What Exactly is a CMS?

CMS stands for Content Management System and is a platform that allows users to publish, edit, and modify content for a website. What makes these platforms so attractive is that owners can update and maintain content on their websites without needing to know how to code using languages like CSS or HTML. This gives an administrator more control over their website and the freedom to update or change content whenever they would like -- without having to rely on a developer to do the job. Sounds easy enough, right?

Once decision you'll have to make is whether an open or closed source CMS is right for your business. Everybody wants a website that looks good and can be easily managed, but choosing a CMS that has the proper functionality and flexibility is just as important. 

Closed Source CMS

Proprietary, or closed source, content management systems are owned and developed by individuals where code is private and cannot be modified. The development company owns the software and sells or licenses it out for others to use for their websites.

Support: Closed systems sell on promised support. Although it’s nice to have this dedicated service in your back pocket, it comes at an extra cost. Unlike open systems, proprietary systems require a yearly licensing fee which can often times get pricey.

Security: Some believe that a closed source CMS is the most secure, when in reality this security is achieved primarily through obscurity. Proprietary providers do not disclose how much testing is being done if any, leaving users blind as far as knowing when or how often problems arise in the system. Due to its private nature, proprietary system users have to trust their provider’s ability to catch and correct errors in a consistent and prompt manner. Depending on the amount of support agreed upon and/or the reputation of the provider, there may be very few authorized developers actively preventing and staying aware of threats that can evade the system.

Cost: Unless the provider specializes in your industry, restricted access will lead to a lack of experience and collective knowledge among developers. Oftentimes, additional modules and customization will lead to higher costs.

Open Source CMS

Open source CMS platforms are free to use, and the platform is built and updated by a community of developers. These strong-backed communities from around the world can customize and redistribute code as it is made publicly available for modification, resulting in a thriving and collaborative community of developers and designers with varied levels of expertise.

Support: Open source systems are backed by a community, generally meaning information is easy to find and problems can be vetted by a large group of people. If you are leaning towards an open source solution, select one with a large, active community. Here, developers and designers are ensuring that the code is solid and the software is updated and easy to use.

Security: Because there are hundreds of thousands of developers and programmers collaborating, monitoring, and ensuring the strength of the platform, threats are almost transparent and can be detected and fixed quickly. The increased visibility developers have creates a larger security net where issues can be effectively addressed. One thing to keep in mind is that smaller, more customized add-on modules could possibly pose threats if they are not properly monitored and tested by the developer. However, if you choose an open source CMS with a strong developer community as well as partnering with a development firm that offers reliable support, security should not be an issue. In fact the White House uses Drupal, a popular and well-known open source CMS, for its website.

Cost: Open source solutions are much less expensive than closed-source systems. Unlike closed systems, there are no costly recurring licensing fees to simply use the software. Keep in mind that you are still responsible to pay for the website hosting solution, domain, and overall website design, just like for a closed source CMS.

Customization: Because open-source systems are backed by large developer communities, there are numerous customization options and plugins than can be adjusted to suit your needs. The options for functionality and personalization are virtually endless.

One Word Describes Why We Use Open Source CMS… Freedom!

We use open source platforms, like Drupal, because their flexibility allows us to customize an experience that brings significant value to each client. The great thing about using an open source platform for your website is that you can take it with you anywhere. There will be a greater chance that any developer with Drupal or other open source knowledge will be able to work and build upon what you already have. With a closed source system, you’re practically stuck. A proprietary system provider may or may not give you the HTML, CSS, and images that make up your site if you leave. Therefore, transitioning your site to a new CMS can be difficult or even impossible if you decide to switch web development partners.

Have any questions about choosing a CMS? Chat with us, we would love to help guide you in the decision process!