Saving Money Using the Cloud and Open Source Software

In one my consulting projects, we are starting an initiative to do marketing on behalf of partners who represent our products.  We are supplying these partners’ salespeople with leads that are generated by these marketing efforts.  We need to ensure that these leads are being worked on.  If not, we want to assign them to another salesperson.

To track the leads and to assess the success of our campaigns, we need a CRM (Customer Resource Management) system.  We looked at a few different options.

The first was Salesforce.com.  Their software is great, but the pricing model doesn’t work for us.  Salesforce.com charges $65 per user.  This would be fine if only our internal salespeople would be using the system.   However, we will have at least 50 and hopefully a couple hundred users over time.  $65 times 200 is $13,000 per month.  That’s $156,000 per year!

To make it cheaper, we looked and hosting Microsoft CRM at our premises. According to the documentation, we would have to install Microsoft CRM on its own machine within a Windows Domain, and we would have to have a separate machine running the SQL Server.  Talk about over-engineering!  We just need a Web site for tracking sales leads.  We don’t want three machines plus active directory accounts and the corresponding software licenses for each user. In addition, we would have set up that system.  Who knows how long that would take?

Finally, we looked at SugarCRM.  SugarCRM has two versions, an open-source version, which is free, and a paid version that has more features.  SugarCRM hosts the paid version, and it would cost $267 per user per year.  That would be about a third the cost of Salesforce.com; nevertheless, it would still be $50,000 per year for 200 users.

We decided to evaluate using the open-source version of SugarCRM hosted in the Amazon EC2 cloud.  Here are the steps:

  1. Launch an Amazon EC2 Windows Server 2008 Instance that included IIS.  This takes about an hour.
  2. Using the Microsoft Web Platform Installer, install PHP and SugarCRM. This takes about another hour.
  3. Using the Amazon Web Services management console, allocate an elastic IP address and assign it to the EC2 instance.
  4. Register a domain name and map it to that elastic IP address.

That it will cost about $700 per year for as many users as we want.  Because the software is open-source, we can customize it.  In addition, we can use many open source modules that have been developed by the huge SugarCRM development community.

We went from a $150,000 yearly budget to a $700 yearly budget by doing some research and utilizing the cloud.  To learn more about cloud computing and Amazon EC2 come to Learning Tree’s Cloud Computing course.  If you ever decide to use SugarCRM and want to learn about customizing it, you should come to Learning Tree’s PHP Development course.

Doug

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