The Best Cloud-Based CRM Software – 2021

CRM, written in the clouds

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: January 29 2021

Find out what cloud-based CRM is, and how it can help you manage your team, tasks, and communication from wherever you are in the world


Since you’re here, you’re probably pretty familiar with what a CRM (customer relationship management) system is – not to mention all the benefits it can bring to your business.

How about the term ‘cloud-based’, though? This term doesn’t have anything to do with the weather. But, when it comes to traversing time zones and facilitating smoother, speedier collaboration across remote teams and locations, cloud-based CRM certainly offers a ray of sunshine – particularly amid the stormy skies of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So what is cloud-based CRM, exactly, and what are its key advantages? Is it right for you, or would your business be better served by an on-premise solution?

We’ll look at all this, as well as reviewing our top 20 cloud-based CRM providers, which we can reveal after conducting extensive research into CRM systems across the US market. Or, if you’re short on time, you can cut straight to the chase and start comparing tailored quotes from leading cloud-based CRM providers.

Simply provide us with a few details about your current setup and requirements, and we’ll match you with the best CRM companies for your needs – who’ll be in touch with personalized quotes. Our quote-finding form takes just 30 seconds to complete, and is 100% free for US-based businesses, too.


What is Cloud-Based CRM?

Low (if any) up-front costs, then a monthly fee

Nothing to download or install

Industry-leading security assurances

Ideal for small businesses!

When CRM software is cloud-based, it means that your business’s information is hosted in the cloud – that is, on the servers of the company providing the CRM.

Essentially, it means that you’ll access the CRM through the internet, rather than from a system installed on a set of computers at your office.

Rather than hosting all of your data (contact details, quotes, emails, interactions, and more) in-house – on servers owned, operated, and maintained by your business – you’ll essentially outsource this, letting the CRM provider do it for you.

Cloud-based is just one of three options when it comes to deploying your CRM system. There’s also on-premise (which we'll discuss towards the end of this article), as well as a hybrid system, which combines the best of both worlds… but at a hefty price.

As far as CRM for small businesses goes, we’ll always recommend cloud-based deployment. We'll explain why after you're better acquainted with our top providers!


The Best Cloud-Based CRM Software Providers in 2021

If you decide that cloud-based CRM is the best avenue for your business, picking the right provider is the next step. And, because you’re busy running that business, we’ve made it simple to make the right choice.

We looked at several key providers in the CRM space; rating, reviewing, and ranking them based on the factors that are most important to US businesses.

These include task tracking and scheduling, workflow management, a group calendar, and effective external communication features – essentially, anything that can improve the efficiency and ease with which your team collaborates.


1. Salesforce

Best for analytics

Like its logo, Salesforce is fully cloud-based. It also just happens to be CRM's biggest name, with almost one-fifth of the market share, and a slick app that makes remote work a breeze. Businesses with more demanding reporting requirements should plump for Salesforce's add-on analytical module, Einstein Analytics – as far as CRM systems go, it doesn't get any better.

Price range: $20 to $325 per user, per month.


2. HubSpot

Best free plan

Excellent email marketing capabilities and an impressive free plan elevate HubSpot's completely cloud-based CRM software above most of the competition.

Price range: $50 to $240 per user, per month.


3. Zendesk

Best for customer service teams

Zendesk makes up for its lack of an offering for marketing teams with dynamic, cloud-based CRM software designed to help sales and customer service teams smash their targets.

Price range: $19 to $199 per user, per month.


4. Freshworks CRM

Best value for money

Synergizing a stylish, refreshing interface with strong customer support, Freshworks CRM (formerly Freshsales) boasts an entirely cloud-based CRM solution that also manages to deliver that all-important quality for growing businesses – affordability!

Price range: $19 to $125 per user, per month.


5. Dynamics 365

Best for marketing automation

At the other end of the pricing scale sits Microsoft's own foray into the overcrowded (over-clouded?) cloud-based CRM space. Dynamics 365 is one of the more expensive systems on this list, but that’s because it offers granular insights into your business's key sales and service metrics – and its marketing automation tool is simply phenomenal!

Price range: $65 per user, per month to $1,500 per account, per month.


6. SugarCRM

Most bespoke approach

With no arbitrary limits on contacts or users, and a completely bespoke approach to catering to your business, SugarCRM is cloud-based software at its most tailored.

Price range: $52 per user, per month to $1,000 per month.


