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Hosted CRM 2015 Review: SuiteCRM vs Sugar CRM vs Sage ACT! Premium 2012

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In 2012 I reviewed a number of CRM’s, in my endeavor to move from Windows based to cloud based CRM. In the last few years there has been an explosion of open source CRM solutions, and with cPanel programs like Softaculous that automatically install the programs in the cloud, it’s never been easier to have total control over your customer relationship management.

A little background. I used ACT! off and on for well over a decade. (I refuse to admit how many years in case you start adding.) I was an early adopter of Salesforce, and used it off and on again up through 2013. For me, Salesforce still has the same shortcomings. Too cumbersome to customize, whether small or big business, and too expensive to use the way I want relative to other options.

After my reviews, I made the plunge and left Sage ACT! Premium 2012 for Windows, for SugarCRM Pro, hosted by SugarCRM. I also still use ZOHO for another business purpose, and am quite impressed how robust the platform is for the free service. If you’re a business of one- look no further, check out ZOHO.

Why am I evaluating CRM’s again? My pet peeves with SugarCRM Pro are:

  • Letter /mail merge. Compared to ACT!, it’s quite clunky and has definitely limited the number of outgoing letters sent to prospects as a result. Not that the process is much different for any other hosted CRM, but the speed of desktop is sadly missed. Basically, you create your word document with template fields, upload to Sugar, then go to contact to print a letter, or do merge for a list. The letter is attached to the record. But…if you want to change a sentence, you have to upload a new template.  With ACT desktop, while viewing a contact, you select print letter and it auto-fills name, address etc. based on stored template. Modify the letter as you wish, then print.
  • Prospects, accounts, contacts. Unless you customize, any time you want to create an opportunity, you must convert a prospect to an account. To me an account is a business that has made a purchase. I found someone that will do all the modifications so it’s more like ACT!, but they wanted over $1,000.
  • Groups. Let’s say you have a group for a market vertical called widgets. You add a bunch of accounts and send a direct mail piece. The next time the mailer goes out, you have more contacts that belong to the group. In ACT!, they’re dynamically updated as you go along. In Sugar, they are not. You have to create a new campaign; there’s no dynamic updating of contacts to campaigns.
  • Leads/prospects. When a person moves from prospect to contact (required when you create an account), the name can be found in leads and contacts. This creates some confusion, though the latest update now alerts you to the ‘other’ listing. It was much simpler to market to a group of prospects or a group of accounts or a combination in ACT!

What do I love about SugarCRM Pro?

  • Free mobile app, always in sync. This was a prime reason to make the change and I love it.
  • Peace of mind – backups, up time, easy to access and use from anywhere
  • Account organization, including hierarchy with parent
  • Import/export

Here’s my original CRM review and criteria for change. Yours might be very different, thus you’d come to a different conclusion.

Host your own CRM or pay for hosting? This is a huge decision. Security, maintaining server updates, backups etc. all take time even when you have automated processes. How much is your time worth vs. how much would it cost to pay someone else to host. How often is your server updated for performance vs. paid service? In most cases, just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD host your CRM on your own server.

Whether you host or not,  a good way to begin your search is the list of automatic installs available via Softaculous for cPanel server users.

My short list of requirements to reduce the list:  mobile app, create web lead forms, import/export.

If the CRM supports the above, it’s listed next to the application name

•    Vtiger- mobile
•    Dolibarr- not mature enough for me
•    SugarCRM- not evaluating since I’m already a Pro user and decided this wasn’t good enough
•    EPESI- not robust enough
•    EGroupware
•    Zurmo – looks promising; demo very slow, why?
•    X2CRM -looks promising but maybe young company; doesn’t support mail merge per user 6/2015 in forum. Also import issue reported if any records are duplicate.
•    Tine 2.0
•    SuiteCRM
•    webERP
•    EspoCRM
•    OpenBiz Cubi
•    Group Office

Sage Act! is too pricey and features I loved are lost in the cloud version so it’s out.

In the end I installed SuiteCRM but since it did not support mobile, and I’d be responsible for data security, I decided to stick it out with SugarCRM at least for another year.