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Should you choose an open-source or closed content management system?


Choosing the right content management system (CMS) is one of the first decisions you will make to build your website and publish your content.

You’ll want to do your research to find out whether you should choose an open-source or closed platform. The differences between the two are straightforward and you don’t need to be a tech whizz-kid to come to the right decision for your business.

Before we get onto your choices, let’s pause for a moment and quickly explain what we mean by an open-source or closed CMS. Open-source content management systems allow the source code to be seen and modified by everyone. A closed source CMS keeps the source code closed.

Okay, so let’s take a look at four key questions to think about to help you decide which type of platform is the best route to take.

  1. What type of support do you need?

Open-source systems are backed by large developer communities, which means it’s easier to find information and people with experience who can talk about the product and offer support to your team, whether they are developers, engineers or digital marketers.  Bugs and other issues are also monitored by the community and the platform is regularly updated.

In comparison, closed source systems usually have a dedicated FAQ, manuals and options to contact someone. If there is a problem, you can usually submit a ‘support ticket’ and get a response from the support team.

  1. Do you want flexibility to customise your CMS?

Open-source platforms come with lots of extensions and plug-ins to customise your website.  Your options in terms of both functionality and personalisation are virtually limitless. This means you can take an open-source product and add your own brand identity.

In comparison, with a closed CMS you will likely get sent a list of available features with the associated costs and potentially have to wait for a number of months before a new functionality is even looked at, with no guarantee that you will get it in the end.

In short, you can tailor an open-source product to your business, while if you use a closed source product, you’ll have to tailor your business to the product.

  1. How secure is the platform?

The hundreds of thousands of developers collaborating and monitoring open-source systems ensure the strength of the platform is maintained, which means threats are almost transparent and can be quickly detected and fixed quickly. This increased visibility creates a larger security net where issues can be addressed effectively. With open-source systems, the entire community is looking at an issue, not just a single team. Risk is significantly reduced.

For closed systems, fewer people are looking at fixing the underlying code and so in case of a hack, you could potentially have zero-day exploits exposed for a longer period of time, as you have fewer people involved in finding bugs. 

  1. What’s your budget?

Open-source solutions are much less expensive than closed systems. The key factor here is the priority lock-in.  Closed source platforms usually have this service, which means part of the framework is directly correlated with the close source framework you are going to use, having been made specifically for that system.

This means you may have to learn to use it and train your team, which, of course, has cost implications. Open-source systems are cheaper. Unlike closed systems, there are no costly recurring licensing fees to simply use the software. However, you may not necessarily get all the features and functionalities that you would get with the closed source product.

The final decision …

When it comes down to it, you’ll have to weigh up your options to decide which platform best fits your needs. Open-source routes give you the support of an engaged community and peace of mind that there is a wide security net and regular software updates.  You have more flexibility to customise your CMS, but you may need to invest in the features you want to develop for the product to meet your end users’ goals and needs. Open-source solutions also tend to be less expensive. Whereas with closed source products you are reliant on vendor support and fewer people are fixing the underlying code meaning exploits and bugs could go undetected for longer periods. You also pay a premium to have some features and have to come to terms with the idea of being locked in.

We hope you find these tips helpful in making your decision. We’re here if you need our help.