7. Zoho

Best for simplicity

For highly affordable, clean-looking cloud-based CRM that your Grandma could use, make Zoho your top pick. It won't help you stun stakeholders or boardrooms with in-depth analysis or mind-blowing reports, but it has a free version (or a free 15-day trial, if that suits you better) – and small teams in particular will benefit from its no-frills, drag-and-drop display.

Price range: $12 to $100 per user, per month.


8. monday.com

Best for managing projects

Tiptoeing the line between a basic project management tool and a fully-fledged CRM, monday.com's cloud-based solution will, nevertheless, get the job done. With a unique, color-coded layout that’s easy to manipulate and filter (not to mention interpret!), it's a pleasure to use, too.

Price range: $7.80 to $15.80 per user, per month.


9. Cloze

Most stylish interface

With a vibrant, user-friendly interface, Cloze is one of the most intuitive CRM tools around. Yet impressively, it never sacrifices substance for style; and, with prices starting at just $17 per user, per month, it won’t bust your budget.

Want more? Check out our Cloze review to explore what Cloze’s wide range of cloud-based CRM capabilities can do for your business.

Price range: $17 to $49.99 per user, per month.


10. Insightly

Best for data visualization

Insightly's cloud-based CRM sports an engaging set of dashboards that bring your data to life – and all for the accessible starting price of $29 per user, per month. Yet, predictably, Insightly's vibrant interface comes at the expense of the more developed, well-rounded set of features you see with the likes of Salesforce and HubSpot.

Price range: $29 to $99 per user, per month.

You're halfway through our list of the top 20 cloud-based CRM systems. Time to start comparing quotes?

Simply hit one of the buttons below to start our quick questionnaire. It takes just 30 seconds to do, and by telling us more about your business’ specific requirements, we can help ensure that you receive the best, most personalized rates on cloud-based CRM software.

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11. Maximizer

Most flexible solution

Maximizer offers both on-premise and cloud-based CRM variants, as well as a more flexible hybrid solution. Though its interface is a little dated (and the user experience could certainly use a scrub up), Maximizer still sports strong sales forecasting and deal management features, to give your sales team a boost.

Price range: From $29 per user, per month.


12. Sage

Best for versatility

With a suite of business products that range from accounting software to credit card processing, Sage's cloud-based CRM software is an equally accomplished entry into the arena. Sage is perfectly capable (if a little clunky) CRM software, though it suffers from a marked lack of transparency when it comes to its pricing plans. On-premise deployment is also available.

Price range: From $39 per user, per month.


13. Copper

Best for G Suite compatibility

The only CRM software made for Google (and highly recommended by it), Copper integrates natively with Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Chrome, and everything else with a big, multi-colored ‘G' on its branding. We recommend it to  self-confessed Googlephiles everywhere!

Price range: $25 to $119 per user, per month.


14. Nimble

Best for integration

Offering seamless integration with Office 365 and Dynamics 365, Nimble's versatility makes up for the somewhat cumbersome nature of its central dashboard. Reporting here is more limited than the big providers, too – though it’ll work wonders for teams with less extensive CRM needs.

Price range: From $19 per user, per month.


15. Pipedrive

Best for user-friendliness

Powered by the extreme simplicity and visual splendor of a colorful, drag-and-drop pipeline builder, Pipedrive is more than just cloud-based CRM. It's silky, satisfying software that'll help you close deals, turn your site's users into leads, and handle service issues with speed and savviness… and it's downright fun to use, too!

Price range: $12.50 to $99 per user, per month.


16. Really Simple Systems

Best for businesses on a shoestring budget

What's in a name? With Really Simple Systems, it’s… well, everything. The interface here is simple to get to grips with, easy to get the most out of, and offers a passable free version, too – although we wouldn't recommend it to anyone other than very small teams or solopreneurs.

Price range: From $15 per user, per month.


17. Sendinblue

Best for email marketers

With a free version and a range of affordable pricing plans, Sendinblue is your marketing team's ticket to quicker, more effective, and more well-optimized campaigns. Its highly user-friendly (and cloud-based!) display will have you not only crafting beautiful, persuasive marketing communications, but A/B testing, customizing, and targeting like a pro.

Price range: $25 to $599 per user, per month.


