Best Open Source CRM


There are two kinds of free CRM: free, but limited – often referred to as freeware -and open source. Freeware is usually a limited version of paid software, and caps the number of free users, contacts and features, and the amount of storage, which is unlocked if you upgrade to the paid version. However, open source CRM is completely fully functional. So many options are available, but how do you know which is the best open source CRM for you? This is a guide to the benefits of open source CRM, and the best solutions currently available.

There are many benefits to using open source CRM including:

  • Applications at no cost – Believe it or not, you don’t have to pay for free CRMs. You may have to shell out for support and modification, but the source code itself in open source CRM software is completely free. If you know what you’re doing, you can quite easily save money on licencing fees.
  • Customisability –  The unlimited, open nature of the source code also allows for easy customisability and modification of the software. Of course, your ability to customise depends on your capacity for you or your team to code, but this characteristic has the potential for you to mould to software to however you want it.
  • No Licence – Whilst commercial CRMs have a licence, tying the user down to fees or requirements, open source CRMs are completely unrestricted.
  • Real time updates – Unlike commercial software, you don’t have to wait for a new version for updates.


The main complication is that you can’t really use open source software unless you have a person or team who can install, configure and modify the CRM. However, it’s easy to find developers who can help, and for cheaper than commercial or proprietary CRM software. Many open source CRM companies can also provide a preconfigured version and/or a paid service for installation and support.


Though open source CRM can potentially benefit any company, certain businesses may profit from them more than others. Small business and start-ups may not need the plethora of features that commercial software offers, and may benefit more from saving money. Open source CRM may be a useful way to acquire critical CRM functionality without all the bells and whistles. If your business has unique requirements that your CRM software needs to accommodate, then an open source solution might be for you as well.


Some of the Best Open Source CRM Solutions


For the longest time, SugarCRM was one of the most popular open source CRM systems until Sugar discontinued any new versions of it. However, this paved the way for developers to fork SugarCRM’s code to create SuiteCRM.

SuiteCRM is based on the Community Edition of SugarCRM, but far from being a clone, it offers a host of valuable new features. SuiteCRM can create quotes and invoices, uphold leads and contracts, generate reports, and keep documents and notes. The system can also be set up to let customers log in and track their own issues. For those who can’t install and/or configure the software in-house, a preconfigured version is available. The upgrade fee for this version is £10 a month.



Built for small to mid-size business, vTiger comes made with useful CRM tools such as Web-to-CRM forms, which obtain contact information directly from website visitors, and custom reports, which contain filters to focus on specific lead characteristics. The workflow is automated, which saves users time and removes the need to perform repetitive tasks. vTiger can tell you what’s working in your marketing campaign and what isn’t by tracking it over time. The software also offers a support portal so users can search through past issues and solutions. On the other side, support agents can create and track issues with automated follow-ups, which can be checked by customers. Files, documetns, invoices and quotes can be distributed through the client portal. vTiger and fully integrates with Microsoft Outlook, and provides mobile applications to use the service remotely.



Zurmo is unique in the world of open source CRM because it’s gamified. Not only does it offer its users the essential features of a CRM system, but it rewards them with incentives for using it. Zurmo is based on game mechanics, setting goals or ‘missions’, and giving badges when you try to complete the goals. You can challenge your co-workers with missions that have tangible set rewards at the end. The gamification aspect encourages customers to explore Zurmo though the promise of earning achievements. Zurmo offers both an online demo and a free trial of the hosted version.



Targeted at public sector, not-for-profits, advocacy groups and political campaigns – organisations with budget constraints and requirements for unique software functionality –  CiviCRM is a web-based CRM application. It has a wide-ranging out-of-the-box feature set, including functions such as online and offline fundraising, grant tracking, event planning, donor and membership management, advocacy campaigns, case management, communications and bulk email. The application is licenced under GNU, and integrates with the Joomla! and Drupal content management systems.



Designed as an alternative to SugarCRM, SplendidCRM is most useful for small businesses with small IT departments looking for standard CRM functionality, but suits organisations in virtually any industry. It’s specially designed to deal with Microsoft products, and is written in Microsoft’s C# language. Key functions include Microsoft Outlook and Word Add-In, rules and workflow engines, exchange server synchronisation and report design language. SplendidCRM can integrate to Google Apps and PayPal as well as Microsoft Exchange.



Named for its minimalist yet functional system, Fat Free CRM is a Ruby on Rails-based application perfect for smaller organisations. The thinking behind this software is that most users only use a fraction of the features that commercial systems can provide. Fat Free CRM provides the essential functionality of a CRM system, and allows the extension of functionality through developing plugins. If you are a developer working with Ruby on Rails, you can write your own. Its interface is simple and intuitive, making it perfect for first-time businesses.


Matthew Hayhow

Web Journalist for Software Advisory Service.

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