CustomTech sweetens CRM solution with open source

Sydney-based distributor CustomTech has a sweetener for businesses interested in customer relationship management (CRM), but prohibited by cost -- a "free" open source CRM solution.

CustomTech has signed an agreement with SugarCRM to bring Sugar Open Source, an enterprise-class, Web-based CRM application, to customers in Australia and New Zealand.

Sugar Open Source provides integrated management of customer accounts and contacts, sales leads and opportunities, quotations and sales reports, plus activities such as calls, meetings and assigned tasks. It also provides graphical reporting to track the sales pipeline and a Microsoft Outlook e-mail plug-in.

"I believe SugarCRM has a natural alternative to products such as Salesforce.com, ACT! and GoldMine," said Gordon Hubbard, managing director of CustomTech.

"As SugarCRM progresses, the established enterprise software vendors are going to feel some pressure -- particularly in organisations that are also moving towards Linux and Open Source."

One pressure is in price. The entry level Sugar Open Source is "free", in so far as it is available under an open source software license.

Sugar Professional is available under a commercial license for a fee of $337.70 per user per year, with discounts for volume. This price also includes 12 months of patches and upgrades, installation and maintenance support, and access to the knowledge base support and developer forums.

CustomTech is already working with a handful of customers interested in the commercial license version, and Hubbard expects interest to grow.

SugarCRM is well known in the Open Source domain: "They are following a dual-license strategy rather like Red Hat/Fedora, MySQL and SmoothWall GPL/SmoothWall Corporate," Hubbard said.

"In other words there is an 'entry level' brand-building Open Source version available with less features and community-only support that is aimed at home/small business; and an enhanced feature set, supported version for serious business use."

The application runs on a pure Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP (LAMP) open source software platform. But it can also be deployed on the WIMP (Windows, IIS, MySQL, PHP) platform.

Because SugarCRM targets most business sizes, customers either keep their application and data in-house or hosted externally with Sugar On-Demand, which costs $57.20 per user per month.

"Being Web-based, SugarCRM's product works well for businesses that want to reduce deployment headaches and fits well in a heterogeneous environment -- any mix of Windows, Mac or Linux desktops," Hubbard said.

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