How to Handle Salesforce ESI Discovery Requests

Did you just a get a request to preserve ESI in Salesforce (“SFDC”) and you’re wondering what to do?

Do you call Salesforce and ask them to preserve and send a copy of your information? Would you call Mark Zuckerberg if you had to preserve Facebook posts? The answer is no to both.

It’s “Your Data”. Salesforce is a platform used by organizations and the users own the data. In its Masters Service Agreement, SFDC defines “Your Data” as electronic data and information submitted by or for Customer to the Services, excluding Content and Non-SFDC Applications. Including the definition, the phrase “Your Data” appears 20 times in the MSA. It’s clear, it’s Your Data!

So how can you make sure you find it all so you can preserve it or collect it?

Here are some tips that may assist you with your task!

First Things First: Defining Salesforce

SFDC is a cloud-based customer relationship manager (CRM) platform. Primarily, SFDC allows organizations to manage their client relationships, sales opportunities, and marketing campaigns. Couple that with the thousands of applications (i.e. proposal generation) that can be snapped-on to enhance the user experience and you get a powerful platform. But at the end of the day it’s a database. A database of Your Data. And databases have fields that store data, which can be searched and the results can be exported.

Global Search

What it is

SFDC has a simple, but powerful search function. It is called Global Search and while there are other methods to search in SFDC, for preservation purposes it is the go to method. Here’s a list of the fieldsthat can be searched within the SFDC Classic and global search.

How to Use it

ESI discovery request

Let’s use the Global Search function and put my name in to see what we get!

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My name was found in 25+ opportunities, 4 files, 1 contact and 9 attachments as well as other areas. This tells me that the Global Search is going beyond searching fields, which is a good thing. You will see that my name appeared in 25+ activities as well, which included imported emails that were related to opportunities. Attachments returned 9 hits!

Looks like SFDC can find terms in email attachments and files (4 hits). To verify this, I picked a random word, “litigation”. I thought this would return a fair number of hits and I was right. It found the word in multiple file types (PDF, XLS, and DOC).

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So it’s possible to search for keywords in XLS, PDF and DOC files, but what about individual email files (MSG)?

I uploaded an MSG file to see if SFDC could render it searchable. Nope, didn’t work. After further research I found this chart on SFDC’s website.

Here are the supported file types and extensions that can be searched along with size limits. No MSG.

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Here are some more basics about using Global Search in SFDC, the full article can be found here.

The Basics:

  • Your search term must have two or more characters. For example, a search for “b” won’t return any results.
  • Search is not case sensitive.
  • Find phone numbers by entering part or all of a number.


  • Use operators such as AND, OR, and AND NOT to refine your search (operators are case sensitive)
  • You can search for the exact phrase by putting quotation marks around multiple keywords.

Boolean Tips:

  • AND – search for items that match all of the search terms.
  • AND NOT – search for items that don’t contain the search term.
  • OR – search for items containing at least one of the search terms.
  • Parenthesis – group search terms together (grouped search terms are evaluated before other terms in your string).
  • Quotation marks – search for items that match all of the search terms in the order entered.

You can combine multiple operators in a search string and they’ll be evaluated in the following order:

  1. Parenthesis
  2. AND or AND NOT (or order from right to left)
  3. OR

Report and Export the Results

Great, so you have mastered Global Search and have documented the results. You’ve thoroughly examined the results to assess what may or may not be relevant. But what’s the next move?

As an example let’s go back to my name as a keyword. How would we report on and export the results? It may be a multipronged approach. Maybe step one is to take a screenshot of the results to aid in with the documentation of our efforts. The next step may be to export the attachments and files that contain my name as a keyword (assuming they are deemed potentially relevant).

But what about the 25+ opportunities associated with my name? (NOTE: It is important to note that the search result will say 25+ and you may have to flip through the entire set to find the true number,. When I searched my name there was 271 hits, but I have to scroll through pages showing 25 results to get the final number.)

Can we just screenshot that too and be done with it? It may be an option or rather a last resort because I believe there is a better way.

Welcome to reports!

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Since there are no standard reports that return all opportunities with the keyword “Peter Coons”, we are going to have to create one.

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After clicking on New Report I was presented with options of canned reports that I can customize. This is why it’s important to document your search results in Global Search and know exactly (or generally) what you want to report on and export. I know that I want to find the opportunities with Peter Coons as the owner – so I find the Opportunities folder and drill down. I am going to choose the first one, which is “Opportunities” (NOTE: You can also use the Quick Find function to search for reports.)

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After I hit create I am presented with the canned report, which can be modified. It has some preset filters such as Date Range and Opportunity Status, but we can add more filters. Let’s do that and search for Peter Coons as the Owner.

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Now let’s add my name.

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I changed the Date Range to forever basically and ran a preview of the report.

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I received 14 hits, but the preview is showing a limited number of records. It is important to note that this canned report (minus my Peter Coons filter) had a number of fields in it. That can also be customized. You can add or remove fields to the report by simply dragging and dropping from the left pane.

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Let’s run the full report. I look at the results and I am satisfied. The next step is to export the results.

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My options are XLS or CSV. Both will work.

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The results can now be reviewed, redacted (although you should omit fields you are going to redact entirely), produced, etc. Heck, you can even upload them to a review tool.

That was just one simple example for one search term. If you have 50 terms or other criteria you may have to map out a process that may take a bit of effort. But you have to plan and failing to plan is planning to fail. You now have a bit more knowledge and some guidance on the path to SFDC eDiscovery.

But wait, what about this part of SFDC called Chatter?

Preserving Salesforce Chatter ESI

What is Chatter? Chatter is akin to a message board where users can chat, upload files and collaborate on sales opportunities. It may also be a source of ESI that needs to be preserved. Is there an easy way to find what may need to be preserved? Let’s go back to the Global Search.

Chatter Updates search looks for matches in the:

  • Text of posts and comments
  • Name of the person who posted, commented, or is mentioned
  • File name
  • Origin of the Chatter post (group, person, or record name)

In order to run some Chatter tests I had to review some internal posts and I uploaded a file about Punxsutawney Phil.

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Wait, I know I just uploaded a document with Punxsutawney in the title and I know titles are searchable in Chatter and I know that we can use wildcards, so what gives?

Ahhh, I have to click on Search Feeds!

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The Search Feeds option allows us to enter the Chatter world. Once I am there I am free to continue searching feeds without re-clicking on the option in the left pane.

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Next I wanted to see if I could find a word in my Punxsutawney file I uploaded to one of my Chatter posts. I chose Phelicia because it looked pretty darn unique to me.

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Success! Chatter searches files uploaded to posts. And I bet it’s the same file types as we discussed earlier.


  1. Use global search to identify documents, chatter posts, fields that contain the keyword(s) – (make sure you are using an account that has the appropriate rights to access all the records and fields that need to be searched) and THEN
  2. Use the results as the basis to develop your preservation plan. That plan will likely include creating exportable reports (xls files) that meet the required criteria.
  3. Inspect what you expect. Did the global search return one hit for “Punxsutawney”, but the report contained zero hits?
  4. Document the entire process. Document the decisions. Document it all. Thoroughly.
  5. If you can’t find or create a report with information you need then take screenshots. Programs like X1 Discovery allow the user to take screenshots and it also tracks date and time of the screenshot.
  6. Before you believe or rely on any of the information in this blog, do your own testing. Based on the number of applications available to SFDC user’s I would assume that almost every install is unique. Your environment likely differs from the one I used for testing purposes. Doveryai, no proveryai.

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