Monthly Archives: May 2007

Which Contact Management System is best for me?

CiviCRM vs The Others

At my job we have been looking for a fairly feature rich contact management system for some time now. Given that I work for a volunteer organisation this is not as simple as finding a package that has everything and opening the checkbook. This has meant that I have indulged somewhat in the open-source options.

Previously however, I have had a lot of experience with Goldmine, which is a fantastic CRM. The only problems I have encountered with it is that it is expensive to buy (for a organisation like the one I work for) and then to get it working with any 3rd party software or making some changes can require a lot of programming help from other companies which adds additional cost to the process.

One company I know of are moving from Goldmine to using the Microsoft Contact Management Server – the reason for this is that it’s integration with outlook (and therefore PDAs and smart phones) is second to none, especially in an organisation where you need to keep track of contacts and correspondance with these contacts for legal reasons.

I was looking online for the open-source variety and came accross 2 main contenters. SugarCRM and CiviCRM (which is built on Drupal)I had just begun looking at the merits of both when a close friend who had set up Civicrm for a charity showed me the simplicity of it to set up and implement (which not a lot of php knowledge) and that won me over.


CiviCRM is not difficult to set up, you are initally given a lot of default user information fields such as name, address, email, telephone (and you can have multiples of all of these), but the nice thing about it is that you can add sections and fields as you require them – very easily. It is all done through a GUI (graphical User Interface) so if you know how to log into online email or MySpace then you can make custom fields in this program!!
One of the strengths of this system is that you can create tags or groups that allows you to organise contacts so that if you need to send out different mailings or want to list the interests that the different contacts have in the organisation (i.e. are they donors, they like golfing days or they just want more info),you can easily do so.

There is also a very good search facility and the import and export features, although nothing fancy they do the job!!

other features of Civicrm

When given the correct details from an SMTP server, CiviCRM can then send out emails to contacts.
There is even an addition called iContribute which is more towards the donor management side but is great for tracking income from contacts!

Final Thought

Although CiviCRM has a long way to go to be as fully featured as Goldmine, for me a cost benefit analysis of CiviCRM vs Goldmine led to us using CivCRM because
a) It is free
b) PHP Programmers are easy to find and fairly inexpensive if changes need to be made
c) It costs nothing
d) It is simple to add custom fields and sections to the system.

Although you will never get the customer service that you can with products like Goldmine, if finances are an issue – CiviCRM may be work looking at!!

How to Set-up a Fax Server on Debian

To set up a fax server in Debian is a simple affair – we just had to set one up at work and couldn’t be happier with hylafax.

To install just go to the command line as root (or using sudo) and then type in:

apt-get install hylafax-server

After install type faxsetup to set the server up and start the services and then adding a fax device is simple, just type addfax, This will then lead you to configure the device and away you go.

For a free fax server I have not used anything as simple or as good as this – highly recommended!

For more info check out

Migrating Microsoft Outlook to a New Computer

This is something we come up against all the time at work – Migrating Microsoft Outlook from one computer to another. Having been asked again this week – I decided to post it here for all to see.

It is actually very simple…

All you do is navigate to where you keep your outlook data file of your old computer, usually it is in:

C:\documents and settings\user\local settings\application data\microsoft\outlook

Then copy the file and place it in exactly the same folder in the new machine. Then all your addresses and and emails should be in the correct place.

You will still have to set up your e-mail account settings so that new email can come in and be sent out. You do this by opening Microsoft Outlook and going to Tools>Accounts and following the relevant options.

Trouble with Belkin Wireless Print Server 54mbps 802.11g

I occasionally do IT support for friends and friends of friends. My last call out was to fix a house that wanted to go entirely wireless – and never have I seen such a collection of Belkin products. All was going well until I had to connect their Canon MP600 to the Belkin Wireless Print Server. Now in theory all you need to do is install Belkin’s proprietary software on each host machine and then it finds the server and then you just install the print drivers.

Once we had set up the print server on the first computer it worked like a charm, however after we added computer 2 and 3 we could not get it all working. After a lot of testing and pinging we found out that Belkin’s built in proprietary software was the problem, because it only allows one machine access to the print server (and hence printer) at a time. It does however have an auto disconnect – so that if a computer has not used the print server for 5 minutes it disconnects.  The problem with this is the when 2 or 3 people are using the printer, they dont want to have to manually disconnect and reconnect, or wait 5 minutes be able to use the printer.

We solved this problem by turning off the print server software and setting up a new connection to the print server (and therefore the printer) by making a new printer connection, and then connecting to a local printer (with plug and play disabled), then creating an IP port and connecting directly to the print server IP. This worked perfectly…

Make sure that if you are doing this that you prevent the Belkin print server software from running everytime you start up by going to Start>Run>msconfig then hit ‘OK’. Select the Startup tab and unselect the services from belkin – then reboot.

If you are thinking about buying a printer you want networked in your home/office – either buy one with an ethernet port or with wireless built in, as 3rd party solutions are often more trouble than they are worth!

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