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Closed or Open Source: Which CMS is Right for Your Business?

Gravatar Image by Matthew Pearson
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I recently read an article by Lisa Wehr on the well know and influential Mashable site about this subject. I was in two minds about the article. I felt some of the points were right, but found there were a lot of generalisations and some misleading points.

Choosing a CMS or Content Management System is an important business decision and I think people need to weigh up quite a number of things when engaging a web development agency to develop a CMS for their business.

Free Open Source versus Proprietary CMS's

While assessing our preferred CMS's for clients we reviewed and trialled many many open source options.

The open source movement has over many years provided some fantastic software, through the hard work of many altruistic developers. I personally use lots of open source tools. So finding an effect, stable and secure CMS was important to me.

While hunting for the best open source CMS we encountered a real mixture or good and bad examples. And this is were I diverge from Lisa Wehr's view. We found often open-source solutions can be poorly supported in terms of documentation and technical support. Don't get me wrong, most of the big names have active forums and websites, but some of the smaller ones have little activity and you can wait for days/weeks for a response. So I would recommend searching google to see the amount of 'buzz' around a CMS you are considering. See if problems are getting solved and if users are having a positive experience using it. I also found that often they may be technically good, but very poor in terms of usability. Some had bizarre work flows and processes which threw errors. These were obviously to be avoided.

Lisa rightly points out that there is a security risk with some of these systems. Some are written in a hobbyist way and aren't really what we would call 'production' systems. Lisa talks about developers securing the CMS for the client. If this really is the case, then it's probably the wrong CMS. Wordpress and Drupal do have security risks but their communities are pretty hot on providing some sort of fix. But often this is after sites have been through the pain of hacking. It is important to check the track record of security issues relating to the CMS you are considering. Search the web for the cms's name and "security" to see what problems other people are having in this area. Checkout the forums and website to see how the developer community is dealing with any issues.

We decided internally that we wanted to adopt a .Net or a Java CMS as we felt that those platforms provided us with more robust and secure frameworks to protect our clients sites. Proprietary CMS options are often built using these technologies and this is for a reason. Many large enterprises and SME's have existing .Net or Java web platforms. Businesses have traditionally chosen these platforms for hardware, security and scalability reasons. Some of the key reasons for choosing a proprietary solution are stability and support. Businesses want to be sure that the CMS they choose will reliably support their business needs and provide an important online brand presence.

But proprietary solutions don't come all that cheaply. They can be very large costs associated annual licensing of the system, per head licensing for admin users and support packages on top of this.

From a business perspective the Free v Paid puzzle focuses upon some key business issues.

  • Stability & Reliability
  • Cost
  • Security
  • Ease of Publishing & Workflow

Solving the Puzzle

We struggled to find a robust, stable and secure CMS to use as our in-house standard for clients. Then one day we came upon Orchard CMS. This was a refreshing change from the mixed bag we had been finding over the many many months of trialling. We also found that it's developer community was very active indeed and that it had an ambitious road map for future development, always a very promising sign when looking for a software system. Another big bonus was that it's underlying architecture was very modern and up to date, using lots of best practice approaches. It is built using .Net and is in fact written by many of Microsoft's own .Net Development team, funded through their open source foundation. These guys really know there stuff and as we've come to learn they have done lots of cool stuff within the Orchard framework. So it's pretty gilt-edged in terms of quality.

Orchard is a newer CMS to the open source line up. Which is good in many ways as it's inherited the better elements of other systems and not made the mistakes of others! We have built several complex sites using Orchard and are more convinced each time of it's power and flexibility. Orchard comes prepared to use with the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, so we provide cloud hosted Orchard solutions for increased flexibility and scalability.

If you want to have the best of open source but with the support and reliability of the proprietary model why not get in touch with us. We can help get you running on one of the best open source CMS's on the market and then provide you with ongoing support.

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