Help me sync contacts from one user to another over exchange?
January 11, 2009 10:18 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out a CRM/Sync solution! I'm going crazy trying to figure out a good solution for a small firm; need to sync contacts, more inside...

So, I've googled myself to pieces and need your guidance. I've got a small group of folks in a firm I am the go-to solutions consultant for their newer IT services. I've got a few users spread throughout the country, and we're using a hosted exchange solution. One of the exec's assistants is not local, but has a 'master' contact database - this is a master list, within outlook, and is several hundred MB's large, containing many pieces of information w/in each contact's entry (some sensitive). I can set up the 'shared contacts' functionality from w/in exchange+outlook, but I need to sync those contacts TO users databases (for some to use w/ BlackBerry's / iPhones) (They've been using Outlook as a CRM solution...)

So, what is one way (preferably free) to sync this 'master list' of contacts to multiple users? It can run over Exchange, if that helps.

Possible issues: It needs to be pretty simple and easy to use, I can only remote-assist so much, but, it can't require a ton of learning curve on the users part, so things like Act, FileMaker, etc. are out... They are also somewhat averse to paying for another service (getting hosted exchange going was a huge step but still took a ton of work) so things like salesforce are out too.

Additionally, assume the users have a basic level of comfort/knowledge with things like outlook, but still experience general pc issues that perplex them ("why won't my outlook open...?") so I'd like to be as easy as possible.

So, mefi masters, help me! I'm open to trying tons of stuff, and we have online storage available to use as an intermediary place to store a database (to get from one remote user to the next), but I'm out of ideas.
posted by vrdx to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
I looked at this question this morning... and the more I think about it, the more I think it's impossible.

You want a hosted, easy to use, CRM solution. I don't think there's a free way to do this. Period. Even if you found some open source software that achieved everything you were looking for, you'd have to maintain it for your less savvy users.

Either convince them to move to a centralized database solution with a custom form (think Access for ease of use), or convince them that Google enterprise or Salesforce is what they need. Access is just a band-aid, and will not scale well.

I don't know how willing you are to continue to maintain whatever solution they decide on; personally I try to limit the amount of PC advice I give for exactly that reason; but suggesting a free solution for something as complicated as a CRM is going to write a huge commitment check on your part. Hence: pass the buck.

Best case scenario is there's an open source CRM solution, however you'd have to setup the server and maintain it for them. This solution will more than likely not be Windows based.

Good luck, and let me know what solution you end up using. I'm curious myself now.
posted by teabag at 8:32 AM on January 12, 2009

There are the open source CRM's SugarCRM and a fork of it called vTiger. Both offer Outlook contact syncing plugins, that I can't speak to. But, you could install it on a webserver and do some testing to see if it would be reasonably functional.
posted by stovenator at 8:28 PM on January 12, 2009

Well, we're at a bit of an impasse it would seem. I'm not sure, though, I could probably propose one of the hosted services, though, the biggest thing is that they're storing lots of contacts within outlook. Something like Bento, or, even FileMaker would work, but I don't know how they would feel at another consultant and/or significant training.

Technically, the end user could grant the assistants access to add/delete/edit contacts within their exchange account, which somewhat.... solves the problem, but, I'm not 100% convinced myself. Additionally, I'm not apt to reccomend something I haven't been able to personally vouch for and verify and, naturally, support.

The problem with things like SugarCRM or, even CRM solutions to begin with, is that they're more tailored to 'sales' based prospecting, where this is more of a relationship kind of a thing, i.e. create a contact, they've got 2 kids, donated this money to charity, loves thai food. Basically all the stuff that CRM programs would manage and work with, however, I don't have the sync thing down yet.

What are some pay solutions? I'm not opposed to reccommending a pay solution, given that it would only involve 2-3 users, so per-seat licensing wouldn't be nasty, I'd hope?
posted by vrdx at 10:55 PM on January 12, 2009

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