18. Apptivo

Cheapest cloud-based CRM

Another startlingly good entry into the cloud-based CRM canon, Apptivo is also notable for being extremely affordable. You can get your hands on it for just $8 per user, per month. And, unlike many of its competitors, Apptivo's basic plan doesn't skimp on the necessary functionality – you'll get 1,000 mass email sends per user, per month, generous data storage limits, and 2,000 API (Application Programming Interface) calls, too. Customer support is included.

Price range: $8 to $20 per user, per month.


19. webCRM

Easiest cloud-based CRM to get to grips with

With a clean, stripped-back interface, intuitive mobile app, and high levels of usability, Danish cloud-based CRM software company webCRM serves up a satisfying blend of panache and productivity.

Price range: from $23 per user, per month.


20. Less Annoying CRM

Best cloud-based CRM for travel agencies

It’s certainly not the neatest-looking cloud-based CRM you’ll find, but what Less Annoying CRM lacks in visual thrills, it makes up for in no-frills, no-nonsense functionality. Offering a flat-rate price of just $15 per user, per month, Less Annoying CRM keeps things surprisingly simple – travel agents, in particular, will find plenty to love.

Price range: $15 per user, per month


What are the Advantages of Cloud-Based CRM?

It’s Simple.

Unlike with on-premise systems, cloud-based software does away with laborious implementation processes.

It’s all accessed from a web browser – meaning that there’s nothing to download or install, and you won’t have to actually host your business’s data on physical servers located on-site.

With cloud-based CRM, you just open up your browser, log in, and start working.

That means no faffing around with routers, cables, storage devices… you get the picture. Plus, the lack of actual equipment you’ll have to store on your premises frees up physical space – which, now we're all working from our front rooms, is nothing less than a godsend!

It’s Collaborative.

That leads us to the next of cloud-based CRM’s key strengths – how seamlessly it facilitates team collaboration across multiple locations and time zones.

Cloud-based software updates in real-time. If you close a deal at 10am, your boss knows about it by 10:01. Plus, because you can save records of conversations (whether they took place via email, telephone, or social media) directly within the CRM, it’s easy to know who’s dealing with specific clients and requests, and avoid your sales and customer service agents treading on each other’s toes.

What cloud-based CRM also serves to do is remove the issues that ‘data siloing’ can have on your team’s effectiveness.

There’s no information locked away in desk drawers or archaic email threads, and no important contact details buried in old, forgotten stacks of notebooks.

Nope – just everything in a single, centralized location, accessible in a click.

It’s Mobile.

Since COVID-19 hit, businesses have been searching for ever-increasing ways of ‘pandemic-proofing' their workflows. Cloud-based CRM, however, has been right in front of our noses all along – and it could be your business's key to getting through 2021.

That's because cloud-based CRM is fully mobile. Most providers offer an app, which allows you to view and update information within the CRM in real-time. Again, there’s no elaborate software to download or install, and no expensive or clunky tech to lug from place to place, or have taking up space at your home office.

It’s not ideal for your work-life balance, sure… but productivity-wise, it’s a dream!

It’s Secure.

Ask any business owner why they’re yet to make the jump to the cloud, and they’ll most likely cite data security as the reason. After all, unlike with an on-premise solution, your data isn’t stored on servers located at your own place of business – rather, it’s hosted by your chosen cloud-based CRM provider.

So is there veracity to the claim that cloud-based systems aren’t safe?

In truth, there’s not.

Considering how much it actually costs to ensure an on-premise system is secure – a price tag that’s probably beyond the budgets of most small businesses – it’s actually safer to go with a cloud-based service.

Why?

Well, CRM providers utilize the finest in data encryption, ensuring that your business’ details are immune from cyber attacks. Cloud-based CRM companies also boast automatic data recovery features, as well as two-factor authentication – helping you stay safe, while remaining legally compliant.

It’s Affordable.

Cloud-based CRM all but eliminates the costs associated with implementation, installation, data migration, and maintenance. When you choose a cloud-based system, you also won’t pay any significant upfront CRM software costs – rather, you’ll pay only a monthly license fee to use the service.

What this license fee actually comes to will depend on several things – the features you require, the number of users that’ll need access to the software, and, of course, which cloud-based CRM software provider you end up picking.

And as you already know, choosing the right cloud-based CRM provider is easier said than done. So, to get an idea of how much a cloud-based CRM solution that’s tailored to your team will cost, let us help.

Simply tell us your requirements – that is, the amount of people that’ll need access to the system, and the specific features (if any) you’ll need. We’ll then work to match you with leading cloud-based CRM providers, who’ll be in touch with quotes tailored to your company.

