The Ultimate Side-by-Side Breakdown of SugarCRM vs. Salesforce

SugarCRM vs Salesforce

The CRM marketplace is more flooded with options than ever before. When choosing a platform, it’s easy to get bogged down in the sheer variety of solutions available. At some point, though, you’re likely to realize that you want a platform that strikes a balance between advanced functionality and user-friendly accessibility. In the “powerful-but-usable” category, there’s no question that Salesforce has enjoyed tremendous popularity for years. But another top contender is SugarCRM, an open-source alternative with a similar pedigree and a much more reasonable price tag.

When we compare SugarCRM to SalesForce, one noticeable difference is that SalesForce tends to be favored by large enterprises, while Sugar has traditionally targeted small and mid-sized businesses.


But while SalesForce once offered the distinct advantage of providing enterprise-level management of thousands of contacts, Sugar has recently rolled out some powerful enterprise features that make it well worth a closer look.

Here’s an in-depth SugarCRM vs SalesForce comparison.

Comparison methodology

While it’d be easy to just put together a CRM comparison matrix, as a lot of other websites have done, we felt it was more important to do a detailed CRM functionality comparison, breaking down not only key features and pricing, but also characteristics like overall usability, quality of support, and other features and functions that are going to impact your user experience.

With that goal in mind, we’ve decided to focus this breakdown on the factors that most strongly influence day-to-day usage of each platform. For example, while it’s important to know that your platform of choice offers a wide range of integration options, it’s not necessarily helpful to read through a list of every single plugin with which it can integrate – especially when that info is easily available on the vendor’s own website.

Instead, we’ve chosen to focus this CRM features list comparison on factors that are a little tougher to quantify and display in a simple matrix. For example, how involved is the setup and configuration process? How effectively will the platform adapt to your evolving needs as a growing business? How sure can you be that, in case of an emergency, you’ll get an actual human on the support line? And most importantly, what do other users like you think of their user experiences on each platform?

Then, after comparing areas like these, we’ve also included some side-by-side comparisons of pricing and packages, so you’ll have a clear idea of what you’ll be getting for your money.

Implementation and setup

Setting up SugarCRM or SalesForce is a bit different from installing a program on your local computer – primarily because both platforms are based in the cloud (Sugar provides an on-site option as well). What’s more, neither platform “just works” in the way Google does. You’ll need to spend some time customizing it to do what your business needs – within the limits of the kinds of tasks it’s designed to handle.

While it’s technically possible to implement either platform by yourself, that’s going to require a fairly in-depth knowledge of the software. Just to give you a taste, when setting up SalesForce, you’ll need to create a custom app, set security policies, set up a sandbox, add fields, customize each field, customize objects, profiles and permission sets… you get the idea. SugarCRM setup involves a similar list of steps. And that’s all before you can even think about starting an actual project.

Botched implementations are one of the biggest causes of wasted time for new CRM platform users, so it’s better to avoid them altogether by simply hiring a professional implementation service. These professionals will not only set up the platform for you, but will customize it to your business’s unique needs, all within a few days or less.

Your exact Salesforce or SugarCRM implementation cost will depend on the amount of customization and integration you need – but the average cost-to-services ratio is about 1:1. That means if you’ve spent $5,000 on your software license, you should expect to pay at least $5,000 for implementation services.

Main features and usability

Both SugarCRM and SalesForce include so many layers of features that any list has to be somewhat incomplete. That’s why we’ll focus on the features and usability factors that’ll most impact your day-to-day experience using each platform. Those features and factors break down into the main categories of performance, reliability, automation, reporting, and mobile compatibility.

Both SalesForce and SugarCRM boast impressive performance and reliability records, with daily transactions in the billions. And while SalesForce was once far ahead in terms of its enterprise-level contact management, SugarCRM has come a long way in its support for databases of thousands of customers. Sugar places no limit on the number of concurrent users, and SalesForce also removes that limit at the “Professional” level and above.

In terms of features, both platforms provide the full range you’d expect: drip campaigns, lead routing, web forms, email automation, and so on – all from a central dashboard. One drawback of SalesForce functionality, however is that most of the advanced marketing tools (such as ExactTarget and Pardot) are only available in SalesForce’s Marketing Cloud, which costs extra. SugarCRM, on the other hand, offers its own open-source equivalents of these applications, at no extra cost.

When it comes to reporting and analytics, SalesForce is the more robust of the two platforms. It offers a full range of customizable dashboards with real-time updates on users’ behavior, along with forecasting functionality that enables you to set quotas per sales rep and time frame. Sugar offers a bit less of this customizability – but the platform still enables you to generate reports with custom filters, and use predictive analytics to discover and market to new audience segments.

SalesForce mobile functionality also comes out a bit ahead of SugarCRM. Sugar’s mobile client is a lightweight PHP app, which gives it the versatility to be usable on any iOS or Android device, but also makes it somewhat clunky to use. Salesforce’s mobile app is more full-featured and streamlined in terms of user experience – but it comes at a higher cost.

And while SalesForce offers a built-in social CRM application, Sugar doesn’t. For that, you’ll need a social marketing add-on – which brings us to the next section.

Customization and integration

In order to really accomplish anything with your CRM platform, you’re going to need to customize it around your business’s unique CRM ecosystem. That’s why we recommended professional implementation up in the “Implementation and setup” section above. Once you’ve got your platform customized to work the way you do, you’ll be ready to roll it out across your sales and support departments, and start using custom features to streamline your sales pipeline.

