Looking to give your business a shot in the arm with CRM software? There are plenty of products out there, but one category that often gets overlooked is open source CRM. Whether you’re familiar with the concept of open source software or not, don’t worry — we have you covered. Consider this your crash course on open source CRM software and the best products on the market.
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In this post, you’ll learn:
What Is Open Source CRM?
With open source CRM software, the underlying code, called source code, is made publicly available so that anyone can modify it. WordPress is a well-known example of the open source approach. Users can download a theme and then edit the code directly, adding features, customizing things like color and layout, fixing bugs and so on.
Open source software (OSS) spans all types of products and categories, and while CRM platforms are usually proprietary (think Salesforce), there’s plenty of open source customer relationship management software out there.
Contrary to what you might think or read elsewhere, “open source” isn’t synonymous with “free.” Yes, you may be able to use an open source CRM without paying, but that’s not always the case.
If a free CRM solution is what you’re after, check out our list of the best free CRM products.
Typically, open source software includes a license that dictates how people can use the software. The four main license types are:
- Public Domain: There are no restrictions on using this code, though it’s essential to check for security issues before using it.
- Copyleft: With this group of licenses, you can change the source code and distribute the resulting software, provided you use the same license. For example, if you modify someone’s code and use it for anything outside of personal use, you have to also make the code available so others can make their own changes.
- Permissive: These types of licenses have the least amount of restrictions, making them the most common for open source or free applications.
- LGPL: This license (GNU Lesser General Public License) deals with connecting a platform to open source libraries. Linking to the library is allowed and can be done with proprietary software. However, if you modify the library’s code or use part of it in your software, you’re subject to the LGPL terms.
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Exploring the Pros and Cons
To help you better understand if open source CRM would be good for you, here are some of the top pros and cons.
Advantages of Open Source
- Cost-Effectiveness: While open source software (OSS) isn’t always free, one of its main perks is the lower costs associated with using it. You don’t have to worry about license fees or monthly payments just to use the software.
- Security: By nature, open source systems offer more leeway in terms of what you have control over. Security is a vital element of any solution, open source or otherwise, but with OSS, you have the ability to put your own safeguards in place instead of receiving the vendor default.
- Flexibility: Here too, you have complete say over how the system is set up and used. There’s no limit to what you can configure and customize since you have access to the base code. You can mold the software to whatever your requirements are.
- Community: The open source community is large and supportive. There are plenty of online forums where you can turn to get questions answered or glean insights from what others have learned. WordPress is a prime example of this.
Drawbacks of Open Source
No software is perfect, so be sure to weigh the pros with some of the main disadvantages that come with using an open source solution. These include:
- Lack of Support: Yes, there’s community support. But that doesn’t guarantee you’ll receive the technical assistance you need, when you need it, as you would with a vendor that has SLAs in place and employs a dedicated support staff.
- Security: That’s right, security is also a con of OSS. Proprietary systems are developed with strict measures in place. Open source platforms, on the other hand, are a community effort, which exposes the code to the risk of hackers or other programmers who have illegal intentions.
- Poor Usability: With open source systems, you’re more likely to run into an interface that isn’t designed to be as user-friendly as possible. A subpar user experience isn’t guaranteed, but it’s more likely than if you use a proprietary solution.
- Slower to Implement: It typically takes longer to get up and running with an open source solution. That’s because OSS isn’t built to be ready off the shelf like proprietary systems are.
Is Open Source Right for You?
Ask yourself these questions to help determine whether open source customer relationship management software is a viable option for your business.
1. Do you have the technical expertise to support OSS?
One of the major premises of buying open source software is having full control over everything from security to customization. A small operation that lacks the resources to handle that level of technicality won’t get as much out of open source CRM tools as a larger company that has an IT department to take care of everything.
2. What’s your budget?
An obvious question, yes, but still an important one to consider. Are you looking at open source merely to cut costs? In that case, a free or cheap CRM may be more suitable for your needs, especially if you don’t have the infrastructure to properly manage an open source solution.
3. Will open source CRM provide something you can’t find in proprietary software?
CRMs, by and large, are packaged with the same types of features, but you may need something more unique. Perhaps your workflows aren’t easily supported by a CRM, or else the enterprise-grade systems that come with the necessary features or advanced customizations are too pricey. In that case, open source may be your best bet. The goal is to be clear on why OSS will meet your needs better than going with a traditional vendor.