Setup SugarCRM in 2 days (and counting)

It all started when Dawn and I discussed needing a way to keep track of all of the clients and what we were doing on each account. So I let this rattle around in my head until this week, which has been a bit slower than the last several.  Figured this would be the time to hit it.  Whipped up the uber handy (for the most part) Microsoft Web Platform Installer app.  There as the solution to all my problems was the much vaunted SugarCRM.

SugarCRM looked (and looks) like the answer to most of our problems – as well as possibly for several of my clients. It appears to have just a ton of features that should make client tracking a very doable process.  Right now, it seems as though I have all my client info in multiple places: Outlook, a large legal pad, a small organizer book, a growing stack of business cards, and finally, in my head – and we ALL know how faulty that LAST location can be…

So, with high hopes, I started down the path to SugarCRM. BUT, as a prerequisite, I needed to install PHP and MySQL on my target server.  I keep sort of a throwaway server around for just such purposes – to test stuff out before I try to put it on my internal staging server.

PHP – well, I needed to get the setup right for Windows and that process took a bit of fiddling. But it seemed to work pretty much out of the box.  Thanks to for providing a reasonably fast way to install that.  Not so painful.  At first glance.

Onwards to MySQL – again, not so difficult. More fiddling just took a bit of extra time, but nothing really huge. Like any server software, it just takes time.  However, when your biggest goal is just to see if a particular piece of software is going to work for you, spending a few extra hours researching and then installing these prerequisites is a bit of a drag.

Now the SugarCRM install. SO, on to the Web Platform Installer – SugarCRM – install!  Finally!  Things go well.  A little configuring here and there, imports, adds. Looks like things are going to work out.

SugarCRM does seem to be the answer to many of the client tracking issues that I have felt might be a problem one day.  I can see this being a solution to my issues and am now thoroughly convinced that some of my customers may benefit from this application.

Now that it looks like this will work – after several hours of installing and configuring, it’s time to put SugarCRM CE on an internet accessible server for actual usage by myself and developer Dawn.  So..  I forgot all the configuring I had to go through to get my throwaway server ready – and don’t have MySQL installed on this server. PHP IS installed so that’s a plus.

Web Platform Installer proceeds to install and fail miserably with installing SugarCRM. It DOES install a MySQL connector – to NOTHING since MySQL isn’t actually there.  Okay.  Wipe out the install, install MySQL and do it again.  This time success. Life is GOOD!

Import my contacts from Outlook into Sugar. Have to save it to a CSV format, no problem. Import chokes a little less this time using my first experience to more knowledgeably tweak my CSV file. I won’t go into the details of Sugar at this point – I’ll save that for a later post – it IS the bomb – I think – as soon as I get it working.  Okay, able to add my “Accounts” – which are actually companies in my setup and all the contacts properly.  This will definitely allow much better tracking.

Now, what’s this email thing? Huh.  That would make it absolutely perfect – being able to send emails right from this app near automagically – either to give Dawn a heads up on a new account or even emails to the clients on status updates possibly! I dutifully setup a new email account on my email server for this purpose. Then go through the settings in Sugar, try to send my first email to myself, and voila. Error.

A half hour of scratching around the net for answers and reading a lot of help files. Looks like PHP.INI is going to be the answer. Something about setting up SMTP info in the brief 1300 line ini file. Really? And I haven’t even gotten to POP and receiving email yet. Some things are easier when you have those nice simple ini files to deal with, but this… ugh.

And then the problems ensue. Uh oh. Looks like I need to have IMAP support compiled with PHP. Do I?  I did the standard install from my friends mentioned above, but I have no idea if it has IMAP support.  More scratching around. There’s a handy little line called phpinfo() that I can run. Huh. Doesn’t look like I HAVE IMAP compiled in my versionPHP. And I don’t see that there is an IIS windows installable version that seems  to have that already built in.  Great. Compile PHP with IMAP.  I do NOT want to go through that. It’s not that difficult and I used to do it with Linux all the time. But it always seemed to require more of the above – a simple compile is expected. And then the prerequisites start. What one thinks might be a quick little job turns into an 8 hour ordeal of finding and then meeting dependencies and other time stomping issues in order to do the simple little task.

All I can say is that SugarCRM looks like it IS going to work smoothly.

But as I have stated before, nothing simple is ever easy. I obviously need to learn more about PHP and MySQL. In order to be as effective as I can be as a web dev, I need to get up to speed on this stuff.  It’s just SOOOO frustrating to want to do some simple little thing (try out a potential app) and be bogged down in solving all sorts of other issues JUST to get to the point of being able to even get CLOSE to your original goal. And from the looks of the entries that I have seen googling for answers to many of these problems, there’s an awful lot of people out there that have the same feeling.

Author: Eric Erickson

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