Web based versus Desktop Contact Manager/CRM Solutions

Real Estate Technology with RE-ACT, LLC

A statement is often made that having a Web based CRM is clearly superior to a desktop CRM. The reality is that there are pros and cons to both. While there are many arguments over which is better and why, let's address a few of the most common misconceptions.

The first thing to do to is to realize that desktop does not mean what it used to. It is likely that many people form their opinion on the limitations of having a desktop CRM based on the most well known original ones - Howard and Friends, Agent Office and Top Producer. None of those could be shared remotely other than by a manual synching procedure. There are desktop products available now that can. Advantage Xi for instance can share its database remotely because it has the option of having their server hold a copy of the database which is then synched via the Internet to the other computers. REST uses one of your computers as the server for the database much like Outlook Exchange. Advantage uses a free Google account to synch to your phone and allows you to receive and reply to emails on your phone, and have them all stored with the contacts. When you get back to Advantage, the emails you deleted on your phone have been deleted in Advantage as well, eliminating the need to delete them once again.

When people say they have to have a Web based CRM because they need to be able to access the same database from “anywhere”, the question then becomes “Can you define ‘anywhere’?” The vast majority say they mean they need to be able to access it from both their home and office computers. If that is the case, both Advantage and REST satisfy that need. The next questions is “How many times have you needed to access your CRM database from a computer other than your own in the last year, for information other than the address book or calendar which is synched to your phone from the CRM.” The answer is almost always very seldom if at all. Most of the time the only true exception is for agents who do not have their own computer in their office so they use a community computer in the office. That puts them in the category of truly having a need for a Web based CRM.

Another concern voiced about Web based versus desktop is having your database all in one place and being vulnerable to loss. Since you have multiple computers with the database on them, and a server with a copy as well, that concern is eliminated.

Since having a Web based CRM is most often not really as necessary as is perceived, it still comes back to which one has the features that are most desirable for the agent. For example, if having your email fully integrated with the CRM such that all emails incoming and outgoing are directly stored with the contact record in the CRM automatically, then Advantage has an advantage that almost no Web based CRM has. So it still comes back to feature sets, more so than Web based versus desktop.

There are many misconceptions about Web based versus desktop. For the most part they are promulgated by what seems to be common sense. Unfortunately, in this case common sense does not often work because there is too much information lacking, with which to make that common sense decision. Another source of these misconceptions is the vendors themselves. Developers of Web based solutions promote the benefits of being Web based, and purposefully do not mention the downsides. In contrast, the developers of desktop CRMs do the same thing.

When you are making your selection, don't be so quick to discount desktop solutions without first discovering the real pros and cons, versus the assumed ones.



Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Praful Thakkar 02/26/2012 12:41 PM
  2. Kathy Sheehan 03/02/2012 09:12 AM
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Jo Olson
HOMEFRONT Realty - Kettle Falls, WA
Retired - HOMEFRONT Realty @ LAKE Roosevelt

I am a web based person, I am trying to get everything there.

Feb 26, 2012 09:04 AM #2
Joy Daniels
Joy Daniels Real Estate Group, Ltd. - Harrisburg, PA

I love web based for so many reasons. . . no need to back up . . . I can access anywhere. . . definitely prefer the web base.  Thanks for your post!

Feb 26, 2012 09:47 AM #3
Randy Mitchelson,APR
Marketing Advisor & Homeland Heroes Home Loans - Bonita Springs, FL
First Impressions are made at First Click

I can't live without my Salesforce.com. Life changer for sure. Worth every penny. Especially when you have a distributed sales team.

Feb 26, 2012 09:50 AM #4
Nathan Rufty - 623-850-1210
Canopy Mortgage, LLC - Surprise, AZ
Mortgage Loan Originator at 623-850-1210

Web base is great I can access from anywhere and I occasionly save my database to desk top to place on flash drive every quarter to back my list up just in case

Feb 26, 2012 10:04 AM #5
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Gary, thanks for detailed analysis of Web Based and Desktop CRMs. To best of my knowledge, Top Producer also comes with 'built-in' email (though I don't use it as much...)

Feb 26, 2012 11:09 AM #6
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services Inc - Gulf Breeze, FL
Buyers Agent 800-309-3414 Pace and Gulf Breeze,Fl.

I use Outlook but you cannot sync two computers but you mentioned outlook exchange would that do it. 

Feb 26, 2012 11:13 AM #7
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Hmm -- I have been wondering which way to go and this post was very informative... however, I am still a bit confused about which way to go.

Feb 26, 2012 11:52 AM #8
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Gary, I love my Top Producer that you recommended and I purchased last year. Not only the web-based, but the functions that it can do are wonderful! Thank you :)


Feb 26, 2012 01:04 PM #9
Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group
Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001 - Gaithersburg, MD
301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA

I will go in a limb and tell you that a web based is where everything is progressing  to. . . desktop was 10 years ago. .with the cloud, you will not convince me that a desktop is better . 

Feb 26, 2012 08:31 PM #10
Cheryl Ritchie
RE/MAX Leading Edge www.GoldenResults.com - Huntingtown, MD
Southern Maryland 301-980-7566

I have been using the new Top Producer 8i Mobile Product since I am an avid iPad junkie!

Feb 26, 2012 09:03 PM #11
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Gary, I've used ACT! on my desktop over the last several years. It syncs nicely with my Blackberry. I'm happy with it.

