A Content Management System (CMS) is a software that allows its users to create, update and maintain content on their websites. It will allow non-technical users to edit the text on their websites, change photos from their website galleries or add and edit products on their online store.
Just like any kind of software, when it comes to CMS there are two broad categories, those that are open source and those that are closed source.
Open source means that the code is available for everyone to look at and modify according to their needs, while closed source code is not available to anyone else besides the team of developers that created it.
Some of the more popular open source CMS platforms you may have heard of are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
Open source solutions give you freedom and flexibility
Freedom is without a doubt, the most important advantage that an open source content management system has to offer. By having access to the source code, there are virtually no limits to what you can do with your website.
You can hire any developer or an agency of your choice to customize your website in any way you want. If you are not satisfied with a particular developer, then thousands of others out there know how your CMS works and can help you out.
On the other hand, when you choose to go with a closed source CMS, you are stuck with the company that originally created it. If at some point you are not satisfied with them, you cannot leave unless you rebuild your website from scratch.
Another point to consider, is what will you do if they go out of business? Many business owners would not feel comfortable if their website or even their own business itself (in case of e-commerce websites) was dependent on someone else’s business in order to exist.
In short, with an open source CMS you truly own your website, while with closed source you are just renting it.
Open Source Content Management Systems are cost effective
It is certainly not true that websites based on an open source CMS like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal come at no cost. You could freely download the software and install it yourself, but that is very far from having a properly setup, secure, search engine optimized and user friendly website.
Even if you don’t hire a developer or an agency to design and develop your website, you will still have to pay for templates, plugins and extensions that will need to be updated from time to time.
Despite these costs, open source solutions will always tend (with few exceptions) to be much more cost effective than their closed source alternatives. You will almost always get a lot more value for your money if you choose to go with an open source solution.
With closed source solutions, there are usually monthly or yearly fees that you would need to pay, otherwise you could lose access to your website. In addition, when it comes to e-commerce platforms you might even have to give away a percentage of your sales as well, besides the monthly fees.
Frequent updates and support from a huge community
There are literally millions of users all around the globe that use various open source CMS to run their websites. There is also a huge number of expert developers that have a deep knowledge of how these systems work.
With all these people actively using and developing these platforms, bugs get reported and fixed fast through frequent updates.
You can also utilize the support of large community forums and read hundreds of freely available tutorials, as well as watch YouTube videos that will guide you step by step on how to use your open source CMS.
The myth of closed source software as being more secure
There is a mistaken belief that closed source software is more secure than open source. This belief is usually based on the premise that since open source code is visible to anyone, then developers with bad intentions will study the code in order to find vulnerabilities.
On the other hand, someone might argue that because open source code is available to everyone, it is also more extensively reviewed and tested by large numbers of developers and therefore will tend to be more secure.
Trying to hide the source code as a security measure is at best “security through obscurity”, which could lead to a false sense of security. This in turn, might cause developers to write sloppier and less secure code.
The truth is, security is a very complex issue and there are other, far more important factors to take into account than just whether the software is using an open or closed source approach.
Some of the biggest organizations and companies out there trust open source content management systems to run their websites. These include NASA, The White House, Harvard University, The New York Times, The United Nations, Peugeot, Lipton, MTV and many others.