at each data center, and near real-time data replication between the production data center and the disaster recovery center. However, manual backup is advisable as the Salesforce Data Recovery service is an expensive and time-consuming process.
  • Subscribe to a support center. Since a downtime can happen as a result of poor customization, it makes sense to choose and subscribe to a reliable Salesforce support provider, who will help to eliminate negative consequences and adjust the platform properly according to the company’s needs.

Salesforce downtime

Be aware of limitation of provider's liabilities

In the situation where the vendor seeks to protect their interests in case of a system outage, a customer should seek ways to mitigate possible negative consequences. Salesforce’s Master Subscription Agreement limits the provider’s liabilities in some crucial cases:

  • Salesforce doesn’t guarantee uptime for your service, only for theirs. The unavailability of your software application, which may happen through the fault of your company’s users, has nothing to do with the agreement.  
  • In most cases, Salesforce guarantees availability of their service, not the quality of service. This means your software application may still be available, though its quality and, hence, user experience degraded. If Salesforce is not down but slow, the sales team becomes slow, too, which may lead to losing opportunities and, consequently, revenue. However, this case is also outside the purview of the agreement. 

Compare alternatives

In contrast, on-premises systems, like Microsoft Dynamics 365 on-premises, may give an impression of providing 100% uptime compared to “someone else’s computer”. However, unfortunately, on-premises servers are also prone to occasional outages.

An on-premises data center outage can happen due to a number of reasons, among which are an IT equipment failure, UPS battery failure, or an accidental error. In this case, a company bears serious financial consequences, including the impossibility of data recovery.

Furthermore, in order to maintain all the hardware and software when hosting an on-premises data center, companies have to hire a team of system administrators and programmers. For one thing, it is costly; for another − a human error is still not a rare occasion, when an IT employee may accidentally hit the wrong button to delete crucial data for good.

In comparison, managing cloud-based systems doesn’t require extensive IT staff, which is obviously more cost-effective. In addition, Salesforce provides, as part of its policy, a complete data recovery plan to ensure maximum uptime and continuous availability.

Key takeaways

Nowadays, as businesses rely heavily on information technology, uninterrupted service availability becomes crucial. Unfortunately, no service provider can guarantee 100% uptime, and Salesforce is no exception. What is more, using an on-premises solution to avoid downtimes won’t provide impeccable service, either. So, companies had better count on their own efforts and be prepared for an occasional service disruption. Apart from having an emergency plan, it’s a good idea to contract a professional Salesforce support team who will help to fix the problem and advise on an effective disaster recovery plan. 

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