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Monday, October 06, 2014

10 Best Open Source CRM

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. It’s one of the saddest facts in my life, right up there with my insane student debt and the realization that Taylor Swift will probably never talk to me.
But there’s good news! I just saved a bunch of money by switching to… no, I’m kidding.
The real good news is that, while lunch may not be free, Customer Relationship Management software can be!
Free stuff is exciting!
Free stuff is exciting!
Free CRM comes in two categories – free, but limited (also known as freemium), and open source.
So the free, but limited versions offset caps on the amount of free users, contacts, storage, extra features, or some combination thereof.
Open source, on the other hand, offers an unlimited, fully functional CRM to users. The caveat is that your company needs a person (or team) who can install and configure the CRM. Of course, because of this, open source CRM is extremely customizable, which is nice. Most open source CRM companies also offer a preconfigured version and/or installation and support for a price.
Where can you find these magical free CRMs? Well, I put together a list for you! Check out the comparison chart below and read the details about the CRM systems that interest you.
Please note that I have not placed these in any particular order. Each system is different and each one will serve some companies better than others.
Free CRM Comparison

1. SuiteCRM

SuiteCRM
SuiteCRM is an open source alternative to SugarCRM and is actually based on Sugar’s open source version. Sugar’s open source product is extremely stripped down, and as one reviewer put it “SuiteCRM is the best of all worlds. It’s based on Open Source Sugar, but uses Open Source add-ons to make it close to, if not better than, the ‘Pay’ Sugar.”
Suite offers a preconfigured version for those users who don’t have the ability to install/configure in house. The upgrade fee for that is £10 or roughly $16.40 a month.

2. CapsuleCRM

CapsuleCRM
Capsule is free for up to two users with 10 MB of storage, and 250 contacts. To upgrade, it’s $12/user/month. With the upgrade comes two gigabytes of storage, 50,000 contacts, and integration with such applications as Mailchimp andFreshbooks.
Capsule’s best feature, according to its many glowing reviews, is its ability to integrate with at least 33 other software programs, including Mailchimp, Freshbooks, and Gmail.
In fact, according to the reviews, the only place Capsule is really lacking as a system is its customer support. While they have a FAQs section as well as helpful articles posted on their page, if you need any help after hours, you’re sunk. In addition, they offer no direct phone service. Rather, you must submit a form, though they do claim to call you back within a single business day.

3. Insightly

insightly
Insightly claims on its homepage to be the “#1 online small business CRM.” I have no evidence to corroborate this particular claim, but I can tell you that they offer a great free program and a very friendly website.
Insightly offers their system free for three users, 2,500 records (which they define as any stored item from contact to note), 200 megabytes of storage and ten custom fields. Perhaps most importantly, Insightly offers free users full product support! The upgrade fee is $7/user/month and includes 100,000 records, unlimited storage, and Mailchimp integration.
As they say on their homepage, Insightly is great for small businesses. For many small businesses three users is really more than enough. However, many reviewershave mentioned that Insightly is not ideal for bigger businesses, particularly because its functionality is not capable of handling the demands of a larger business. One particular example cited is that the email integration lacks a lot of user functionality that other CRM platforms don’t think twice about.

4. Really Simple Systems

Really Simple Systems
Really Simple Systems claims to be the best CRM system for small businesses. (But it does not claim to be the #1 online CRM for small business, so there’s no rivalry with Insightly.)
Really Simple Systems offers a free two user system that includes 100 accounts (business that you deal with), unlimited contacts within those accounts, tasks, and 100MB of storage. To upgrade to five users with the same functionality, it’s $15/user/month.
Customers love Really Simple Systems because it’s actually really simple and they offer excellent customer support. I honestly struggled to find the problems people had with this system, that’s how much users love it.
However, I did manage to dig up one con to keep in mind. Cloudpro’s review, while generally praising this CRM, does mention that Really Simple Systems offers more limited functionality, and so works best for small businesses compared to large or enterprise ones.

