Lower-Cost CRM Systems Deliver

Centric CRM and Sugar Professional show how far open-source CRM applications have come. Just don't call them free.

Companies looking for inexpensive customer relationship management applications will do well with two applications evolving from a maturing open-source CRM market. Centric CRM 3.0 from Dark Horse Ventures LLC and Sugar Professional 3.0 from SugarCRM Inc. differ significantly in features, Web application platform support and open-source models, but both are worthy options.

eWEEK Labs tests show that Centric CRM has some well-designed workflow elements that make it a good tool for smaller companies or workgroups within a larger organization. We liked the additions SugarCRM has made to Sugar Professional; the new capabilities improve sales features and administrative controls over Version 2.0, which came out just nine months ago. Sugar Professional will be a good choice for midsize organizations.

The Centric CRM 3.0 code is free, and there is a single code base; maintenance and customer support start at $400 per user per year. The software is also available as a hosted application, with prices starting at $37.50 per user per month.

Sugar Professional is available as a licensed application for $239 per user per year and through a hosted service for $40 per user per month. We tested Sugar Professional on SugarCRMs appliance, the Sugar Cube 3005, which costs $7,995 plus user license fees. Sugar Open Source, which includes a subset of Sugar Professionals features, is free.

The hosted versions of both product platforms cost less than Salesforce.com Inc.s Salesforce.com and NetSuite Inc.s NetSuite CRM, both of which range in price from $65 to $75 per user per month, depending on capabilities. The Centric CRM and Sugar Professional products are also less expensive than client/server applications. Best Software Inc.s SalesLogix, for example, has a $1,750 server fee and a $795 per-user client license.

Centric CRM is a Java-based application that will run on Windows and Linux operating systems, and it supports either PostgreSQL or Microsoft Corp.s Microsoft SQL Server 2000. Sugar Professional is a PHP-based application that requires MySQL and runs on Linux or Windows operating systems.

Sugar Professional will be easier to customize not only because it is PHP-based but also because it includes more administrator-based customization features. SugarCRM customers will also likely be better supported by SugarCRM and its integrators, especially on the customization front, making Sugar Professional a worthy alternative to midrange CRM tools such as SalesLogix and Salesforce.com.

Dark Horse is more protective of the Centric CRM code base, so customizing the application will require higher-level development skills and working closely with Dark Horse. Centric CRM also lacks integrated customization features, so customers will need to do more work to tailor the application to their needs.

Neither of the products we tested has an open-source license approved by the Open Source Initiative, so customers should not expect to be able to freely modify and resell applications based on the code.

Sugar uses a modified and more restrictive version of the Mozilla Foundations Mozilla Public License 1.1. Centric CRMs license, the Centric Public License, is even more restrictive: Dark Horse does not allow redistribution of its source code or modifications to be redistributed in the source code without approval from Dark Horse officials. Officials said additions and modifications to Centric CRM are welcome, but they want to approve changes that will be redistributed as part of the source code to maintain a single code base.


Click here to read the full review of Sugar Professional 3.0.


Click here to read the full review of Centric CRM 3.0.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.


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