Cloud vs On Premise CRM: A definition

If you’ve been involved in meetings discussing technology solutions there is a good chance that you’ve heard the terms “Cloud” or “On-Premise” mentioned. So firstly, let’s put this post into context by describing what a cloud based solution is and what an On premise solution is.

On-demand CRM

(or “Cloud CRM”) is shorthand for a remote CRM system that is hosted away from your offices, on the internet (or ‘the cloud’) and not on your own computing system. Because it’s hosted remotely, it means that your information can be accessed anywhere, any time and any place (assuming the user has access to the web). They’ve been around for a while, but really took off as internet download speeds improved and made accessing large amounts of data easier to do. Paying for on-demand CRM is usually done via a licensing system – you pay an annual fee based on the number of people who will use the system.

On-premise CRM

(or “In-house CRM”) on the other hand, is a software that you manage from your own company’s premises which allows you to have absolute control over your data. You typically purchase your licences only once and after that the whole system management stays with your IT department.

The problem in teasing out the advantages and disadvantages of on-demand against on-premises CRM solutions is that almost all the information out there is put together by someone who wants to sell you one or the other.

However, there are some generally agreed challenges and opportunities that can be looked at objectively. On-demand seems to grow in popularity, and small businesses are in the vanguard of those taking it up. It’s no surprise really, cloud storage and cloud applications are mushrooming in every area of computing, so why should CRM be any different?

What’s important?

On-demand CRM should now offer you very nearly as much customisation as an on-premise solution, certainly if you’re using an established system with a wide user base. However, they are designed to be used – and tailored to – a variety of organisations, and if your business is going to need something completely unique then on-premise solutions may be better suited to add extra pages, tabs and so on. Against this it should be noted that on-demand CRMs are usually designed so that they can be customised with no programming expertise by users.

On-demand will come with remote access as a standard, almost certainly via the web. It’s worth checking, though, that you won’t be completely cut off from your new CRM system if you lose the internet for an afternoon. Also check which devices can use the system.

Price is a major decision maker for any small business and it’s something you should research carefully when you consider your CRM system. And don’t just look at upfront costs, bear in mind that you might be using this system for five years or more and weigh the initial layout against licensing fees and extra user costs. However, in the short term in particular, on-demand CRM is almost always better value.

Go for the long-term strategy

With on-demand systems you are putting a lot of your data over the wires, so ensure that you check out security carefully. That said, for small businesses, the costs of hosting their own data in-house with the levels of security most CRM solutions will offer can be prohibitively expensive in any case. In fact, outsourcing this function can often offer increased levels of security.

One of the key selling points of an on-demand solution is that you get an IT team for free (or, for less than it costs to employ your own). If you’re struggling to find IT support in any case, you might not wish to add a complex new software system to their responsibilities. However, do check that your on-demand supplier can offer you all the support you’re going to need, including if possible user training and help lines – outsourcing CRM admin to the end of a phone that is never answered is no answer.

Some experts warn that on-demand solutions don’t offer the same level of integration into existing systems that can be found with on-premise systems. This may be true if your organisation is complex, however, for many small businesses on-demand will be perfectly adequate. However, do check out what you’ll be getting.

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