Salesforce Connect for Your Business

Editor’s note: This article has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in January 2024.

Salesforce is one of the most widely used CRM in the world. Many organizations use it to store and process their critical business data. However, it’s rarely the only system where the company data is stored.  

Salesforce offers its own solutions on how to integrate data from different sources, one of them is Salesforce Connect. This article describes what Salesforce Connect is, its features, and how to configure and use it.  

Table of Contents 

  1. What is Salesforce (Lightning) Connect?
  2. Exploring the Functionality of Salesforce Connect
  3. Salesforce Connect Pros: When to Use Salesforce Connect
  4. How to Set Up Salesforce Connect
  5. 5 Salesforce Connect Alternatives
  6. Conclusion

What is Salesforce (Lightning) Connect? 

Salesforce Connect is a native Salesforce integration tool for connecting legacy databases, ERP systems, and other data sources to Salesforce. It allows working with data from these data sources from within the Salesforce interface itself, in the same way as you work with Salesforce data. However, this data isn’t actually imported into Salesforce, it stays in the connected data source itself, and you work with these data stored in that data source directly.

When Salesforce Connect was first introduced, it was called Lightning Connect. Later it was renamed to Salesforce Connect, and it’s available in both Salesforce Lightning and Salesforce Classic.

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Exploring the Functionality of Salesforce Connect

Salesforce Connect allows the creation of external objects in Salesforce, which, except few rather minor differences, work as usual custom and predefined Salesforce objects. You can add tabs and customize displayed columns to work with external object data, access them via Salesforce API and development tools, etc.  

Salesforce Connect supports both read-only and read-write data sources. It connects to data sources through several kinds of Adapters and allows to: 

  • Cross-org adapter: connect other Salesforce org data to the current one. 
  • OData 2.0 and OData 4.0 adapters: connect data from data sources that allow access via the corresponding version of the OData protocol. 
  • Custom Apex adapters: develop custom adapters for data sources not supported directly via Apex Connector Framework. 
  • Adapter for Amazon DynamoDB: connect Amazon DynamoDB data.  
  • Adapter for Amazon Athena: connect to data stored on Amazon S3 in different formats and a number of other sources.  

Salesforce Connect Pros: When to Use Salesforce Connect

Salesforce Connect offers the following benefits: 

  • Direct connection. You work directly with external data source data from within the Salesforce interface.  
  • Low API overhead. Salesforce Connect always queries only necessary data from the data source. 
  • No Salesforce storage used. Storing large amounts of data in Salesforce can become quite costly. 

These benefits mean that Salesforce Сonnect should be perfect in the case when you need direct real-time access to data in another data source or when an external data source has a large amount of data. In case you have a lot of legacy, rarely accessed data in Salesforce, it can be even more cost-efficient to export it to some database and access it via Salesforce Connect instead of storing it in Salesforce. However, you should also take into consideration that Salesforce Connect itself is not a free feature, it comes with an additional cost, fixed per connection to an external data source. 

How to Set Up Salesforce Connect

If you have the corresponding Salesforce Connect add-on license, setting Salesforce Connect up is pretty easy and straightforward. Let’s show how to connect Salesforce to an OData endpoint using Salesforce Connect.

Creating External Data Source in Salesforce

First, you need to create an external data source in Salesforce. For this, you need to perform the following steps: 

  1. In the top right corner of the page, click Setup, and then click the Setup menu item.  
Salesforce setup menu

2. In the menu on the left, under Platform Tools, click Integrations, and then click External Data Sources.  

External data source within Salesforce
  1. Click New External Data Source.  
  1. Specify a user-friendly name for External Data Source and a unique external data source identifier for the Name.  
  1. In the Type list, select Salesforce Connect: OData 4.0 or Salesforce Connect: OData 4.0, depending on what OData version your OData endpoint uses.  
  1. Specify your OData endpoint URL.  
  1. Configure the endpoint Authentication.  
  1. Select the Writable External Objects checkbox if you use an endpoint to a writable data source.
Setup for External data sources
  1. Optionally configure other endpoint settings, like High Data Volume, Use Free-Text Search Expressions, etc. 
  1. Click Save

Creating External Objects

After you create an external data source in Salesforce, creating its external objects is very simple. Just click Validate and Sync, and then select the endpoint tables you want to sync and click Sync. Salesforce automatically creates the necessary external objects. Optionally, you can configure naming for them. 

Validate external data sources

After this, you can work with these external objects in the same way as with usual Salesforce objects. Note that external objects have the suffix “__x” in Salesforce. 

Let’s create tabs for these objects: 

  1. In the menu on the left, under Platform Tools, click User Interface, and then click Tabs.  
  1. In the Custom Object Tabs pane, click New.  
  1. Select the required Object and set the Tab Style and Description
New custom object tab
  1. Click Next.  
  1. Specify the tab visibility settings and click Next.  
  1. Configure the tab availability for custom apps and click Save.  

Please note that by default, the list view on this tab does not display any useful field. You can edit this view and select the fields from the external object it displays if necessary.  

How to Connect Databases and Cloud Apps That Don’t Support OData

If the data source you want to access from Salesforce doesn’t support OData, you have several possible options: 

  • Create a custom Salesforce Connect adapter for your data source. 
  • Develop an OData server that connects to your data source directly and publishes its data as an OData endpoint yourself.
  • Use some third-party software to publish your data as an OData endpoint. 

