Are you considering integrating your external CRM or ERP system with the Salesforce platform? Look no further than Salesforce Connect, an integration tool that promises to display and use external data as if it were natively stored within Salesforce. This tool has been hailed as providing "seamless integration of data across system boundaries." But does it live up to the hype, or is there a better alternative out there?

Here are our 5 Key Takeaways:

  • Salesforce Connect uses external objects, which are similar to custom objects on Salesforce, but the data resides in another system.
  • Salesforce Connect supports three kinds of adapters to access external objects: Cross-org, OData, and Apex custom adapter.
  • Salesforce Connect facilitates data integration tasks like large and small data integrations and real-time connections.
  • Salesforce Connect allows read/write from anywhere, custom adapters for any web API, and connections to multiple Salesforce orgs.
  • Alternatives to Salesforce Connect include integration tools that push external data into a Salesforce custom object, and factors to consider include data storage limits, business requirements, connectivity, and synchronization solutions.

In this beginner's guide, we'll explore the benefits of Salesforce Connect and its limitations, as well as introduce you to the top alternative to Salesforce Connect. Get ready to discover how Salesforce Connect can streamline your business processes and take your organization to the next level.

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


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, providing flexibility and customization for your integration needs.
  3. Connectors: Connect multiple Salesforce orgs across your company, allowing you to share data across teams and departments.
  4. Real-time data access: Salesforce Connect allows you to access external data in real-time, without having to manually import data into Salesforce.
  5. Reduced data duplication: With Salesforce Connect, you can integrate external data directly into Salesforce, eliminating the need for data duplication and reducing the risk of errors.

Overall, Salesforce Connect enables you to achieve more with external sources and integrate data like never before.

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

Salesforce Connect and Lightning Connect are both integration tools that allow users to access and integrate data from external sources. However, there is a distinction between the two:

  • Salesforce Connect is a broader integration tool that enables users to access external data using external objects and three kinds of adapters - cross-org, OData, and Apex custom adapter.
  • Lightning Connect is a feature of Salesforce Connect that specifically allows users to access data from external sources and compare it side-by-side with Salesforce data. It supports various external sources, including legacy software, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft SQL, Heroku, and others. Lightning Connect is part of the Lightning Platform, a suite of developer tools designed to optimize sales data.

In summary, Salesforce Connect is a more general integration tool, while Lightning Connect is a specific feature of Salesforce Connect focused on comparing external data with Salesforce data.

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 Salesforce Connect Alternative--or Addition


Salesforce Connect is a powerful solution that provides a connection between Salesforce and your external CRM or ERP system. But Salesforce Connect's 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 trial and experience for yourself.