5. FreeCRM

FreeCRM
Here’s another CRM that claims to be #1 at something. This time its #1 at online free CRM software for business (so again, technically no rivalry!).
This free version comes with five free users, 2,500 contacts, and all the basic features. The upgrade fee is $14.95/user/month for more features, storage, and support. Two major drawbacks up front: you only get one year free, and no customer support.
So what makes FreeCRM worth it? First, their upgraded system is actually one of the most affordable CRMs on the market. Second, it’s a web-based solution, so you don’t need to create an expensive and time-consuming infrastructure to host it on, meaning pretty much anyone can get it up and running with ease.

6. Bitrix24

Bitrix24
I like Bitrix a lot because it offers really flexible price options. I like flexibility. For a completely free account you get 12 users, five GB of storage and the ability to do anything you want with that storage, which is already a pretty sweet deal.
This is how it gets better. The upgrade fee to get unlimited users and 50 gigs of storage is $99, but if you’re not feeling that cause really all you needed was a few more users, or maybe just more storage… Bitrix totally hears you! They offer an additional 12 users to the same program for $25/user/month. And/or if you want more storage they offer a tiered pricing plan on that up to one TB.
So that’s the pricing.
Overall, reviewers find Bitrix to be a very easy-to-use system. In addition, itsdocument management feature is well integrated and extremely useful.
The drawback that reviewers all point out is that Bitrix’ aesthetics are a little rough at points. One reviewer mentioned that they use a flashing clock in the corner to remind users to timestamp all activities, which I could easily imagine is quite obnoxious.

7. Raynet

Raynet1
Raynet markets itself as an easy-to-use, does-it-all CRM. It’s free version allows for two users, 150 accounts, 50MB of storage, and full customer support. Upgrade to 20,000 accounts and one TB of storage for just $19/user/month.
Raynet’s system is very aesthetically pleasing and features an “account card” (featured above) where you can glean most of the information you need about a customer from a single glance, including how much they’re worth to your company.
All that said, Raynet is a fairly new company, and the fact that it’s headquartered in the Czech Republic may make support difficult for U.S.-based companies (though they have an office in Florida).  Additionally, perhaps because it’s such a recent entrant to the American CRM market, there is not yet much third party information or reviews on software.

8. vTiger

vTiger
vTiger is an open source CRM, that is also based on Sugar. vTiger was actually originally a part of Sugar, but both have since gone their own ways.
While you can download and install the open source version of the software for free yourself, vTiger does offer several preconfigured versions starting as just $12/user/month. In addition, vTiger also offers installation, support, hardware, and/or administration for a price. It integrates with MailChimp, Intuit and Paypal, among others.
One thing that vTiger does really well is offer a wide array of features for very cheap, even on the preconfigured level. These features include billing, inventory tracking, and project management capabilities, all of which are fairly unusual to find in any CRM system.
From reviews, it would appear as though a fairly important drawback to vTiger is the fact that it has compatibility issues with PHP 5.6 and above.

9. ZohoCRM

Zoho
Zoho is one of the big dogs of business software, so it’s pretty cool that they offer a free program. This CRM version is free for three users and 5,000 records. It comes with a mobile app and social CRM among other things. Their first step upgrade (for more users, features, and 100,000 records) is only $12/user/month.
Zoho is well known for being easy to use with highly developed importing features.
Unfortunately, Zoho is not as feature-rich as other CRMs on this list and has some quirks that take getting used to. An example that one reviewer used was that, when exporting from Zoho, you have to be very careful to ensure that there are no commas in any records, or else it will split up the record when putting it into Excel.

10. Zurmo

Zurmo
Zurmo is open source, and is unique on this list because it is also gamified. Zurmo was written on the principal that offering users incentives along the way makes users better employees. So the system sets goals, or ‘missions’ (which are different for different types of users) and then gives badges along the way to goal completion. It also allows coworkers to challenge each other to missions with set rewards at the end (like a gift card).
Currently, the biggest drawback to Zurmo is that it’s pretty new on the scene – which, being open source, can actually be a bit of a bother. Zurmo’s open source version lacks some fairly basic features such as social CRM.  This, of course, is unlikely to remain a problem the longer it sticks around.
Zurmo does offer a preconfigured version for $32/user/month.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

How Much Can You Save By Moving To Cloud?

