Should You Use a Free Open Source CRM? [Pros & Cons]

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It’s common knowledge that business is better with a CRM. Their capabilities, which include incredible organization and automation, among other things, aid in smoothing business processes, particularly in sales and marketing. They can help you through every stage of the sales cycle or with distributing marketing material.

You must know that, though. It’s why you’re here.

But if you don’t, and it’s not, CRM stands for customer relationship management. As that name suggests, it’s software that can help businesses manage their relationships with their customers. Typically they have features like email automation, task automation, customer organization, customer data, lead generation, etc. These platforms make the customer-facing work at your business much easier.

Unfortunately, CRMs can come at quite a hefty cost. And, if you’re a small business, a business struggling or trying to be mindful or tighten its budgets, this can be a limiting factor.

So you’re looking at free CRM app options and want to know if you should use a free open source CRM. And we’re here to help you answer that question.

In this post, we’ll go through a free open source CRM, its pros and cons, and what a self-hosted one is.

What is a Free Open Source CRM Software

What is a Free Open Source CRM Software

Free open source CRM software is CRM software that allows users to access the code to create a more customized experience. This means that on top of the features the base CRM offers, you can tweak/build them so they’re tailored to your business’s specific needs. All you need is coding knowledge or an employee with coding knowledge.

The free aspect means you can download and use this CRM software at no cost. So basically, you get a free CRM with only your business’s abilities at coding, limiting what it can do.

Because of the free aspect, there are likely to be some limitations on the CRM (although not necessarily in terms of what it can do). For instance, it may have poor customer support or limited security. If it’s self-hosted, you’ll be in charge of all the maintenance required to keep your CRM updated and running.

What’s that? What’s a free self-hosted CRM?

Let’s get into it.

What is Free Self Hosted CRM

Although free self-hosted CRMs and free open source CRMs can go hand-in-hand, they aren’t necessarily the same thing. A self-hosted CRM is hosted by the business itself rather than on the CRM’s server online. You’re responsible for managing and maintaining a self-hosted CRM without much interference from the CRM’s company.

With self-hosted CRMs, you’ll also download the software onto your device, rather than having it hosted on the internet like with a cloud-based CRM. This lends itself well to an open source CRM because you can manipulate the code as you please and build your CRM from the ground up with what you need it to do.

We’ve included a table below comparing the two types.

Self-Hosted vs Cloud-Based CRMs

Feature

Self-Hosted CRM

Cloud-based CRM

Location

On devices

On the CRM’s server (internet)

Maintenance

Your business

CRM business

Pros

  • The CRM is yours to mess with as you see fit
  • Software is easily downloadable
  • May be less expensive
  • Maintenance of the CRM will be up to the CRM’s company
  • Easier to use
  • More secure
  • More robust customer support

Cons

  • Maintenance of the platform will be up to you
  • It could be less secure
  • Customer support may be less robust
  • In essence, you could be on your own
  • May be limited in terms of available features
  • May come at a heftier price (unless features are even more limited)

Like we’ve said previously, self-hosted and open source CRMs go so well together because essentially you can download the software and begin personalizing the code to your business. But, although you won’t be limited in terms of the features offered as you could be with other types of CRMs, you will be limited in different aspects, like what is shown in the Cons column in our table above.

Cloud-based CRMs, on the other hand, may be less customizable, but they have robust support and CRM company maintenance, as shown in our table. Plus, although the features aren’t as customizable as CRMs where the code is available for changing, these CRMs can still offer robust feature packages. They can be easier to implement because coding isn’t required.

Ringy, for instance, offers a variety of features, including

  • Emailing
  • Drip campaigns
  • Cloud VoIP softphone
  • Contact organization
  • Communication tracking
  • Mobile apps
  • Calling
  • Texting
  • Task automation
  • Insights and reports

… and more!

But we’re not here to talk about cloud-based CRMs. We’re here to talk about open source ones. So, let’s talk about some!

4 Open Source CRM Tools

There are various free open source CRM tools available, with different advantages and disadvantages. Different tools will suit different businesses better, so it’s important to do your research before deciding on which you get.

Lucky for you, we’ve kickstarted your research with a list of free open-source CRMs.

Below we’ve outlined (in no particular order) four open source CRM tools, which we’ve chosen based on ratings from g2 and Capterra.

1. Odoo CRM

Odoo CRM

Source

First up, we have Odoo CRM. This free open source CRM is an all-in-one solution with several different applications and integrations you can combine to create a solution beyond just a CRM. For instance, it can include

  • POS
  • Sales
  • Timesheet
  • MRP
  • Purchase
  • eCommerce
  • Invoicing

… Just to name a few.

This app also includes annual releases and in-app reports, so you can always be at the top of your sales performance.

