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SugarCRM Review

Lisa McGreevy
Lisa McGreevy

Many CRMs try to appeal to every type of business and every type of user, but SugarCRM hits it out of the park by focusing on development tools and advanced customization. The design for end users is excellent too, which is why SugarCRM is a solid small business tool.



The Verdict

SugarCRM offers powerful tools for business owners with development or coding experience. While a good solution for some businesses, it's not a basic, intuitive CRM system for small business owners with limited experience in the area.

View all of our recommendations for CRM software on our best picks page.

This software-as-a-service (SaaS) product is packed full of features like contact and lead management, marketing tools, reporting and analytics, call center capabilities, workflows and approvals, and more. There is a bit of a learning curve to using this CRM, though, and getting started may require some work, but if your company has a decent in-house tech team, this solution will offer you unparalleled customization options and tons of high-level resources. The outstanding customer service and active online community make SugarCRM the clear choice for developers who want to fully customize the CRM experience without creating an entire product from scratch.

A CRM Geared Toward Web Developers

If you're after out-of-the-box functionality, choose a lightweight CRM that's intended for users with or without technical expertise, but if you want serious support for in-house developers, SugarCRM is the way to go. This SaaS product started as an open-source software project in 2004, and it hasn't forgotten its roots. The SugarCRM developer community is active, the online resources are comprehensive, and the customer service team couldn't be more helpful.

Businesses with lots of in-house tech talent and super specific needs will appreciate the completely open API, which allows for nearly limitless customizations, third-party integrations, and add-ons. The CRM can even be accessed in a Community Edition, which is specifically for developers and is supported on Unix, Linux, IBM, Mac and Windows. Finding answers to questions and comparing notes with other developers is easy, thanks to the active community forum and blog, and there are even in-person events for power users, like SugarCon.

The Partner Corner is also a unique and valuable resources for developers. Through the partner portal, power users can contribute to the blog, read about similar use cases, and create or view upcoming events among SugarCRM users. Some SugarCRM users even partner with other companies that are also using the CRM, to help each other through the implementation and customization process. For some companies, this community of open source developers offers a dual benefit of making the customization process easier and building outside relationships with other small businesses.

Of course, a system can't be built only for developers, and SugarCRM offers a lot for end users as well. SugarCRM's UI isn't as slick as other SaaS products we reviewed, but it is easy to navigate, thanks to the familiar business software layout. When users log in, they immediately see a home page with tabs going across the top of the page. Tabs are clearly labeled by category like Home, Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities, Knowledgebase, Leads, Reports and more.

The dashboards in this CRM aren't visually pleasing, but they work, and the incredible customer service is as valuable for regular users as it is for developers and admins. In fact, when we tested Sugar CRM's customer service, we were pleased that representatives calibrated their answers to our questions based on apparent user knowledge. This is a coup in an industry that often struggles to address the needs of standard users who don't have degrees in computer science, and it's sure to make SugarCRM a popular choice with your users (once the setup process is complete).


Sugar CRM offers three tiers of service and is pricier than some of the other CRM solutions we reviewed; however, it is worth the price if your business intends to take advantage of the customization and developer tools. Here's how SugarCRM's pricing structure works.

First, SugarCRM has an across-the-board user minimum, so it's more expensive than it appears at first glance. For any of the subscription level listed, at least 10 users must be supported. The lowest level tier, Sugar Professional, is $40 per user, per month. Of course, with the user minimum included, this works out to a minimum annual cost of $4,800 (or a monthly cost of $400).

The next tier is Sugar Enterprise, which costs $65 per user, per month, or $7,800 a year minimum. The final level of service is a whopping $150 per user, or $18,000 a year with the minimum number of users. The only other product SugarCRM offers is an add-on called Hint, which offers additional customer intelligence for an extra $15 per user, per month, which works out to an extra $1,800 a year with the 10-user minimum.

All Sugar CRM subscription prices are listed monthly, but are billed annually. This fact, paired with the user minimum, may prevent some small companies from choosing this CRM over the competition.


Sugar CRM does not offer built-in e-commerce, but other than that, it has nearly every feature imaginable. Plus, this solution offers some fantastic tools for the DIY set.

  • Best-in-class customer service: SugarCRM truly sets the standard when it comes to offering incredible customer service at every level. A quick phone call will have you talking to a representative in short order, and associates answer highly technical questions and basic user questions with equal ease. Transfers were fast and efficient, and reps were friendly across the board.
  • Popular integrations: Sugar CRM is extremely customizable, with hundreds of approved third-party apps for everything from adding surveys to configuring sales taxes. It integrates with Microsoft Office, QuickBooks, Sage, Cisco WebEx and other popular programs. However, to make these integrations happen, you must touch the API, something that is harder for small businesses without in-house tech talent.
  • Development Resources: While most leading CRM have open APIs, Sugar CRM offers a staggering number of development resources for integrations and customizations. The Sugar CRM online community is extremely active, making it easy for developers to learn from each other and share resources; Sugar CRM even offers certifications to their users.
  • SQL-based reporting: Automated template-style reports are great for small businesses without a data or tech team, but for tech-heavy companies, the ability to use SQL to query reports is invaluable, and SugarCRM offers exactly that. Plus, like with everything that can be customized in SugarCRM, there's step-by-step documentation on setting up advanced reporting modules.


Sugar CRM has lots of features, but it's really built for businesses that have in-house tech and development teams. The interface isn't as clean and modern as other CRMs, and there is a learning curve compared to similar solutions. This is not an ideal solution for small business owners who don't have experience with CRM systems or program development.

While finding technical information is extremely easy, thanks to the breadth of dev resources and stellar customer service, getting basic information is more challenging. We can't stress enough that if your team has never completed a software implementation project and isn't accustomed to sifting through technical documentation and user guides, you're better off choosing a company that's geared toward standard business users.

Mona Bushnell contributed to the researching, reporting and writing of this article.

Editor's note: Looking for the right CRM for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.



The Verdict

SugarCRM offers powerful tools for business owners with development or coding experience. While a good solution for some businesses, it's not a basic, intuitive CRM system for small business owners with limited experience in the area.

Lisa McGreevy
Lisa McGreevy Contributing Writer
Lisa McGreevy is a seasoned writer with years of experience covering small business technology. She specializes in customer management and content management software, as well as fundamental business needs like cloud-based phone systems. As a Certified Scrum Master, Lisa also writes about the benefits and challenges of an agile workplace.