Cloud services are a major improvement in standard business practices. Not only do they offer increased security, specialization, and peace of mind (thank you, automated back-ups), they can also offer significant cost savings for small businesses. 
fa5f32caf5a026d9b0666b79e8e25be2.jpg
Paper 

A single office worker uses as many as 10,000 sheets of copy paper in a year. Ouch. Even buying paper at bulk business rates, you are looking at a hefty amount spent on paper. Imagine what would happen if you migrated all of your paper-heavy business functions to the cloud. All invoicing, forms, documentation, training materials, quotes and estimates, drafting, and financial records would no longer be dependent on reams of paper and toner refills. Moving paper-based functions to the cloud eliminates the paper cost, of course. It also eliminates maintenance cost for in-house printers, toner refills, and outsourced printing work. 

Equipment 

The servers needed to host your own data center in house, which is what many small businesses end up doing, can be a heavy one. Larger corporations usually have dedicated, large data centers, and mid-size businesses often rent space in a data center. But small businesses, working with a smaller budget, generally end up housing a rack of servers in the closet. That means you also have to maintain the servers and replace them when needed. Moving your data center to cloud-based services saves you the cost of the equipment itself (servers and racks) and also saves you on the maintenance cost and the energy cost of supporting those servers day in and day out. Small business also save on staffing costs; your time-strapped IT person can actually start solving other problems, and you won't have to hire more in-house tech support. The cost of ongoing IT support is usually wrapped up in the monthly fees your business pays for cloud services. 

Updates and Software 

How much did you have to pay to upgrade to the latest, greatest, newest, and absolutely necessary software? Cloud computing takes that whole system apart. Since cloud-based services are, well, cloud-based, the service providers can roll out regular updates and new features as they are developed. Updates simply become part of the service and are the responsibility of the service provider. One less thing off your plate and off your budget. 

Specialized Tools 

Specialized software, data analysis, and digital business tools can be a high-cost investment for a small business. Industry-specific point-of-sale systems, for example, cost thousands of dollars. Using cloud-based solutions allows you to get the functionality you need for a monthly fee instead of that hefty initial cost. Your small business gets access to the same quality in tools and services that your much larger competitors enjoy. It's a case of power in large purchasing: the cloud-based services can afford to purchase the increased processing power and dedicated developers that you can't. Why not take advantage of what that provides for your business and pay only a fraction of the cost? 

Interest and Fees 

If your small business cannot function without a reliable point-of-sale system or drafting software, you are going to do what you have to do to get that tool in place. Sometimes that means taking on debt, with fees and interest incurred, in order to keep your business doing business. The alternative offered by cloud computing, to pay by the month, in most cases, allows you to use the tools you need without incurring debt in order to do it. Avoiding interest charges adds up to significant savings over the course of a year. Moving to the cloud is not going to solve all your business challenges or automatically increase your productivity. It does have great potential to save your business the cost of unnecessary stress and unnecessary spending. 

Bitrix24 is a free cloud team collaboration platform. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 

- 5 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Workplace Productivity 
- Intranet review checklist – seven must-have features for ANY intranet 
- Social HR 101: What is social intranet? 
- Mobile Productivity Dos and Don'ts 
- Are you treating your intranet as information dumping ground? 
- How we improved our ROI for PR tenfold
- Free TribeHR Alternative

Saturday, August 09, 2014

How To Replace Email With Enterprise Social Network

Is email dead? The answer is still being debated. But one thing is certain: While ESNs (enterprise social networks) are probably not going to completely eradicate email usage, they are fast changing the way people in the workplace communicate, share ideas and collaborate. Here are three ways ESNs are better than email: 