According to reviews on g2, customers like having access to everything in one place and find Odoo easy to use. However, some found that support was lacking, and others seem to have found some aspects (like database use) confusing or time-consuming.

Paid Version Available: Yes. Odoo also has a paid hosted version and add-on applications available for a price.

2. Vtiger CRM

Vtiger CRM

Source

Next up we have Vtiger. This software’s open source plan is very popular, with over five million downloads and thousands of developers, making it have a very large community.

However, according to its admission, its open-source CRM is not its cheapest, despite being free to download. With other potential costs, like hosting and upgrading, Vtiger says its open source CRM can be even more expensive than its cloud-based one. And Vtiger does offer a free cloud-based CRM, too.

So, although Vtiger does offer a free and open source CRM, it does suffer from some limitations.

The reviews on g2 may reflect this, with some inconsistency. However, in general, customers think the mobile app requires work, and the app itself is fairly easy to use.

Paid Version Available: Yes, in both open source and cloud-based plans.

3. YetiForce CRM

YetiForce CRM

Source

And now, YetiForce! This Polish CRM was originally developed from Vtiger but has become its own thing. It brags a robust support team on its website, with its team of developers and its community. (However, support is limited in its free version.) On its website, you can report issues, download a CLA (Contributor License Agreement, signed so you can submit a patch), send a pull request, etc.

According to reviews on g2, some customers have found the CRM has a comprehensive and fairly complete set of features and integrations to use, especially for its (potentially free) price. But, some have found that the documentation and reporting have been lacking.

Paid Version Available: Yes. YetiForce offers three paid packages on its website. Hosting + Support, Cloud + Support, and 5H Package are those packages.

4. SuiteCRM

SuiteCRM

Source

Lastly, to round out our list, we’ve got SuiteCRM. With over one million downloads and over 120,000 community members, this free open source CRM is undeniably popular with a bustling community to help your business out with any issues. This application also has the opportunity for many potential integrations, like with DocuSign, Outlook, and Facebook.

According to reviews on g2, some customers seem to be impressed with the numerous capabilities of this CRM. Still, some also find it challenging or tedious to use, potentially requiring a certain amount of expertise to use (PHP (a scripting language) experts were mentioned).

Paid Version Available: Yes, SuiteCRM does have paid versions available.

Four Free Open Source CRM Comparison and Summary Table

We’ve created a table below to summarize and compare these four free open source CRM tools.

Free Open Source CRM

Pros

Cons

Odoo CRM

  • Many different applications and integrations
  • Annual releases
  • Everything in one place
  • Lacking support
  • Some aspects confusing or time-consuming

Vtiger CRM

  • Large community
  • Easy to use
  • Limitations with free version
  • Mobile app needs work

Yetiforce CRM

  • Robust support team
  • Robust community
  • Robust features and integrations
  • Lacks documentation
  • Lacks reporting

SuiteCRM

  • Large community
  • Great integrations
  • Numerous capabilities
  • Can be challenging and tedious to use
  • Expertise may be required

But now that we’ve laid out some pros and cons of these particular free open source CRMs, let’s get into the general advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Free and Open Source CRM

Advantages of Free and Open Source CRM

Like any other CRM, there are pros and cons of free and open source CRMs. We’ve outlined three of the advantages below.

1. Cost-Effective

Some CRMs can have a decent price tag attached to them, to be paid monthly, annually, etc. But with a free open source CRM, you don’t have to pay anything. That makes this type of CRM incredibly cost-effective and easy on the budget. This is the main benefit besides how customizable these CRMs are (see below).

However, there are free versions of other CRMs, too. It doesn’t have to be open source. So, why pick an open source one?

Because of that next benefit, the other main reason for choosing a free open source CRM – how customizable it is.

2. Customizable

Although open source CRMs still come with a building block base, their access to the source code means they are completely customizable. Once you’ve downloaded the software, you can create your CRM how you want it from that building block base up.

This access to the code is also continuous because once you download the software, you own it. The CRM is then yours. So, you can continue to make tweaks and changes to your CRM as you need to because the needs of your business are growing and changing. If there are any bugs or issues with what you’ve coded, you can go back and fix them. Or, if you try something that doesn’t quite work for your business like you’d hoped it would, you could go back and remove it.

The only limitations to what you can do with your CRM and its features are your (or your business’s) own coding abilities.

3. Communit

Some free open source CRM software offers communities for their customers. These communities will include other businesses like yours that have downloaded the software and presumably customized their CRMs. You can use these communities as a support system, asking any questions, working out problems in your code, discussing any intricacies and nuances, reaching out for help, etc.

In a way, you can think of these communities as functioning almost like forums where you’ll get help and support from your peers.

