Storm cloud icon (shrunk)

We live in an age of marketing buzzwords. And ‘Cloud’ is one of the more popular ones floating around at the moment. The business world is enchanted by the idea of data unfettered by geography,  accessible anywhere, but protected by security. A cloud CRM system gives companies the power to track customer contact with ease and flexibility.

But beware the cloud-fakers!

“Cloud washing (also spelled cloudwashing) is the purposeful and sometimes deceptive attempt by a vendor to rebrand an old product or service by associating the buzzword “cloud” with it.” definition

Many providers advertise “Cloud” software solutions which are not quite what they seem, exploiting the popular terminology while concealing hidden costs and complications.

This 6-step test shows you what to keep an eye out for when considering Cloud CRM options

Infographic taken from the Workbooks series of free CRM Guides and Resources

1. What are the connection requirements?


Needs nothing more than an internet connection (usually runs in your web browser)


Needs additional software or servers installed in your office or home

Advantages of real cloud:

  • Easier to get up-and-running

  • There is less to go wrong

  • Easier to fix

“83 percent of companies are frustrated with having to cut through marketing hype to find out which solutions are genuine cloud offerings and which are merely conventional hosting services with the word ‘Cloud’ added to the title.” 

ElasticHosts CIO Survey

2. What kind of software does it need?


No software needs to be installed locally


“Cloud CRM software” is installed on your server or laptops

Advantages of real cloud:

  • No need for local software ionstallation, reducing set-up time and costs to your business
  • If the software is installed  locally, there are no benefits over traditional “on site” CRM solutions

3. Where are the servers?


Uses servers spread across different geographical regions


Installed on a single server, on- or offsite

Advantages of real cloud:

  • Increased resilience in the event of a local disaster

  • Less chance of data loss

  • Increased up-time, allowing any-time access to your data

“Part of the cloud computing mystique is that cloud services are resilient. Hardware devices fail, but the services continue running without loss of data.”

Charles Babcock, Editor at InformationWeek

4. How is it billed?


Billed on a per user or similar unit basis


Attracts additional charges such as an ‘installation fee’

Advantages of real cloud:

  • True Cloud CRM solutions should only bill you for what you use

  • A full charge breakdown is agreed in advance so your business knows what it will get for its money

“To truly follow the cloud model, software should be sold based on usage metrics that make sense to the end user.” 

Thoran Rodrigues, TechRepublic

5. Can you add or remove services easily?


Services can be added or removed according to your needs through a self-service portal


Services require significant manual intervention by the provider

Advantages of real cloud:

  • Adding services as and when required means not having to wait for them to come online

  • Self-service portals end problems getting through on customer helplines or dealing with language differences

  • Service costs should be cheaper as your Cloud CRM provider doesn’t need to employ so many customer-facing staff

“Over two thirds (67%) of respondents in the CIO survey had been offered “cloud” services that are fixed term, 40% had been offered services that were not elastic or scalable, and 32% had found that in many cases services were not even self-service.”  

Study reported by Business Computing World, 2012 

6. Does it work on-the-go?


Access on-the-road from mobile phones and tablets is easy and seamless


Often needs additional configuration of a network VPN connection or 3rd party products to provide mobile access

Advantages of real cloud:

  • CRM is only effective if your employees can keep it up to date with timely and relevant information

  • Easy on-the-road access to your CRM system allows for increased productivity by ensuring that your team can use the full range of CRM functionality and can see the latest customer information from anywhere, at any time

Things to remember…

  • Cloud software offers a range of benefits – including cost savings, easier maintenance and better resilience.

  • Cloud software is also more scalable, meaning it’s easy for you to update your systems yourself as your business grows.

  • Don’t just take the vendor’s word for it, though – not all supposedly ‘Cloud’ software is genuinely Cloud. Make sure they can answer all your questions about how they bill, where their server is installed and how easy the system is to update.

Want a more detailed look at getting the most out of CRM software?

The Benefits of Web-Based CRM, Pipeline Management, and Sales Qualification are part of a series of expert guides explaining more about CRM and how businesses can best use it. Find them here.