Salesforce Connect is an integration tool that uses and displays data in your external CRM or ERP system as if the Salesforce platform stored the data itself. (Which sounds impressive.) Salesforce says the tool provides "seamless integration of data across system boundaries." But does it live up to the hype? Or should you use a Salesforce Connect alternative? 

In this five-minute guide, we’ll outline the benefits of Salesforce Connect and discuss its limitations. We'll also examine the best Salesforce Connect alternative. 

Table of Contents

  1. How Does Salesforce Connect Work?
  2. How to Use Salesforce Connect
  3. What are the Benefits of Salesforce Connect?
  4. What's the Difference Between Salesforce Connect and Lightning Connect?
  5. Salesforce Connect Limitations
  6. Alternatives to Salesforce Connect
  7. The Salesforce Connect Alternative--or Addition

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How Does Salesforce Connect Work?

Salesforce Connect uses a feature called external objects, which is like custom objects on Salesforce, except that the data lives in another system. Salesforce defines external objects in the same interface as custom objects. However, an external object definition includes the external connection to the system where the object data is stored. To access external objects, Salesforce Connect uses several authentication settings. 

For more information on our native Salesforce connectors, visit our Integration page.

Salesforce Connect supports three kinds of adapters to access external objects:

  • Cross-org provides access to data in another Salesforce org via the Salesforce API. With the cross-org adapter, Salesforce Connect uses something called Lightning Platform REST API (more on this later) to get data from other Salesforce orgs, letting you connect data with point-and-click tools. 
  • OData connects to any system that supports the OData 2.0 or 4.0 protocol (a REST API for data interchange) for valuable business insights from external data sources. Again, using Lightning Platform, Salesforce Connect interacts with external data via external objects, converting interactions into OData queries that contain parameters to filter results. 
  • Apex custom adapter is code written in Salesforce’s Apex language using the Apex Connector Framework to get data from data sources. With Lightning Platform, Salesforce Connect uses the code when you execute specific functions, such as running a report, so you can connect to data sources for deeper insights into your business. 

Once you define and connect an external object, Salesforce renders the object in context, and data from the object can appear in searches. You can also use data in the external object in SOQL queries and the Salesforce API.

How to Use Salesforce Connect

Salesforce Connect facilitates the following data integration tasks:

  • Integrations with large amounts of data you don’t want to copy into your org.
  • Integrations with small amounts of data that you need to present.
  • Data for which you require a real-time connection.

A common use for Salesforce Connect is integrating external orders with a fulfillment system for complex orders. Salesforce Connect lets you define external objects mapped in the order and order detail objects within that system. (It uses customer IDs as a common identifier between Salesforce and the external system.) When you retrieve a customer record, you can view a customer's order history and order details alongside other customer information stored in Salesforce in real-time. The good thing is that Salesforce admins don't have to supervise complex synchronization processes.

Related Reading: Why You Should ETL Your Salesforce Data

What are the Benefits of Salesforce Connect?

Salesforce Connect lets you achieve so much more with external sources and by integrating data like never before.

  1. Read/write from anywhere: Salesforce Connect allows you to create, read, update, and delete records in external sources in real-time.
  2. Custom Adapters for any web API: Developers can connect Salesforce to any web API.
  3. Connectors: Connect multiple Salesforce orgs across your company. 

What's the Difference Between Salesforce Connect and Lightning Connect?

Lightning Connect is the feature of Salesforce Connect that lets you access data from external sources and compare it with Salesforce data side-by-side. These external sources include legacy software, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft SQL, Heroku, and other systems. Lightning Connect is part of the larger Lightning Platform, a suite of developer tools that optimize sales data.

The New Data Warehouse Stack for Tomorrow’s Leaders

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Salesforce Connect Limitations

Although you can connect almost any data source to Salesforce via Salesforce Connect, connections have various limitations

  • Salesforce Connect limits data sources to connectors with API support.
  • Salesforce Connect limits data sources to connectors where developers have written code to connect to those objects. 
  • Salesforce requires the implementation of a search capability for each external object you search. 
  • Connections have callout limits, which means Salesforce org might only call a connector 20,000 times per hour. This seems like a lot, but you could reach the limit if you have lots of external objects and execute many search and retrieval queries. (Salesforce can raise limits on request, but you should consider whether Salesforce Connect is the right solution if you plan a complex integration.)

There are other Salesforce Connect limitations. One of the biggest is that external objects require a common key between Salesforce objects and the external system to relate Salesforce native and/or custom objects to the external object. 

Recommended Reading: The Salesforce Ecosystem and Beyond

Alternatives to Salesforce Connect 

The most obvious Salesforce Connect alternative is an integration tool that pushes external data into a Salesforce custom object. There are various Salesforce integration tools, and we've compiled a shortlist here. The factors below might help you decide.

Data Storage Limits

Is the volume of your external system so large that you will exceed your data storage limit? Consider the cost of raising these data limits.

Business Requirements

Can your integration solution populate your custom objects at a rate that satisfies business requirements? Or will you update your external system so frequently that your integration tool won’t keep up? Will hourly, daily, or even weekly updates meet the needs of users?


Does your external system have connectivity supported by Salesforce? Or will you configure resources to implement that connection? How difficult is connector development compared to integration? 


Do you have a synchronization solution to maintain a durable key between Salesforce and your external system?

Related Reading: 4 Salesforce Best Practices for Data Migration

The New Data Warehouse Stack for Tomorrow’s Leaders

Low-code data warehouse tools & hundreds of connectors to unify your data & reporting

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Salesforce Connect is a powerful solution that provides a connection between Salesforce and your external CRM or ERP system. But Salesforce Connect limitations make it difficult to complete some customer-related workflows., a Salesforce Connect alternative, has a much broader set of applications that implement your integration without developer resources. Even if you choose Salesforce Connect,’s ability to connect Salesforce to dozens of disparate systems lets you build a key synchronization system with minimum hassle and coding. 

Want to learn more about as a Salesforce Connect alternative or addition? Contact us to schedule a demo or start your risk-free 14 day pilot and experience for yourself.