This document contains conceptual and procedural information about interacting with data extensions within Contact Builder.

What are Data Extensions

Data extensions represent tables containing attributes and related values pertaining to Contact Builder. Data extensions can contain either information entered manually or imported through an import definition. Attributes and values can contain specific contact record information or related information, such as sales or shipping information. Each data extension contains the following information:

  • Name (used to identify the data extension within the system)
  • External Key (used to identify the data extension within API calls)
  • Description (used to identify the type and purpose of information contained within the data extension)
  • A collection of attributes, each with the following properties:
    • Name (name used to identify the data values contained in the attribute)
    • Data type (type of data included in the attribute, such as text, numerical, or Boolean)
    • Length (number of characters allowed for that attribute)

You can designate a single attribute as a primary key, or a unique value used within a data extension (usually used to identify a contact, such as an email address or a mobile number). You can also indicate whether an attribute can contain a default value or a required value. Finally, you can indicate whether the attribute contains a range of values or whether that attribute cannot contain certain values.

You can establish relationships between data extensions to provide flexible and powerful access to contact data. An attribute in one data extension links to another attribute on another data extension with a specified cardinality. Review the Data Designer documentation for more information.

The Data Extension Grid

The data extension grid in the Contact Builder app displays all data extensions contained within an account. You can review information about a specific data extension in this grid, including the following values:

Data Retention

You can determine the length of time you keep data in a data extension using a data retention policy. Data extensions with a data retention policy automatically delete information older than a given date from the data extension. Each account uses a default period of six months for data retention, and you can modify that value as necessary. Data retention ensures that you use only the most recent and most valid data as part of your sends, and it also ensures the send occurs more quickly because the application must deal with a lesser amount of data (as opposed to parsing all data collected during the existence of the account).

Contact your relationship manager regarding the data retention feature for your account.

Data Extension Contents

Each data extension displays the following information:

  • Properties Tab
    • Name (used to identify the data extension within the system)
    • Description (used to identify the type and purpose of information contained within the data extension)
    • External Key (used to identify the data extension within API calls)
    • Created (date on which the data extension was created)
    • Last Modified (date on which an account user saved the most recent change to the data extension)
    • Location (place in the account at which the data extension resides)
    • Type (indicates the type of data stored in the data extension)
    • Data Retention
      • Period (the amount of time after which the application deletes unmodified data)
      • Fixed Date (the date after which the application deletes unmodified data)
    • Data Records (the number of records contained within the data extension, displayed as rows in a table)
    • Attributes (indicates the types of data contained within the data extension, displayed as columns in a table)
      • Name (name of the attribute)
      • Data Type (icon indicating the type of data contained by the attribute, such as text or numeric)
      • Default Value (indicates the value containted by an attribute if no other value is specified)
      • Length (indicates the maximum number of characters contained within a single value)
      • Required (indicates whether the value can be left blank)
  • Records Tab
    • All attributes within the data extension
    • All listed values for each record in the data extension

Why Use Data Extensions

Data extensions form the basis of contact information within the ExactTarget application. By creating and linking data extensions, you can access information about contacts and use that information to segment, filter, and target contacts with relevant sends. You can also use this data to target contacts across multiple channels (such as email, social, and mobile messaging). Finally, you can use data extensions to hold information imported from external sources and use that information as part of your segmenting, filtering, and targeting activities.

How to Create a New Data Extension

Follow the steps below to create a data extension within your account:

  1. Click the app switcher and select Contact Builder.
  2. Click the Data Extension tab.
  3. Click Create.
  4. Enter a name for the data extension in the Name field.
  5. Note the external key provided in the External Key field. You can use the provided external key or enter a unique key of your own in this field. Each data extension must have a unique external key.
  6. Enter a brief description of the data extension in the Description field.
  7. Click Change Location and choose the location at which you wish to store the data extension:
    1. If you wish to use an existing folder, click the folder and select OK.
    2. If you wish to create a new folder, click Create New Folder and name your new folder. Select that folder when you complete the creation process.
    3. Click OK.
  8. Click Next.
  9. If you wish to set a data retention policy for your data extension, click On under the Data Retention heading.
  10. Click the  button under the Apply To heading for the entity to which you wish to apply the data retention policy:
    • Click Data Extension to apply the data retention policy to the entire data extension:
      1. Click the appropriate radio button under the Retention Period heading:
        1. For a revolving time period, enter the number in the text field and select the unit of measure in the drop-down menu next to the first  button. For example, you could enter the number 6 and select Months in the drop-down menu to enforce a 6-month data retention policy.
        2. For a set date, select the date next to the second  button.
      2. Click the check box next to Reset Retention Period on Import if you wish to begin a new retention period after each import.
      3. Click the button under the Data heading to determine how you wish to manage how the application deletes the data:
        • Click the Delete all records after the end of the retention period check box to retain the data extension and delete the records within that data extension.
        • Click the Delete the entire data extension check box to remove the data extension from the application.
    • Click Records to apply the data retention policy to the records contained within the data extension.
      1. Click the appropriate radio button under the Retention Period heading:
        1. For a revolving time period, enter the number in the text field and select the unit of measure in the drop-down menu next to the first radio button. For example, you could enter the number 6 and select Months in the drop-down menu to enforce a 6-month data retention policy.
        2. For a set date, select the date next to the second radio button.
  11. Click Next.
  12. If you wish the attribute to include the unique identifier for all records within the data extension, click the Primary Key check box.
  13. Enter a name for the attribute in the Name field.
  14. Choose a data type from the Data Type drop-down menu.
    1. Base16Encrypted
    2. Base16EncryptedEmail
    3. Boolean
    4. Byte
    5. Date
    6. Decimal
      • Enter the maximum amount of numbers in the first text field.
      • Enter the amount of numbers that will appear to the right of the decimal point in the second text field.
    7. EmailAddress
    8. Locale
    9. LongNumber
    10. Number
    11. Phone
    12. ShortNumber
    13. Text
  15. Click the Data Source drop-down menu and select the appropriate source for the information stored in the data extension.
  16. If the attribute must contain a value for every contact, click the Required check box.
  17. Enter the number of characters you wish to allow in this attribute in the Length field.
  18. If you wish the attribute to contain a value by default, enter that value in the Default Value text field.
  19. Repeat steps 14 through 19 for additional attributes within the data extension.
  20. Click Create.
  21. Click OK.