1. ESNs increase work efficiency and foster better knowledge sharing. 

If you’ve experienced working for a company without a knowledge management system in place, email may sometimes work like this: If John needs information he thinks Ellen has, he emails her, to which Ellen replies – if John types in the correct email address and the email doesn’t get trapped in the spam filter, that is. If Ellen unfortunately doesn’t have the information he needs, John sends an email blast to his department’s distribution list. If nobody in the list can help John, he emails another department. If that department can’t offer anything helpful, on and on goes the quest for the missing information. In the event one of John’s emails finally finds its way into the responsible person’s inbox, there’s no guarantee that John will get an immediate response, particularly if the said recipient still needs to weed through 3,108 emails that include invitations fr om lunch buddies and discussions about the most recent Game of Thrones episode that are in no way tied to work. (Yes, email abuse does happen.) The scenario may seem a little extreme, if not depressing, but it’s not too far removed from reality, either. One good thing about enterprise social networks is that threaded conversations are visible to participants, and people who can’t directly help can tag or invite those they think can, quickly finding the experts and making knowledge sharing more effective. Plus, any time the same question or issue crops up, discussions are archived for review. 

2. ESNs simplify data gathering, sharing and collaboration. 

You’re a team leader, and you need to gather your team’s personal information, as HR needs to again upd ate itsemployee database. There are several ways this can be done. One, send the team an email enumerating the data they need to provide. When everyone has replied with their answers, you’re ready to input the data into a master file. Two, direct them to a link in the company’s shared drive containing an Excel file. Ask them to download the file and fill it out. When done, instruct them to send you the filled-out worksheet as an email attachment. After which, you’re set to work on the master file. Three, if everyone has a working Google Docs account and the company’s VPN (virtual private network) doesn’t block access to third-party accounts, you can create a worksheet that you can then share with the team. As long as everyone is able to edit the file, the Google Docs file will also function as your master file. Option number three is, hands down, the best option in terms of efficiency. But what if not everyone has a Google Docs account? Creating one is certainly not a pain, but will the company allow it? Or what if the VPN or proxy server is se t to screen all non-work-related Internet addresses? Most ESNs, on the other hand, are equipped with document management features that allow users to share, download and collaborate on documents, videos and presentations. Document libraries can be made public or specific to certain users or group profiles. ESN activity streams also allow participants to post comments, attach new document versions, see changes and receive feedback – all in real-time. 

3. ESNs ensure important announcements and communications are relayed and received. 

Now, consider this scenario. You’re a retailer, and new items are available for sale. You have several branches, so you send an email to your branch supervisors advising them of the new merchandise. You also attach a price list. The next day, you realize there were wrong entries in the list, so you decide to send another email containing the corrections. For some reason, one of the supervisors doesn’t get the second email, so he doesn’t know that several of the new items are actually priced 50% higher than originally indicated. This supervisor turns out to be your selling superstar, too, and the next thing you know, he has already disposed a big chunk of his branch’s just-delivered supply using the erroneous selling price. It’s a known fact that not all emails being sent reach the intended recipients’ inbox, and for business-critical communications, relying on email alone can be catastrophic to the company’s bottom line. Good ESNs have announcement features wh ere important notices remain plastered on the upper right-hand side of the screen until users acknowledge having already read or acted upon them. 

The above are just three reasons ESNs have the upper hand over email, and there are certainly more that this blog post doesn’t cover. The bottom line, however, is crystal clear: For easier collaboration and more effective communication within your organization, ESNs are definitely worth a shot. 

Bitrix24 is a free enterprise social network solution. Use promocode TIP10 when registeringyour free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 

- Best free internal communication software and tools 
- How to build successful inside sales team - tips from inside sales guru Josiane Feigon 
- Keith Burton: Why email will never die 
- Plan your day BEFORE you check your email and other simple email lifehacks from Graham Allcott
 
- 5 Simple Online Calendar Management Tips