In today’s business world, many companies’ CRM users work in multiple offices, at home, in hotels, at airports and at customer sites. There are two ways to allow off site users to access their company’s CRM database – by synchronizing either all or part of the main database to another computer that a remote user has access to (laptop, desktop or local office server) or by providing these users with CRM database access via the Internet.
Each option has its pros and cons. If a company owns or is considering owning a Windows-based contact manager or CRM solution, the primary option for remote users is to allow users to synchronize data from their local machine to the server that’s running the contact manager or CRM.
CRM Synchronization Advantages
The main advantage of synchronizing CRM data is that it lets users access their organization’s CRM database when they are not connected to the Internet — in areas where there is no mobile coverage. Some users also find that a local application can run faster and be easier to navigate than a Web based CRM application.
CRM Synchronization Disadvantages
The advantages of synchronization are generally outweighed by synchronization’s disadvantages. The main disadvantage to synchronization is that software has to be installed and maintained on each remote users’ computer. It can be very time consuming for IT staff to have to configure a CRM client on each remote laptop, particularly when users are geographically dispersed. The time and effort required to support software on remote machines becomes a bigger issue when a remote computer’s hard drive fails and a new drive needs to be configured. Also, when an organization has remote users with local software installations, software upgrades have to be performed on every computer.
Real-Time Web CRM Access
Real time Internet access has made synchronization much less important than it used to be. Internet access is available almost everywhere, including on some airlines. Web access allows a user to log into his or her CRM database via a browser while connected to the Internet. Web access eliminates the need for creating, installing and maintaining separate databases on each remote computer. Upgrades only need to be performed in one place — on the server. This significantly reduces IT support and related expenses. If there are users who need CRM access while on the road, purchasing wireless air cards for those mobile users is generally less expensive to an organization than supporting synchronization.
CRM users who have offline access to Outlook, with its email, appointments, tasks and contacts, often can effectively work until re-connected to the Internet. In addition, mobile device access to the database may be available, further reducing the need to synchronize data.
Given the above factors, why would a company choose a CRM system that requires sync versus choosing a Web based CRM? The answer is, because the main advantage of synchronization – offline access to the entire database. With the alternatives mentioned above — offline Outlook, easy Internet and mobile device access — the total, long term cost of supporting a synchronization environment can outweigh the advantages of synchronizing of data to a local CRM database. Web browser based CRM provides an easier and less costly to maintain environment.