Why Open Source CRM Might Not Suit Your Small Business?



Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: February 18, 2021

Nobody hates free stuff. As long as it smells of good quality (or at least sports some passable quality), chances are you probably are not going to turn it down. In the same veins, small business will fall for anything that comes wrapped in ‘free-to-use label’ and promises to ‘turbo-charge’ revenues.

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But, here is the catch 101 – there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to ‘freebies‘ in the tech space. While adopting open source CRM software may sound a lot like a brilliant cost-cutting idea, these software are often not “fit it and forget it all” solutions. There are, however, some worrisome drawbacks that make the CRMS unattractive option to cash-strained, small business owner compared to the proprietary CRM systems.

Drawbacks of Open Source CRM

1. Not easy to use

One of the impediments to open source software is the difficulty to use them. Open source applications are free for use. As such, developers only work hard at achieving the required functionality. Since there isn’t anyone hiring dedicated UI/UX professionals that will make the CRM friendly to your team, there are no guarantees to the quality user experience. If your team is less tech-savvy, open CRM is fiercely a no-go zone.

2. The customization enigma

The beautiful thing about open-source systems – they are made to be tinkered with and then rebuilt. So you can take the free software and do what you want to with it, whenever you want it.

But, you should not be carried away by the immense customization possibilities presented by the open source code. First off, the bloated nature of open source systems ensures that not every developer can make sense of its massive codebase. Secondly, hiring a developer to customize the sales CRM software to your specific needs are going to be too costly for your small business. And that makes all the ‘highly flexible’ hype a mirage, at best.

Because of the problem of plenty, it is highly challenging to find open source CRM software that fits the needs of your small business. Once you have it, getting the same software up and running becomes another challenge. You have to engage a developer to customize it according to your business needs. As if that is not scary enough, you will always need someone on speed dial, just in case,  things go awry.

While proprietary CRM will require the monthly subscription, they are often cheap and easy to use in the long run. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get the CRM running.  Plus, the service providers maintain their systems and are responsible for their overall security. Besides, the providers can not only create a tailor-made plan for you on request but also offer it at a discount on the standard rates.

So instead of focusing your energies and cash tweaking open source CRMs to fit your business needs, fire off an email to one of those proprietary CRM providers… and see how they are forthcoming.

4. False sense of security

One of the major selling points for open source system is the ability to run the software behind your firewall. To some extent, it assures you that hackers can’t get hold of your valuable business information.

The truth is, there is not technology immune to cyber attacks. For one, people know who the URL of your cloud CRM deployments can access your system at their private clouds. The ugly part about it is that you have to secure (SSL) and regularly apply patches to fix critical bugs.

However, most users of open source software have very limited tech-knowhow. So who is going to secure your Customer Relationship Management software from SQL Inject, Cross Site Scripting and other attack vectors?  You or a proprietary CRM software provider?

5. No central support system

You will always need assistance. It doesn’t matter whether your system is the superbly designed (excellent UI/UX) with flat learning curve kind or simply an open CRM with a tacky interface.

You will need someone who can quickly respond to your frustrations on email. And most importantly, you need to have real-time communication with a customer rep.

So what happens when you run into a problem with your open source CRM software? There isn’t a central place you can go with the issues you are facing. In case you may need a solution to any of your challenges, you have to get it from various forums. You post your questions on the different message boards and waiting for wait for whoever cares to respond. The challenge is, these answers might take time to come through, and the worst thing is, they may be inaccurate. However, getting an expert to respond to your specific will burn your pockets.

6. Limited functionality

Open source systems are always made to cater for the basic needs of your small business. However, these systems may not be a right fit for you if you are looking for a fully-fledged CRM software solution. They have a limited functionality – there are no compelling features that allow integration to specialized lead management software, project management software and mobile apps. And you are not going to get these powerful business apps for free. Unlike with proprietary software systems, you have to hire a developer to add ready-made plugins or new features for you.

Bottom Line

If you are you will need further customization to your CRM system, an open CRM might do the trick. However, with the changing scene of business and growing customer demands, you can’t stick to a rigid CRM system. While open source CRM software is free for use, the maintenance costs that come with such systems are hefty. You will need someone to maintain the databases, servers, add security patches and do away with system bugs at your own cost. The upfront costs for setting up the system will add a punch to your already strained budget.  But, if you are terrified of blowing up your initial costs, adopting a proprietary CRM application might be just what your business wants to profit.

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