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Open source CRM software: The pros and cons

Many organizations, both large and small, are intrigued by open source CRM software, which can be an economical and feature-rich option.

We’re a small operation that’s been considering open source CRM software. Can you sum up the pros and the cons of going this route?

For the right company, open source can be smart, economical and powerful. For some reason, the idea of open source gets tangled up with taking a vow of poverty, making it a natural for nonprofits (after all, it’s free), but not appropriate for “real” businesses. Nothing could be further from the truth -- a good case in point being none other than IBM. The company is a big booster of open source, especially the Apache Web server software, which despite being open source, has about half the world market in Web servers.

This year, IBM worked out an agreement with SugarCRM, an open source CRM product that will run quite nicely in the IBM environment. So there are definitely large-scale companies that run open source products. But is it the right choice for your organization?

Open source is a bit of a do-it-yourself product, though you can easily find and hire third parties to manage, host and modify your applications if you want. An open source system might not be appropriate if your small company doesn’t have some in-house IT skills or if you’re on a budget. This is not a hard rule, just something to keep in mind.

One of the great things about open source is that a community of like-minded people grows around a standard version of software. These people extend the core functionality in myriad ways and very quickly, and there are many CRM add-on applications available for free or at a modest cost. 

Open source also lets you have your own copy of the source code, which is a dual-edged sword. You can modify it as much as you need to. This is important for some people, but be aware that the more customized your instance is, the more alone you are in the world should you need technical assistance.

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