These communities sometimes essentially replace customer support because you’ll be hosting, owning, and maintaining your own CRM. So, be mindful of that when choosing yours.

Disadvantages of Free Open Source CRM

Now that you know some of the advantages, it’s only fair we go through some of the disadvantages of free and open source CRMs, too. So, we’ve outlined four below.

1. Harder to Use

When you can access source code to create the CRM you want, you have a lot of building and customizing abilities on your hands. But, you also have a lot of work on your hands. Coding is a specialized skill that requires more finesse than other CRMs require. Less customizable CRMs offer customization that requires more decision-making and button-purchasing than hard skills.

So, anyone at any tech skill level can use a CRM like Ringy, but only those with coding capabilities can easily implement and develop open-source CRM software. If you don’t have any coders in your business, you may want to consider hiring one for your CRM or choosing a different type of CRM for your business.

2. Potential Security Risks

A commonly listed disadvantage of free open source CRM software is that it can have potential security risks. Or at least, it has a reputation of being less secure than other cloud-based CRMs. You might be confused as to why when you download and on the internet. So, let’s break it down.

There’s no one to manage open source software. Management or fixes are typically done by volunteers, with few formal requirements in place for protection, according to Google, who went to a White House Open Source Software Security Summit earlier this year.

With movements in place to improve the security of open source code, hopefully, this is a disadvantage that will disappear in the future.

Until then, you can use programs like Open Source Insights to try and check the reliability of the security of a free open source CRM you’re interested in.

3. Independent Maintenance

Once you download the CRM software, you essentially own it. It’s up to your business to maintain it. Any bugs, issues, needed updates, etc., are up to you to fix and/or implement. This makes sense, as once you download the software onto your device, the CRM company no longer has access to it in the same way it would if it was hosted on its server. But, ensuring the CRM is secure and running properly is up to you.

4. Less Customer Support

Because the CRM company has less to do with your CRM than it would if it was hosting it, it may offer less customer support than other CRMs. Or, it may be able to help less. So, if you have an issue, you’ll need to work it out within your own business or potentially reach out to the community if your CRM has one, and I hope they can provide some advice.

If you don’t have a tech-savvy team adept at coding, this could provide an obstacle for your business. The point of a CRM is to make business easier and the sales process smoother. But, if you’re struggling to make your CRM work properly and get the proper sid you need with it … it will stop making business easier.

Really, this goes for our Independent Maintenance point, as well.

FAQ

Should I get an open source CRM?

Whether or not you should get an open source CRM depends on your business. If your business struggles with implementing new technology and doesn’t have anyone adept at coding onboard, you may want to consider a different type of CRM. But, if you weigh the advantages and disadvantages we’ve described and think a free open source CRM is the right choice for your business, you might as well give it a shot.

Just as a reminder, the advantages are

  • How cost-effective it is
  • How customizable it is
  • The community you’re able to connect with

The disadvantages are

  • It’s harder to use
  • It has potential security risks
  • It needs to be maintained by your business
  • It may have less customer support

However, don’t forget that there are other types of CRMs out there, as well, like cloud-based ones. Although they may have a cost associated with them, they have benefits over open source ones. For instance, they require less maintenance on your part, they require less expertise on your part, they’re more secure, and they may offer better customer support.

Are there other free CRMs?

Yes, there are other free CRMs out there that aren’t open source. However, these types of CRMs will have other limitations. For instance, if it’s a cloud-based CRM, it may have some limited features. Oftentimes, their features are hidden behind a paywall.

Other CRMs, even if they don’t have a free version, may have a free trial, as Ringy does. This way, you can try out a CRM before you commit to it if you do decide you need the extra capabilities that come from purchasing a CRM rather than using a free version.

With a paid version, you’ll have access to more features and fewer limitations than a free version. This can include the number of users you can have, too, which is something to keep in mind when thinking about the scalability of the CRM you’ve picked.

However, ultimately, it’s about what fits best with your business, including your business’s budget. So, just know there are free options out there, even if you decide your business doesn’t have the technical expertise for an open source CRM.

To Sum Up

free open source crm

There are a variety of free open source CRMs on the market, and some of them can be great CRM tools. Four examples of great free and open source CRMs include

  1. Odoo CRM
  2. VTiger CRM
  3. Yetiforce CRM
  4. SuiteCRM

Depending on your business, a free open source CRM can be an effective tool. They’re cost-effective, customizable, and often have wonderful communities attached to them. But, there are downsides, too. They’re harder to use, may have security risks, need to be maintained by your business, and could have less customer support. So, there are other types of CRMs, too, that you may wish to consider.

Like Ringy, for instance. You can watch our free demo to see how it works or email us with any questions you might have about our software and what we can do for you.