How to Copy a Data Extension

Follow the steps below to create a copy of an existing data extension.

  1. In the Contact Builder app, select the Data Extensions tab.
  2. Select the data extension you wish to copy.
  3. Click the copy icon in the upper-right corner of the data extension window. Copy Data Extension
  4. Enter the name for the new data extension in the Name field.
  5. Enter the external key for the new data extension in the External Key field. This value must be different than the original data extension value.
  6. Enter a description for the new data extension in the Description field.
  7. If you wish to place the new data extension in a different location, click Change Location and select the new location. Otherwise, the new data extension will exist in the same location as the original data extension.
  8. Click Create Copy.

How to Move a Data Extension

Follow the steps below to move an existing data extension

  1. In the Contact Builder app, select the Data Extensions tab.
  2. Select the data extension you wish to move.
  3. Click Change Location.
  4. Select the new location for the data extension.
  5. You can create a new folder in which to store the data exension:
    1. Click Create New Folder.
    2. Enter a name for the folder in the Name field.
    3. Click Create Folder.
  6. Once you select the new location, click Change Location.

How to Edit a Data Extension

Follow the steps below to edit an existing data extension:

  1. In the Contact Builder app, select the Data Extensions tab.
  2. Select the data extension you wish to edit.
  3. To edit the name or external key for the data extension, click the appropriate field and enter the new value.
  4. Click the pencil icon to modify existing attributes. Edit Attribute
  5. Click the trash can icon to remove an attribute. Delete Attribute
  6. Click the Create Attribute button to add an attribute to the data extension. You can following steps 14 through 19 in the How to Create a New Data Extension section to create your new attribute.
  7. Once you make all the changes you wish to implement, click Save.

How to Delete a Data Extension

Follow the steps below to delete an existing data extension. Note that this step deletes the entire data extension and not just the information contained within the data extension.

  1. In the Contact Builder app, select the Data Extensions tab.
  2. Navigate to the data extension you wish to delete.
  3. Click the delete icon in the upper-right corner of the data extension window. Delete Data Extension
  4. Review the warning about deleting data extensions and the potential effects on your account due to the deletion.
  5. Type the word DELETE in the provided fields.
  6. Click Confirm Delete.

How to Clear Data from a Data Extension

Follow the steps below to clear all data within a data extension. This action leaves the existing data extension and attirbutes intact and removes all values contained for those attributes.

  1. In the Contact Builder app, select the Data Extensions tab.
  2. Selects the data extension you wish to clear.
  3. Click the Records tab.
  4. Click Clear Data.
  5. Review the warning about deleting data extensions and the potential effects on your account due to the deletion.
  6. Click Clear.

How to Manage Policies for a Data Extension

Data extension policies govern which users and processes can modify or delete a data extension (including attributes and information). You must be an administrator to make these changes. Follow the instructions below to manage policies for a data extension:

  1. In the Contact Builder app, select the Data Extensions tab.
  2. Click the data extension for which you wish to manage policies.
  3. Click Manage Policies.
  4. If you wish to allow other users to delete a data extension, click the checkbox next to Allow users to delete this data extension.
  5. If you wish to allow other users to modify existing attributes within the data extension, click the checkbox next to Allow users to modify existing attributes in this data extension. This permission allows users to change the name of the attribute, the data type for the attribute, and other settings for the attribute.
  6. If you wish to allow other users to create entirely new attributes within the existing data extension, click the checkbox next to Allowe users to add additional attributes to this data extension.
  7. If you wish the application to delete information from a data extension based on a specified period of time, click All Records.
  8. If you wish the application to delete a data extension and all information that data extension contains based on a specific period of time, click All records and data extensions.
  9. Click the button next to Retention Period and enter the number of days after which the application will delete specified data extension or information as set in step 8.
  10. Click the checkbox next to Reset period on import if you wish the reset the beginning of the retention period based on the occurence of the last import of information to that data extension.
  11. Click Save.

How to Perform Imports and Exports from a Specific Data Extension

You can perform imports and exports directly from a data extension by clicking the Import and Export buttons in the data extension window. These buttons allow you to perform the following actions:

Use this method to import information into a data extension you might wish to use across channels within the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud. For information specific to a single channel (such as Email or Mobile), use the import function within the app that imports the information and subscribes the contact to a message.

Was This Page Helpful?
Last updated by ryan.williams at 20:35, 22 Aug 2014