As I indicated in an earlier article, I’ve found myself suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly in the job market. Not being one to take such things lying down, I began to make a lot of phone calls and send out a lot of emails. Initially, I used Outlook to track this activity, but it very quickly reached a point where it just couldn’t do the trick. In short, I needed CRM, and I needed it fast. I’d recently seen that there was a VMWare appliance available for SugarCRM, so I decided to give it a shot.
SugarCRM is a mixed-source CRM platform. The basic open-source SugarCRM product is free and available for download, while more advanced Professional and Enterprise editions of the software are available for purchase. There are also hosted and hardware-appliance versions of SugarCRM available. SugarCRM is a fully-functional CRM system, competitive with commercial products like SalesLogix and Salesforce.com. It features the standard Account-Contact-Opportunity relationships made popular by Siebel, and used in nearly all CRM systems now.
In order to use SugarCRM, you have a number of options, including buying a hosted solution. In my case, I was job hunting, so free was good. That meant downloading and installing SugarCRM on my system, or getting the VMWare appliance. A VMWare appliance is a preconfigured OS image, ready to run in VMWare’s free VMWare Player. For me, this option offered the fastest setup and great flexibility.
Download and set up VMWare Player, and unzip the SugarCRM appliance. Open the appliance with VMWare Player and start it up. It’ll boot into rPath Linux (a stripped-down distribution used to keep the size of the VMWare appliance as small as possible). Log in as “root” with no password. This is clue #1 that this isn’t an enterprise-worthy install (nor is it meant to be), so use it only within your firewall. After you log in, type ifconfig and hit enter. Look for a line that says “inet addr” – this is the IP address the machine acquired during boot-up. Make a note of this, we’ll need it for the next step.
Now, launch a browser and use the address you just wrote down to navigate to the SugarCRM login screen. Ex: http://192.168.0.5/sugarcrm Note: you can edit your HOSTS file in windows/system32/drivers/etc to add a textual name, like “sugarcrm” for this IP address. Log into SugarCRM as “admin” / “changeme” and take a look around.
One of the obvious benefits of using the VMWare appliance is that there isn’t much administration. The most important thing to do is to make sure you’ve got good backups. Since this is a VM, this is pretty easy. First, we need to shut down the machine so no files are in use. Log into the console as root, and enter this command: “shutdown -h now”. This will shut down the Linux machine, and you can then back up all the files – probably by burning a CD. After you’ve copied or burned the files, you can start the VM again. If you happen to be using VMWare Workstation instead of the free VMWare Player, you can use the “snapshot” feature to back up the machine.
There are a couple other options for backing up data, but they’re not as convenient. First, you can back up all the application files (htm, php, images,
etc) by using the SugarCRM “backups” command from the “admin” menu (upper right on your browser screen). Choose an existing directory, or make a new one (mkdir) under the /usr/share/sugarcrm directory and set permissions (chmod 777) so that the web process can write to that directory. Once the backup completes, you can download the files by typing the appropriate address into your browser. If any of this sounds challenging, just stick to backing up the whole VM to CD.
Ditto for the next backup, which is the database backup. For this, you’ll need to open the console, log on as root, change your directory to the backup location you used before, and use mysqldump to write the contents of your MySQL database to a text file (ex: mysqldump sugarcrm > backup_file.sql), and then download the database backup like you did for the application files. This
information may be helpful if you decide to install SugarCRM on a “permanent”
machine. For me, you can’t beat the convenience of just burning the whole VM
to a CD.
That’s it for part one. In part two, I’ll cover usage best practices and