Insightly review

Insightly isn't just a CRM platform: It also provides detailed insight into contacts, customers, companies and your business processes. Aside from occasional slow performance, it's an excellent CRM platform for smaller businesses.
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Insightly is a cloud-based service that goes beyond mere CRM. It’s a comprehensive business process solution designed with SMBs in mind. Insightly brings together collaboration, CRM, and project management into one solution. Its intuitive workflow, good help resources, and competitive subscription pricing make Insightly a great CRM pick for smaller businesses that don’t need the dizzying array of offerings from the likes of Salesforce.com or don’t have the IT support required by more enterprise-targeted and traditional solutions like Sage Act!. Insightly’s chief downside is that it sometimes gave sluggish performance during testing. Besides that one issue, it’s a solid CRM solution.

Pricing and Sign Up
Insightly is free for up to three users. That free subscription comes with 200MB of storage and allows up to 2500 contacts. Plus, all Insightly subscriptions come with the ability to create unlimited projects, organizations, and opportunities. Customers also receive unlimited customer support (via email), 128-bit SSL encryption, and automatic backups.

Paid subscriptions start at $29 per month for up to six users, 6GB of storage, 25,000 contacts and include integration with MailChimp, Google Contact and Calendar sync, custom branding, and API access. The highest-tier subscription is $99 per month, for up to 40 users, 50 GB of storage, unlimited contacts and all of the other extras.

The subscription pricing is competitive with other small business cloud-based CRM offerings such as Zoho CRM and Clevertim. Insightly provides many additional capabilities above the competition’s offerings. The service’s offerings exceed what you find in Clevertim, which we recently reviewed. Another advantage Insightly has over competitors is more robust security and data compliance for small businesses that have to adhere to regulations like SOX. Data stored on Insightly’s servers are in an SAS 70 type II data center that uses AES-256 military-grade encryption and is a TRUSTe audited and certified facility.

To get started with Insightly you can sign up with a Google Apps account or any other email. After login, you are presented with a dashboard that displays recent activity. The dashboard also has tabs which take you to different areas in the interface: Tasks, Contacts, Organizations, Opportunities, Projects, and Email.

Clicking on the Contacts tab pulls up a number of options for importing contacts. They can be imported from Gmail, LinkedIn, CSV, Outlook, or Sage Act! Version 9.

I chose to upload contacts from LinkedIn. This required giving Insightly access to my LinkedIn account. While apps requesting permission to social media platforms often give me pause, I was impressed that Insightly allows the choice of having permissions revoked automatically in 30 days, in a week, or just when a user manually revokes them. That level of detail in regard to permissions evidences that the Insightly team takes security seriously.

After setting permissions, I could see a list of my LinkedIn contacts in Insightly. At this point, the import was still not complete. I could select the individual contacts I wanted to import or import them all.

I selected the ones I wanted in Insightly. The import process was quick and clean. Not only was contact information for my LinkedIn contacts imported, but so were my contacts’ profile pictures and their bio information from LinkedIn.

Interface
Clicking through the various tabs in the dashboard, I discovered Insightly’s feature-richness. In addition to contacts, you can import organizations, notes, projects, and opportunities from .CSV or Excel files.

The home screen features a toolbar that sits dead-center at the top. This toolbar has a dropdown list that lets you quickly get to menu items such as Add New Contact, Add New Organization, Add New Event, and more. You can get to all of these options by clicking on the various tabs in the dashboard too, but this centrally located toolbar is convenient for quick access.

In the upper right corner of the screen is another small toolbar with icons for setting up notifications, the calendar, user and system settings, and logout.

Customization options are plentiful. Insightly offers several prefab themes that change the background, or you can upload your company’s logo. Other customization options include adjusting how your list of contacts is displayed, whether to open Gmail for email integration, and defining how attachments are handled.

Files can be added to contacts. The interface has a section in which you can drag and drop files, but when using Internet Explorer I kept getting an error that IE blocked an Active X script.  I switched to Firefox and then drag-and-drop worked fine, so apparently the issue is with IE’s security settings.