Feb 26, 2012 10:34 PM #12
Jay O'Brien
RE/MAX Revolution - Kansas City, MO
Kansas City Real Estate

I'm a web-based fan, Gary! RealtyJuggler.com has been very helpful. Works on computers and iPad which is nice and never worry about backups or non-current files!

Feb 26, 2012 11:31 PM #13
Sandy Acevedo
951-290-8588 - Chino Hills, CA
RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale

The two reasons I like desktop is because once you pay for it, it is yours. You don't have to pay forever on it and I don't mind syncing it.

Feb 27, 2012 12:09 AM #14
Gary David Hall
RE-ACT, LLC - Doylestown, PA
Real Estate CRM Sales, Training and Implementation

Glad to see the interest this has generated. I clearly struck a nerve on this one. I think some of you are missing my point though.

Fernando - I also believe that Web based is where everything is going and as a concept it is better but...what is more important to some people is that the CRM do what they want. Having a Web based solution is great as long as it has the features you need. If it does not, all the benefits of Web based may not balance that out. It’s analogous to saying that electric is where automobiles are going and you can’t convince me that gas is better. I can if you have to drive 200 miles round trip and electric only takes you 100.

I use Advantage Xi which is a desktop product because it is much more flexible and powerful than any Web based CRM out there. It does what I need it to do. That said, desktop applications tend to be more glitchy than Web based CRMs because they have to play nice with your hardware configuration and other software applications resident on that computer. To be sure, there are idiosyncrasies with it that I do not like. But for me personally, being able to do things with it that I can not do on any other CRM makes the tradeoff worth it.

With regards to feeling that your data is safe when you have a Web based application, I advise that you temper that sense of security. I have seen two Web based CRMs go out of business with no warning and some people lost all their data. My advice has always been to periodically do an export of every field possible from your CRM in a common data format. You won’t have it all, but you will have the most important part, your contact information. Nathan has the right idea on this, although I would do it more than quarterly.

Once again, when you have a desktop solution on multiple computers, your data is as safe, if not more safe, than on a Web based application. You have multiple redundant copies of the database, and in many cases, you have the entire database available, whereas with Web based solutions, you can only export a finite number of fields.

Praful – you are correct. Top Producer does have its own email client, although like you, most people are not too crazy about it. That’s why they now offer a Google synch and an Outlook synch is coming.

Joyce – Outlook Exchange is a method by which your Outlook database is located on one server, such that no matter what computer you are on, you are always looking at the same database, as opposed to having different emails on different computers. You can set it up on your own internal server hardware, or much more practical and less expensive, you subscribe to an online service that provides it for you. Another option is to use IMAP instead of POP, which has similar benefits.

Feb 27, 2012 12:58 AM #15
Kathy Sheehan
Bay Equity, LLC 770-634-4021 - Atlanta, GA
Senior Loan Officer

This was a very timely post for me as I am trying to decide how to proceed.

Feb 27, 2012 01:15 AM #16
Lee & Pamela St. Peter
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices YSU Realty: (919) 645-2522 - Raleigh, NC
Making Connections to Success in Real Estate

☔ Gary, for YEARS (many years ago) I was an avid I HAD TO HAVE MY DATABASE ON MY COMPUTER person!!!!  Then once I got over myself and moved to TP 8i I was thrilled.  No issues, no problems and I can access from home, office, or my iPad (they have a great iPad add now).  I'm one that's pleased with cloud computing. But I also like your suggestion to get your info exported and backed up.  Good advise!
Congrats on the
3 Featured Posts 


Feb 27, 2012 11:45 PM #17
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

Gary - this is an excellent blog post. Clarified some issues for me. I was saying the same thing about web based, and you straightened it

Mar 02, 2012 09:47 AM #18
Cyndi Carver
PRSI Choice Gallery Homes - Bellevue, WA
Newcastle & East Renton Specialist

I'm a web based person. Love my 4G Android. I have been using Outlook as my contact manager but am considering moving to AgentOffice.

Jun 12, 2012 01:41 AM #19
Karen Mathers - REALTOR®
Keller Williams Vero Beach - Vero Beach, FL
When it Matters, Choose Mathers! 772-532-3221
I think agents need to be able to access their CRM from multiple sources without having to pay for it. I have an office computer, home computer, laptop, iPad and iPhone. I want to be able to go from one to the other and I certainly do not plan to pay extra to access and work on them. A desktop version is too limiting and can certainly get costly if they charge for each computer. Everything is going to the cloud. I had Top Producer but I dropped them as they charge extra for everything. I am over it.
Jul 26, 2012 10:57 PM #20
Gary David Hall
RE-ACT, LLC - Doylestown, PA
Real Estate CRM Sales, Training and Implementation

Just to be clear, if it is a desktop product you usually only pay once unless you want to continue support and updates. If you want a Real Estate CRM in the cloud, you pay monthly. No excpetions. So if you want to share your desktop CRM data between different devices, you either have to have a server, synch through an in-house network, or use a flash drive to synch between devices.

With regards to Top Producer, they only have one fee for their CRM and that's $34.95/mo. If you were paying other fees, that was for more than just CRM. Many people often say Top Producer has a lot of fees, but the reality is that if you have to pay any setup fees or additional monthly fees, then it is because you are purchasing something else above and beyond the CRM, such as Market Snapshot, MLS Interface, and things like that. If you bought those things anywhere else you would have to pay for them too.


Jul 27, 2012 02:42 AM #21
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Real Estate CRM Sales, Training and Implementation
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