Most customization can be handled fairly straightforwardly, by installing apps straight from the vendor’s add-on marketplace. SalesForce, for example, offers more than 2,800 compatible add-ons by community developers. These include tools for sales, customer service, marketing, IT, finance, and even HR. Sugar also stacks up well in this area, with an ever-growing marketplace of thousands of add-ons for social marketing, accounting, automation, and integration with computer telephony integration (CTI) providers like Avaya and Cisco.

Customization and Integration

If your organization relies heavily on an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution like SAP, it’s worth knowing that SugarCRM’s integrations with platforms like Oracle and Netsuite only come via third parties, not natively in Sugar itself. Beyond that limitation, though, you’ll find that both platforms offer most of the integrations you’ll need, including Outlook and Zapier, as well as all the Google Apps. Both SalesForce and SugarCRM also offer easy-to-use tools for data import, export and backup.

However, if you can’t find the add-on you need in the vendor’s marketplace, then you’ll have to go looking for application program interfaces (APIs) for the apps you want. APIs can take time and expertise to set up, which means you may have to shell out some cash for SalesForce or SugarCRM customization services when you discover you need a new app.

Pricing and packages

A direct apples-to-apples SugarCRM vs. SalesForce cost comparison is a little tricky, because the two companies structure their pricing tiers differently. On the whole, SugarCRM costs less; there’s no doubt about that. But depending on your CRM implementation budget, you may actually find that Sugar saves you more money in the long run.

Salesforce’s pricing structure is based on a monthly subscription, which starts at $75 per user per month. That adds up to a minimum of $900 per user per year, for the “Professional” subscription — which scales up to $1,800 per user per year for the Enterprise subscription, which unlocks more features; and $3,600 per user per year for the Unlimited edition, which gives you full access to all features, as well as support.

And then the hidden costs begin. SalesForce charges $50 per user per month for access to their mobile app. They charge $200 per gigabyte of data transferred, over the monthly limit. The additional modules like Commerce Cloud will also entail further monthly subscription costs. And the implementation costs for SalesForce can run well over the typical 1:1 ratio, up to 1:5 or even 1:2. That means your $5,000 SalesForce implementation may cost $20,000 before it’s ready to use.

SugarCRM vs Salesforce Pricing

SugarCRM is definitely more reasonable on the pricing side of things. The Professional edition will run you $40 per user per month, adding up to just $480 per user per year. Even the full-featured Enterprise edition will only cost $720 per user per year. Factor in the lack of hidden fees for the mobile app, data transfer, and additional modules, and your annual costs for Sugar can easily come in at less than half the cost you’d be paying for an equivalent SalesForce subscription.


For both Salesforce and SugarCRM, you’re going to have to pay an extra fee for phone support. Salesforce charges a fee specifically for that service, while Sugar includes it in the Enterprise plan, and offers it as an add-on option for Professional users.

SugarCRM customer support frequently gets high marks, as does the Salesforce support process. But while Salesforce’s paid support offers 24/7 toll-free support from anywhere in the world, Sugar’s is only available 12 hours a day, five days a week for the Professional package (for higher packages, support is available 24/7).

SugarCRM vs Salesforce support

Typical response time varies, but Salesforce comes out a little behind, with an average two-day response time, plus a one-hour response time available for – you guessed it, yet another extra fee. Sugar, on the other hand, offers unlimited case submission, with response times that can range from four hours to two days.

User feedback

All these feature comparisons can only get us too far. What do actual users say about each platform? As you might expect, SalesForce and SugarCRM both have loyal followings, for different reasons.

SalesForce user reviews tend to focus on the wealth of features and integrations available. “The design and quality of the product is very high-end,” says one user, while another adds, “The navigation tools on the header of the page allow me to locate and act on information I am looking for very quickly. ”

By contrast, SugarCRM customer feedback tends to praise the reasonable costs and relatively simple configuration. “The approach across all modules is standard,” says one happy user. “If you learn one, you’ve learned them all. The dashboards are excellent.”

On the negative side, SalesForce users have been known to complain about slow, unresponsive customer support, the difficulty of setting up and configuring the platform, and the constant, unrelenting hidden fees for every new add-on and feature – including responsive support. “Some of the interface can be cluttered with too much information,” complains one user, while another says, “Customer support is slow to respond and most of the time does not have an answer.”

Dissatisfied Sugar users, on the other hand, point out that the functionality of the dashboard and the mobile app are somewhat limited, and that in-depth customization takes time and expertise. “The iPhone app is clunky, and the reporting system is difficult to operate,” complains one user. “I know people inside my organization that have had issues at times with [support’s] responsiveness,” adds another.

The bottom line


SalesForce pros:

  • More features and integrations
  • More modules

SalesForce cons:

  • High monthly costs
  • Complex interface

SugarCRM pros:

  • Lower cost
  • Many add-ons

SugarCRM cons:

  • Mobile app has limited functionality
  • Many integrations are only via third-party APIs

If your business has a sizable CRM implementation budget, SalesForce may be the way to go. You’ll definitely get more features and integrations – and if you’re comfortable shelling out extra fees for add-ons, modules, responsive support, and just about everything else, you’ll find that the platform can adapt to just about any stage of your business’s growth.

For small and mid-sized businesses, however, SugarCRM offers all the basic functionality you’ll need, along with free or low-cost equivalents for many of the most popular SalesForce add-ons. Plus, the community is full of active developers who are constantly adding new functionality. If cost is a consideration for your organization, then Sugar is probably the way to go.


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