I was able to upload .TXT, .JPG, and .PDF files to my contacts. Double-clicking the file in Insightly opens the file for viewing within the browser. You can also add files from Google Docs.

Because organizations are treated as contacts, you can add notes, files, events, and more to organization profiles as well as to a company’s social media links.

Email Integration
As with a number of online CRM products, Insightly gives customers an email box. With this email, messages from another email account can be forwarded, CC’d, or BCC’d to the Insightly inbox. If an email is forwarded to the Insightly inbox from a sender who is also an Insightly contact, that email is attached to the contact’s information in Insightly.

I tested the email integration by forwarding and CC’ing messages from my primary work Gmail account to the Insightly email. The feature works well. In my testing, if I forwarded a message from a sender who is not an Insightly contact, that sender was added as a contact and the organization the sender is a member of was also added.

 Users may want a bit more control over the email/Insightly workflow. For example, perhaps you forward a message and decide you don’t want to add the sender’s contact information but only their company/organization info? I’d also like to see Insightly include an option to prompt before adding contact and organization information from forwarded emails. That said, the email integration is a great way to quickly build up your contacts database.

Getting Granular
You can get quite detailed in creating your contact database with Insightly. You can add notes to a contact, for example. These notes can be made visible to everyone with whom you share the database, or just specific individuals. You can create teams of users, so you have the ability to give one team access to notes, specific contacts and other components; and to deny permissions to another team.

Insightly’s social media integration is brilliant. Not only did I have all of the bio information for a contact from LinkedIn, but I was able to add a contact’s Twitter ID in their information. If I clicked open that contact, I saw a side-by-side view of the person’s information from LinkedIn and their Twitter stream. There is so much information you can view on one person, that, for those new to social networking, it might seem downright stalker-ish. This social media integration is a great way to keep on top of news and information about a contact.

For even more granularity, you can add categories for sales, tasks, and opportunities. By default, there are pre-made categories such as Email, Follow-up, Meeting, and more. For more insight, reasons for opportunities can be added; for example you can peg an opportunity as “open” or create new reasons.

Insightly delves deeper into CRM with native business analytics. As you create opportunities, Insightly compiles a list totaling the monetary value of those opportunities. You can also create milestones and pipelines. A pipeline is a series of steps assigned to a project or opportunity. Automation is accomplished by creating activity sets—templates for a group of repeated tasks that can be assigned to contacts, organizations, opportunities, or projects.

These activity sets have great time-saving value. I can envision a small business—for example, a contractor who sets up wireless networks— using activity sets. This contractor will likely have to perform the same series of tasks for customers, such as an on-site wireless survey to analyze the best way a wireless network should be deployed and then provide the customer a quote. Creating an activity set that includes these tasks is a great way to enter repeated actions into Insightly to track a project.

If you still need more customization, you can add custom fields and even change the default URL your team uses to access Insightly. My test database’s URL was generated as http://QG6ZWDLK.insight.ly but I was able to easily change that to a custom address: http://samaralynn.Insightly.com.

While testing all of the features and functions, the one glaring issue with using Insightly was latency. Page refreshes and switching between different areas in the interface had a lethargic performance at times. This was while connected to a fairly high-speed Internet connection.  As a database grows larger and you are dealing with a large data set, performance could become a real problem.

Insightly is appropriately named. It not only gives you a CRM platform, but it also provides detailed insight into contacts, customers, companies and your business processes. Aside from occasional slow performance, Insightly is an excellent CRM platform for smaller businesses and a 4.5 out 5 star Editors’ Choice for CRM.

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Specifications
Type Business, Personal, Professional
Free Yes

Verdict
Insightly isn't just a CRM platform: It also provides detailed insight into contacts, customers, companies and your business processes. Aside from occasional slow performance, it's an excellent CRM platform for smaller businesses
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc