6 open source alternatives to Salesforce for customer relationship management

Top 6 open source CRM tools

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Developing and maintaining relationships with customers can be a challenge. But it's an essential task for businesses' growth and survival. In order to maintain those relationships, a CRM system is a must-have. And CRM systems are one area in which open source shines brightly.

When we first took a look at the top open source CRM systems back in 2014, there were many promising options. Now, let's take a quick look at six of the top open source CRM systems of today. While this is by no means a definitive list, each CRM system covered in this article has been selected based on its rich or unique feature set.

What is CRM?

CRM is short for customer relationship management. A CRM system is a web application that businesses use to organize information about their customers, leads, and other contacts. But a CRM system is more than just a list of contacts. It contains customers' details and history of their transactions with an organization, along with information about those customers' place or status in the sales process.

Many CRM systems can hook into financial and accounting systems to help organizations track earnings and costs. They can also provide analytics that enable a business to better predict a customer's future needs.

Most open source CRMs system only require a web server, database, and browser to run. Let's examine six open source tools designed to make managing customer relationships easier.


When some people hear CRM, they imagine a large and complex system packed with features they might never use. EspoCRM goes against that image by being fairly lightweight, fast, and easy to customize.

EspoCRM packs all the features its target market, small- and medium-sized businesses, need. Those features include the ability to automate leads, opportunities, and contacts; create individual and mass mailings; schedule meetings, calls, and tasks; and to track changes to customer records. EspoCRM wraps all of that in a clean, modern interface.

You can buy extension packs that bolt on the ability to generate qoutes and invoices, synchronize with Google Calendar, integrate with VoIP telephony servers, and more.

The developers offer fully-functioning demos of the tool. You can also check out Yuri Kuznetsov's introduction to EspoCRM here at Opensource.com for more information.


Once upon a time, one of the most popular open source CRM systems was SugarCRM. In 2014, Sugar (the company behind the tool) announced that it wouldn't be releasing new versions of the open source edition of SugarCRM. That left a lot of users disappointed. It also created an opportunity for a group of developers who forked the code to create SuiteCRM.

SuiteCRM is built on the Community Edition of SugarCRM, but it's not merely a clone. It adds a number of useful and powerful features to the system. Those features include the ability to generate invoices and quotes, maintain leads and contracts, produce reports, and maintain notes and documents. You can also set up SuiteCRM to allow customers to log and track their own issues.

You can download SuiteCRM or take use a hosted version. Before you do either, you can take SuiteCRM for a test drive.


Oro CRM packs enough features to be useful to larger companies, but it's easy enough to use for a small- or medium-sized business without an IT department.

There are two editions of Oro CRM: Community and Enterprise. Both editions are surprisingly similar. The biggest differences lie with back-end integrations that are only available for the Enterprise edition—for example, integration with Microsoft Outlook and Elasticsearch. Aside from that, both editions have the same features. Those features include capturing data from all of your points of sale, integration with third-party email marketing services, the ability to maintain contacts and leads, and reporting and analytics tools.

There is an online demo, but you'll have to sign up for it.


Two aspects of CiviCRM set it apart from other CRM tools: it's aimed at non-profits, and it's designed to work with Drupal, Joomla!, or WordPress—which means that non-profits can integrate it with their existing websites or content management systems fairly seamlessly.

Everything about CiviCRM revolves around its non-profit focus. Not only can it help track contacts and donors, but it can also help keep tabs on contributions, do fundraising, and plan and monitor campaigns.

A demo is available, and the entire tool is available for download. A number of third parties offer hosted versions of CiviCRM.

Fat Free CRM

As its name implies, Fat Free CRM is a minimal but functional system. Its developers state that "out of the box it features group collaboration, campaign and lead management, contact lists, and opportunity tracking." It's not going to compete with SugarCRM or Vtiger, but it's probably more than enough for smaller businesses and other organizations.

But Fat Free CRM does have one of the most attractive and easiest to use interfaces of any CRM out there. On top of that, a number of plug-ins are available for Fat Free CRM — and developers already working with Ruby on Rails can write their own.

There's no hosted version of Fat Free CRM, so organizations need to download and install it on their own servers. Before doing that, however, they can give Fat Free CRM a try using the online demo.


What happens when you combine CRM with gamification? You get Zurmo. Not only does it pack the features that organizations expect from a CRM system—like contact management, deal tracking, mobile capabilities, and reporting—it also rewards people for using the system.

According to its developers, Zurmo "uses game mechanics to reward an individual's usage of the system and promote best practice behaviour." This encourages users to explore Zurmo: the more areas they explore and use, the more rewards (like badges and coins to purchase rewards) they earn.

Zurmo offers an online demo, as well as a free trial of the hosted version. The source code is also available.

Do you have a favorite open source CRM tool? Feel free to share it by leaving a comment below.


About the author

That idiot Scott Nesbitt ...
Scott Nesbitt - I'm a long-time user of free/open source software, and write various things for both fun and profit. I don't take myself all that seriously and I do all of my own stunts. You can find me at these fine establishments on the web: The Plain Text Project, Open Source Musings, The Monday Kickoff...