The questionnaire itself takes around 30 seconds to fill out, and it’s free for US-based businesses.


What is On-Premise CRM?

Large initial outlay, then few ongoing costs

Customizable… very customizable

Offers more operational control and visibility, with less reliance on the internet

Ideal for larger businesses

On-premise CRM (occasionally known as ‘self-hosted CRM’) is the main alternative to cloud-based varieties. It’s a form of software deployment that means that, rather than being stored ‘in the cloud’, your company’s data is stored on your own servers.

Our research indicates that the best on-premise CRM software comes from SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Salesforce.

To compare these systems, and explore the more advanced features that they have to offer growing businesses, head over to our guide to the best analytical CRM software in 2021.

What are the Advantages of On-Premise CRM?

It’s Cheaper in the Long Run.

On-premise systems are usually charged from the get go, in the form of a lump sum. There are other ongoing costs, sure – you’ll still have to pay somebody to maintain the system, and fix any glitches or bugs that might develop over time – but that initial outlay is the most significant.

This means that on-premise systems aren’t great for cash flow – for most small businesses, it’s more convenient to pay a monthly fee, rather than shell out thousands of pounds in the first instance. As a general rule, however, on-premise systems will usually work out cheaper than their cloud-based counterparts over time.

It’s Customizable.

Unlike cloud-based CRM, on-premise versions typically come with source code access. This means that – providing you have the team or the tech know-how to pull it off – you can customize an on-premise CRM to your heart’s content.

It Offers More Visibility and Control.

Sure, on-premise systems aren’t necessarily more secure when it comes to data, and setup is a more time-consuming process than with a cloud-based system.

This notwithstanding, an on-premise option still offers greater visibility and control over the entire implementation process. From security and setup to data and user rights, you’ll enjoy greater ownership over how your CRM looks, as well as how and where it can be used – allowing you to stay compliant with the laws and regulations of different countries.

It’s Less Reliant on the Internet.

While cloud-based CRM software derives much of its flexibility from the internet, the downside is that it’s reliant on it. If your internet goes kaput, you can be confident that your cloud-based CRM is going down with it.

On-premise systems, however, are more robust to fluctuations in your connectivity, leaving you less at the mercy of your internet service provider.


Next Steps

Cloud-based CRM is an essential tool for managing and engaging your client base, and nurturing those all-important customer relationships. And what’s more, 87% of businesses (and counting!) now use a cloud-based CRM solution. That’s… a lot.

Can you afford to be part of the 13% getting left behind?

If the answer is no, let us give you a hand. Take a minute to provide us with some details about your team’s requirements. It’s free for US-based businesses, and when you’re all done, we’ll match you with the cloud-based CRM providers best-poised to help you scale.

All you have to do is keep your phone handy – because these suppliers will soon be in touch with tailored, no-obligation quotes. Happy researching!

Our Methodology

How We Analyze and Rate CRM Software Providers

At Expert Market, it’s our aim to provide you with the most accurate, up-to-date, and transparent product and service reviews possible. So, to help you better understand the best CRM software options out there, we’ve conducted in-depth, extensive research into the CRM software market and its top companies.

Here’s how we did it:
Independent researchers
We worked with three independent researchers to rate eight different CRM systems over a total of 40+ hours. This included five separate varieties of CRM software, as well as more than 61 specific features. Using a bespoke, industry-style algorithm, we rated each provider across four key metrics.

Ratings

  • Help and support: we assessed the level of customer support (such as email, phone, or live chat), as well as its availability (24/7, or weekdays only?), to provide a weighted score for each CRM supplier.
  • Affordability: our affordability algorithm took into account the cost of CRM ownership over 12 months – based on the average buyer – as well as factors such as free trials and money-back guarantees.
  • Features: we assessed each supplier on five specific features per type of CRM. We then weighted these scores, and translated them into a point value system. This allowed us to form accurate ratings for each CRM provider, broken down by the industry it best serves.
  • Customer approval: we assigned each provider a ‘customer score’, which involved seeking opinions from within the community, as well as feeding data aggregated from online sources into a unique algorithm. This allowed us to calculate overall customer approval scores for each CRM supplier, in real time.

survey
We take the integrity of our research seriously. If you’ve got any questions at all about our research process, feel free to get in touch with Rob, our CRM specialist, at rob.binns@expertmarket.com.

Rob Binns
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

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