There is renewed talk this week about customer relationship management, or CRM, and its place in the cloud. Specifically, the chatter is about whether or not CRM apps like Microsoft Dynamics CRM (and Salesforce.com by default) should be in the cloud.
Well, the talk didn't just start this week. Dan Smith of Altico Advisors, a Microsoft CRM partner serving Massachusetts, noted that the question of putting CRM systems in the cloud is actually a frequent one. As he sees it, it's important for companies to explore CRM options to evaluate cloud solutions -- but it doesn't have to be complicated.
"The biggest difference between CRM on premises and CRM in the cloud comes down to where the server resides. On premises CRM means that the server is in your office," Smith wrote in a blog post on Microsoft's CRM Software Blog.
"And if you choose CRM in the cloud? Well, the server could be almost anywhere, and I can't tell you where 'anywhere' is because that depends on your cloud provider. But I can tell where 'anywhere' is NOT. It's NOT hanging over your head in a mass of white cotton outlined against a robin's-egg-blue sky."
Reasons for Cloud-Based CRM
Smith also pointed to an exploration of cloud-based CRM on the Web site of Reviora, a cloud provider, called "Cloud Dynamics -- Oxymoron?" as part of the discussion about whether CRM systems like Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com should be in the cloud.
The conclusion there is that Cloud Dynamics indeed is not an oxymoron. To the contrary, putting apps in the cloud is usually the easiest and most cost-effective way to run Microsoft Dynamics CRM, regardless of whether you own the license or not.
"Dedicated server instances can be assigned to the software, e-mail and authentication methods are already set up, preconfigured, and supported, and root access will give you or your implementation partner everything they need," Reviora concluded.
Making Sure the Cloud is Secure
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, also sees the cloud as an ideal place for CRM systems -- assuming it's a secure, private cloud. Customer information must remain secure, of course.
Security is always a focus point with CRM applications. If a CRM database is breached, the result is bad publicity and potentially lost customers.
"Having said that, the cloud is a good place to put CRM systems because you want as many authorized people to have access to it as you possibly can," Enderle said. "If an executive or a salesperson is engaging with a customer they can get access to the information and key records and get a sense of what's going on in real-time if you have your CRM system in the cloud.
"If you overly protect the information and isolate it, then you really won't get its benefit."