As a kid, the joy of a sandbox (other than being encouraged to get messy) is that you can build, experiment, rebuild, and start over. If you’re an admin or developer working in Salesforce, your inner child can live on by working in a sandbox, too. In this blog, we unpack everything you need to know about a sandbox environment and how it accelerates innovation (no pails or shovels required).
The challenges of solely building in production
Innovation is a hallmark principle of Salesforce. And, while building in production might seem like a faster, more efficient route, it has some distinguishable drawbacks.
One less line of defense
A live production org is, well, live, meaning you’re working with data that has a customer or prospect attached. Building in production means you’re taking risks without a buffer between the backend and the frontend ( in this case, the admin/ developer and the customer). For example, imagine you’re announcing a milestone product launch via email, and it’s scheduled to go out on a specific date. One wrong move in production could send out the announcement, putting the premature news in the inbox (and you in the hot seat). By working in production, you open yourself up to actions with substantial consequences that could have otherwise been avoided.
Accidental data loss
Data loss is a very real reality, especially when building in production. Working with live data puts you at risk for critical data deletion–a single misstep can instantly throw away time, money, and opportunities that are supposed to be safeguarded in your CRM platform. Working in a sandbox allows you to make the most out of your experimentation without putting your data in harm’s way.
What is a sandbox?
A sandbox is a replica of your Salesforce production org–the place where your real, live data is stored for users to use for business operations. A sandbox is separate from your live production environment, making it a safe place to develop, test, and train. And, the best part: the operations performed in the sandbox stay in the sandbox, so that they won’t affect your production org, and vice versa.
Keep in mind that a sandbox may go by different terms, like sub-prod or non-prod, whether you’re using Salesforce, ServiceNow, or Microsoft Dynamics CE. In any case, the fundamental purpose remains the same - this “playground” is meant for you to play.
What is a sandbox used for?
In a child's sandbox, you’re building with sand–not concrete–which encourages creativity without permanence. The same principle applies to a sandbox. By working in a setting that mimics production, you can develop and test to your heart's content, reducing the chance of irreversible damage.
A sandbox is used to write and test code, build configurations, and perform changes. It’s a protected area to envision how code and design might work before pushing it to production. With a sandbox, you can feel confident knowing that when your changes go live, you won’t need an exterminator to get rid of bugs you should have found earlier.
Additionally, a sandbox serves as a training space for admins and developers to learn the ins and outs of the live production environment. For example, imagine new team members join your admin team, and require training on certain functions. If they’re learning in the production environment, there’s a potential for costly mistakes, like entering incorrect data or deleting mission-critical files. In a sandbox, they can learn the same processes that exist in the live org, without any risk, and hit the ground running when they’re ready to begin working in production.
What are the different types of sandboxes?
Within Salesforce, there are four types of sandboxes-Full, Partial Copy, Developer, and Developer Pro.
A Full sandbox operates as a testing environment. It is the only type of sandbox where you can conduct performance testing, load testing, and staging because it is an exact copy of your complete production data and metadata. As a result, the Full sandbox can get pricey quickly–we’re talking 25% to 30% of total licenses per org.
Partial Copy Sandbox
A Partial Copy sandbox is a testing environment used for quality assurance, training, acceptance testing, and integration testing. It uses a copy of your metadata and a random sample of the production org’s data.
A Developer sandbox is its own isolated environment for development and testing. It uses a limited copy of the production org’s configuration (metadata) and stays isolated until the changes are ready to be shared.
Used for development and testing, a Developer Pro sandbox has increased data storage, meaning there’s more to work with in the Developer Pro sandbox. Expect to conduct integration testing, quality assurance (QA) testing, and training in this sandbox.
What is sandbox seeding?
Sandbox seeding is the process of populating a sandbox with data (either new or refreshed). It’s essentially filling the contents of the work zone to authentically replicate the live production environment.
Let’s say your developers are working in a Developer Pro sandbox, while your admins are in a Partial sandbox. You’ll need to populate the different environments with different production data to stay within the sandbox size limit, but ensure that admins and developers have the test data they need to do what they do best.
What are the top sandbox seeding challenges?
Filling a new or modified organization with record data isn’t just a plug-and-play operation; it can be difficult, time-consuming, and all-around tedious. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Sandbox seeding challenges include:
Time is one of the biggest roadblocks to successfully seeding a sandbox. It can take a developer two to three hours just to use a data loader, which is a software that is used to bulk import or export data. Often, developers end up manually writing their own data or building their own scripts to satisfy the needs of the sandbox, which tacks considerable time onto the development process.
Poor quality test data
Whether you’re writing code or training new hires, you’ll want to work with data in your sandbox that mimics production. This means honoring the data that is connected, also known as a parent-child relationship. A common issue of sandbox seeding is that the seeded data doesn’t maintain the parent/child relationships. This puts you in a spot where you cannot test or build against valid business scenarios or requires laborious steps to get accurate relationships into the sandbox.
Data security risks
Testing and development sandboxes often use sensitive information, which can be compromised if there aren’t property security measures in place. Data security risks can bring about legal, financial, and reputational repercussions, making it all the more important that your sandbox is seeded correctly.
Production costs add up, especially if you’re using a Partial and Full sandbox. And manually shifting data between orgs using a data loader tool can be costly. Keep in mind that cost-effective sandbox seeding shouldn’t cost you in quality.
Make the most of your sandbox
At its core, a sandbox is an empowerment zone; it’s a place where admins and developers can go to create, build, and test. But, to get the most out of a sandbox, you must prioritize creativity and protection. With Own, you can. Our Sandbox Seeding solution accelerates innovation, protects sensitive information, and reduces rework costs. Ready to think out of the (sand)box? Own is here to help.