The first two options mean that you need to have a developer or be one. If you don’t want to do coding, it’s better to go for the third option.  

As for third-party software, Skyvia Connect would be a good choice for you. It’s a web-API-as-a-service solution, which means that you won’t need your own hosting or your own server, and you won’t need to do maintenance and administration. All you need to do is to configure an endpoint visually, in a convenient wizard, in a few simple steps: 

OData Endpoint wizard
  1. Connect Skyvia to your data source. 
  2. Select the data that you want to publish. You may select tables and separate fields to publish or hide. 
  3. Configure an additional security layer for your endpoint. You can create users with passwords for basic authentication and limit access to the endpoint by IP.  
     Note that if you add authentication to the endpoint, you need to use Named Principal authentication in Salesforce Connect external data source. 
  4. Specify the default endpoint protocol version and whether the endpoint is writable. 

That’s all, and after this, you can copy the result endpoint link and paste it into Salesforce. 

Shopify endpoint

Skyvia Connect endpoints support a wide range of OData features, more than Salesforce Connect can use. Skyvia supports over 160 cloud apps and databases. There are such Skyvia connectors like SQL Server connector, MySQL, Oracle, Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery connectors, etc. It allows you to easily connect these data sources to Salesforce via Salesforce Connect in just several minutes. 

5 Salesforce Connect Alternatives

Salesforce Connect isn’t the only integration solution from Salesforce. It has a number of other solutions, for example, Salesforce External Services, but the true alternative to connecting to a data source directly would be loading external data into Salesforce. Loading data from other data sources to Salesforce can be beneficial over Salesforce Connect if you need to work with these data in Salesforce all the time and not just access a small amount of data from time to time.  

Salesforce offers more native solutions for data integration: from free Import and Export wizards for manual data import and export to paid (and pricey) MuleSoft platform. There are also many third-party solutions for Salesforce data integration and reporting on the market. Let’s see what other connectors there are to fine-tune Salesforce strategy for business.

Skyvia: Universal Cloud Data Platform

Skyvia also provides its own solution: Data Integration for easy integrations of Salesforce with other apps and databases via data loading. It includes different tools, from simple wizard-based Salesforce Data Loader tools to advanced solutions for designing flows of data between multiple data sources on diagrams. These tools can help you automate different Salesforce integration scenarios: Jira integration, connecting to Shopify, and even Salesforce to Salesforce connections.  

And, as if it’s not enough, you can create Salesforce reports in Excel and Google Sheets using Skyvia Query Excel Add-in and Skyvia Query Google Sheets Add-in



  • Not enough video tutorials.

Skyvia’s Data Integration has a flexible pricing system based on the amount of data loaded and features used, including a free pricing plan for simple scenarios and a trial period for paid plans.


Tableau is a data analysis and visualization service that provides lots of advanced features tailored to your Salesforce data needs. Its seamless integration with Salesforce allows users to directly access Salesforce data, simplifying the process of creating insightful visualizations. Regardless of technical proficiency, Tableau boasts a user-friendly interface, catering to users of all skill levels.


  • Advanced data visualization features
  • Direct connection to Salesforce 
  • High-level customization capabilities


  • It can be costly, particularly for larger enterprises.
  • The learning curve is a steep one, especially for non-technical users and new users. 
  • It has limitations in data transformation.


Smartsheet, a cloud-based platform, excels in collaboration, reporting, and management. Its integration with Salesforce elevates the data analysis process.


  • Flexible and customizable reports that can be tailored to fit business requirements.
  • Collaborative environment: multiple users simultaneously work together. 
  • Built-in Gantt chart functionalities to visualize project timelines and dependencies.


  • Limited data transformations. 
  • Advanced reporting results in a steep learning curve.


G-Connector acts as a virtual bridge, seamlessly connecting Salesforce and Google Sheets. It enables two-way synchronization, letting you effortlessly share Salesforce reports and import data into Salesforce, even with users outside your organization.


  • Effortless bidirectional data flow.
  • Both automatic and manual data exchange options.
  • User-friendly drag-and-drop interface.


  • Limited advanced reporting and customization features.


Klipfolio is a cloud-based dashboard service for data reporting. When integrated with Salesforce, it provides organizations with a versatile and user-friendly solution to enhance data visualization, analysis, and sharing capabilities.


  • Customization capabilities to tailor reporting according to business needs. 
  • Easy integration with Salesforce and various services. 
  • Scheduled reporting and automated report distribution via emails and shared links. 


  •  Limitations of data integration capabilities. 
  • Challenging learning process, especially for non-technical users.


In this article, we’ve explained what Salesforce Connect is and what features it provides. Salesforce Connect can be very useful when you need to access data in external data sources directly from Salesforce, especially if the data source stores a large amount of data and only small portions of it are needed at any time. In other cases, when you need to move external data to Salesforce, you can revert to data integration solutions.  

Regardless of what option you select, Skyvia can help you both as a data integration alternative to Salesforce Connect and as a helpful tool to connect databases and cloud apps via Salesforce Connect. 

Sergey Bykov
Sergey Bykov
Technical Writer



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