CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is a system for tracking and managing an organization's interactions with clients and potential clients. Primarily, it is a tool used to track, and hence improve and increase, sales. That said, CRM today encompasses a range of interactions, from hours-long in-person meetings to 140 character social media messages and everything in between. The experience of CRM has evolved into an immersive, colorful interface that translates across many types of screens.

The Heavyweight Champ, so to speak, of CRM is Salesforce, formed back in 1999, with the goal of moving CRM software from on-premise to the cloud, and in many ways has helped the entire CRM market move in that direction. Along the way, it has added a number of related services, and combined them with easy to remember domain names like Data.com, Desk.com, Work.com, and Do.com. As with any champion, new challengers emerge to take them on. One such competitor is SugarCRM, a service founded in 2004. SugarCRM, also known as just “Sugar,” started as an open-source project, designed to take advantage of the large community of developers, each adding and testing features to the project. Since 2014, SugarCRM has moved away from open-source and concentrated more on their proprietary versions. 

Both providers offer a range of impressive features to empower agents to make the most sales and develop the best relationships, as well as communicate internally within the organization. They confidently promise to increase sales and build healthy relationships with customers. Salesforce suffers from a reputation of being expensive, but SugarCRM lacks the cachet that Salesforce possesses. Let's take a look at how the two providers stack up.

Core Features SugarCRM Logo Salesforce Logo
Pricing w/12 Month Contract Sugar Enterprise, $60/user/mo Professional, $65/user/mo
Max # of Users Unlimited Unlimited, 5000 Chatter profiles included
Trial Free 7-day trial Free 14-day trial
On-Premise/Hosted Hosted or on-premise Hosted
Data Storage 60 GB for data or documents 1 GB
File Storage  60 GB for data or documents 11 GB
Mobile App iOS, Android, BlackBerry iOS, Android, BlackBerry
Email Templates
Mass Emails
Campaigns
Lead Capture
Lead Scoring
Accounts
Contacts
Document Attachments
Maximum Size of Documents to Upload 30 MB 5 MB
Content Library
Task Tracking
Multiple Campaign Management
Workflow Automation
Opportunity Tracking
Multiple Currency
Sales Forecasting
Social CRM Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn Chatter
Web-to-lead Capture
Standard Dashboards
Customizable Dashboards
Standard Reports
Custom Reports
Order Management
Role Permissions
Territory Management
Competitor Tracking
Quote Management
Google/Gmail Integration
Microsoft/Office Integration
Uptime 99.95% 99.90%

Deployment Options:
Salesforce is only available as a cloud service. Sugar is available as an on-premise solution, a solution hosted by Sugar, a solution hosted by a Sugar Partner, a solution in the public cloud, or a solution managed by Sugar in a private cloud. Each solution gives you a number of options in terms of your own level of control and your choice of subscription fees.

Verdict: Salesforce wins, for keeping it simple and easy to understand.
 

Pricing:
Sugar has three tiers, and Enterprise, the middle tier, is $60/user/mo, with a minimum annual subscription starting at $7,200/year, including 10 user licenses. Salesforce has four tiers, and Professional is the second lowest, as $65/user/mo. It also requires a 12-month contract. Although both providers have tiers called Professional and Enterprise, for this matchup will be comparing Sugar Enterprise to Salesforce Professional, which have similar prices. At $5 savings per user per month, Sugar would seem to be a better deal, but you have a minimum requirement of ten users. Salesforce has no such requirement.

Verdict: Sugar wins, as long as you have more than 12 users.

Mobile App:
No business tool would be worth its salt if it didn't have a comprehensive mobile support. Salesforce has the Salesforce1 Mobile App, and SugarCRM has its Sugar Mobile. You can use the app to get location-based sales and support, read and edit documents, and access your CRM on the go. Both CRM systems allow you to save data to your phone so you can go to an area with no connection and continue working. At this time, SugarCRM and Salesforce both support BlackBerry, Android and iOS. Sugar also has a version specifically tailored to the larger screen of the iPad.

Verdict: Tie

Social CRM:
One of the new ways that business is improving is through the use of social networking. SugarCRM integrates with Citrix GoToMeeting for online conferencing, and integrates with Twitter, Google, Microsoft, and Lotus. It is designed to take content posted to multiple social networking sites and move that information to SugarCRM.

Salesforce, rather than using others' platform, developed their own social network from the ground up, called “Chatter.” Anything posted on Chatter can be seen by others internally, but it is not open to the public. It is used to share files, give information about an upcoming meeting, or even brag about a big sale. Like Facebook, you have private messages and wall posts, file sharing, and activity feeds. One free Chatter profile is included with each user license, and you can get the premium Chatter Plus with more sharing tools for an extra $15/user/app/mo.

Verdict: I believe there should be a line separating business social networking from personal social networking. Salesforce Chatter is a great way to push out messages either between peers or from the upper levels downward.

Final Thoughts:
There's no question that this price point has a crowded field. SugarCRM and Salesforce are both looking to win on features here. They both match up very evenly when it comes to features. They both have app exchanges brimming with free and paid apps to boost sales. They also both lack 24/7 technical support and launch help, something which is afforded the highest tiers.

One of the few categories where there is a clear winner is in storage. Salesforce gives users 1 GB for data and 11 GB for documents. If you go over that, you are subject to fees, and in a few rare cases, subscribers have been known to pay more for data storage than for their CRM subscription. Sugar gives a very generous 60 GB that can be used for either data or document storage.

SugarCRM also takes a very slight edge in reliability. SugarCRM gives an SLA-backed uptime of 99.5%, Salesforce does not offer an SLA, but they boast “99.9+ % reliability.” Since “+” is not a number, we can assume the reliability is between 99.001% and 99.999%. Both CRM providers post their service status online.

But coming ahead on one or two categories isn't enough to crown a real winner. Salesforce hits big. They have gobs of features, due in large part because of their acquisitions of other companies. SugarCRM, no lightweight itself, benefits from the contributions of ten years of open-source developers. I see the winner being determined by the personal preferences of the user interface more than any one particular set of features. I like the “Facebook in a business suit” approach that Salesforce offers, but many others would prefer SugarCRM's collaboration tools. I view this one as a tie.