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What is SugarCRM?

Sugar Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software provides users with a centralized, flexible system for tracking sales leads, managing customer accounts, and handling customer support. It also supports project and campaign management.

Customer Relationship Management

One of the most challenging aspects of running a business is the process of customer development and retention. From developing leads to marketing campaigns to providing support for well-established customers you can’t afford to lose, the relationships you develop with your customers are a critical component of building a successful company. To keep your customers happy and your business “on the grow,” you need a way to monitor every step of the process.

SugarCRM is an open source customer relationship management (CRM) application. Organisations can store details for suppliers and contacts, and keeps a central record of all interactions with those contacts. SugarCRM is a popular CRM because it's provided on many hosting packages for free. It's also very easy to set up; many web hosts offer it as a 1-Click installer. Even if you have a small budget for hosting, you should have no problem finding a shared package that provides it.

There are three paid versions of SugarCRM: Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate. These are purchased directly from the company. There's also a free Community Edition, and that's the software you'll see offered with web hosting accounts.

The Community Edition is a trimmed down version of the paid SugarCRM, but it still functions perfectly well for charities and non-commercial use.

The License

The Community Edition of SugarCRM is available under version 3 of the GNU Affero General Public License. It's designed for non-profit organisations, and there is no limit to the number of users that can have accounts. Non-profits can use the tool to stay on to of valuable contacts, manage funding and make sure they comply with any legal requirements around data storage and data protection.

The license gives non-profits and educational institutions the rights to customise the software. There's an expectation that customisations will be contributed back to the developer community so that other non-profits can benefit from their work.

Features

SugarCRM is designed to run on Linux servers (specifically, servers running the LAMP stack: Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP). However, it's possible to run SugarCRM on other operating systems, including Windows with IIS. On Windows, you'd have the option of using MS SQL or Oracle for the database.

Users can interact with SugarCRM using a variety of browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari 7 and Internet Explorer 9 or 10.

The Community Edition of SugarCRM is developed largely by volunteers in the open source community. It has a slimmed down feature set compared to the paid versions, and includes the following features:

  • Accounts
  • Auditing tools
  • Contact records
  • Process management
  • Document storage
  • Lead tracking
  • Tracking for opportunities
  • Marketing tools, such as campaign tracking and email marketing measurements

This edition is only designed for business-to-business (B2B) use, and it does not have business-to-consumer (B2C) utilities. It also has no ability to manage contracts, products, quotes or sales, either.

Pros and Cons

It's quite rare to find free CRM software, since so many packages are provisioned in the cloud via a subscription model. That means SugarCRM is a good choice if you want to try a CRM to find out what it does. If you run a non-profit or charity, even the basic set-up will give you all the tools you need. The company behind CRM has received millions of dollars of investment, ensuring its continual growth and massive popularity. Analysts say that there are 1.5 million people using the software, and it's likely that a huge majority are using the Community Edition.

While the basic feature list is small, SugarCRM doesn't have to run with default settings alone. Like other packages such as WordPress, SugarCRM can be extended with plug-ins to enhance its functionality. You will find a directory of extensions at SugarForge, and it's well worth playing around with these to unleash the real power of SugarCRM.

Hosting Considerations

Resource is worth mentioning, though. The storage and bandwidth offered with your hosting package apply to all of the applications you're using. A CRM can be a drag on those resources, particularly bandwidth, and uploading large documents will have an impact over time.

Buying cloud software can get expensive, particularly when you pay a set price per month, and most CRM software would be unaffordable for a non-profit on that pricing model. That's probably why this free CRM has been downloaded more than 9 million times. But one thing you might miss is management, so you will have to spend some time hardening and securing the software to ensure those precious contact records never fall into the wrong hands.

SugarCRM Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is SugarCRM?

    SugarCRM is a premium Customer Relationship Management application as well as the name of the developer of the SugarCRM application. The application itself provides users with a way to track sales leads, manage customer accounts, and provide customer support, all from a single centralized application.

  • What is a CRM?

    CRM is an acronym that stands for Customer Relationship Management. CRM software is designed to handle sales, marketing and customer relations, with the goal of automating the process as much as possible and providing a single centralized store of customer information accessible to all customer-facing employees.

  • Is SugarCRM easy to use?

    Yes. As a matter of fact, SugarCRM is designed to solve two ease-of-use problems: a reluctance on the part of sales and support personnel to use a CRM and the expense and challenge of deploying a CRM. SugarCRM is designed to be an intuitive solution that sales and support personnel can easily use and it is priced to make it affordable for companies to give every customer-facing employee access to the software.

  • Is SugarCRM free?

    Until version 7, SugarCRM released commercial and open source (free) versions of the software. However, with the release of version 7, SugarCRM decided to discontinue development of the open source version, called Sugar Community Edition (CE). SugarCRM promised to continue maintaining and supporting CE version 6.5, but there would be no new development. This led to the creation of a new open-source CRM, SuiteCRM, built on the last open source version of SugarCRM. If you're looking for a free CRM, check out SuiteCRM.

  • Why did SugarCRM stop developing the open source version?

    The company says that the open source version was primarily attracting developers who wanted to build on top of Sugar, as well as new users who were exploring options and primarily interested in a free CRM solution. The company expressed their belief that the open source version did not properly meet the needs of both groups and wanted to look at other options. Regardless of their reasons for discontinuing SugarCRM CE, the net result has been positive for users of free and open source CRMs, as the discontinuation of SugarCRM CE spawned SuiteCRM, which has quickly become one of the best free CRMs available today.

  • Can I switch SugarCRM deployment plans if my company's needs change?

    The company touts the software’s flexibility as a major selling point, pointing out that SugarCRM is one of the industry's most customizable CRM applications. In particular, it offers the widest range of options for on-premise and cloud deployment. Just as important, customers are not locked into their initial choice. As an organization's needs change, data can be moved between different deployment models. Whether on site, in the cloud, or on SugarCRM's private cloud service, customers can easily adapt to changing circumstances.

  • If I switch SugarCRM deployment plans, will users of the application have to learn a new interface?

    The application's interface is designed to offer users a unified experience, regardless of where or how they are accessing the application. Much of this is due to the fact that SugarCRM makes extensive use of industry standards, such as HTML5, REST, JavaScript, and PHP. In addition, developers have access to the underlying platform, enabling them to extend and modify SugarCRM to suit their needs. This extensibility has helped foster the creation of hundreds of commercial integrations with other business applications. For many organizations, this "future-proof" approach is a significant selling point when evaluating SugarCRM vs other CRM solutions.

  • What are SugarCRM hosting requirements?

    SugarCRM is optimized for the LAMP stack — Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP — the most common website and web application hosting stack. SugarCRM can also run on other operating systems, provided they support PHP, including Mac OS X, Solaris, and Windows. It can also use Microsoft's IIS web server instead of Apache, as well as alternative databases, such as Oracle or MS-SQL.

  • How many people use SugarCRM?

    SugarCRM has established itself as a leading CRM solution. The software has well over 1.5 million users in over 120 countries. Its partner network consists of 350 partners on six continents. While headquartered in Cupertino, CA, the company also has locations in Raleigh, Munich, Sydney, London, Paris, and Minsk.

  • Why should I pick SugarCRM?

    If you're looking for a full-featured CRM that is flexible and customizable, and you don't mind paying for your CRM, then SugarCRM is a compelling option. While some users were understandably disenfranchised by the sudden decision to stop developing and releasing new versions of the open source Community Edition, there is a reason that SugarCRM consistently ranks among the top CRM applications on the market. In addition, by focusing solely on a commercial product, it stands to reason that the company will be able to better add the features that paying customers want and need.

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