CEO Corner: Open Source vs. Proprietary CMS

Submitted By Michael Assad March 29, 2013

The first thing I did when I sat down to write this article was search the Google Keyword Tools for ‘Proprietary vs. Open Source CMS’. I wanted to see what kind of traffic this article might get. I got 0 searches per month globally.  A flip of the terms to the title I chose nets a whopping 22.  With < 10 in the United States.

My curiosity was piqued, so I checked ‘Open Source CMS’ and ‘Proprietary CMS’ and was not surprised with the 9,900 global searches for the former to 91 for the latter. This is out of 450,000 searches globally for ‘CMS’.

What I am surprised about is that more people aren’t looking for information comparing these two very different approaches to CMS.

Open Source CMS

I just backspaced my original first sentence because it was a little too explicit.  Needless to say, I am not the #1 fan of open source CMSs.  However, I do have tremendous respect for the success that the concept of open source has had from Linux to PHP to all of the amazing things built on top. What a cool concept – you can run an entire server stack and any app imaginable without paying a dime for software. There are some serious super-geniuses building open source software just for the fun of it. What an amazing opportunity for people to build something great that’s larger than themselves. It speaks volumes about the vibrancy of society when we can come together this way to produce something special and share it. If we could engineer physical things like cars and buildings this way, we would definitely have flying cars and terra-formed bubbles on Mars by now.

Here are my beefs.

  1. There are a gazillion open source CMSs – which one is best? Oh, there’s also a gazillion opinions? Great.
  2. WordPress is not a CMS, it’s a blogging tool.
  3. Open source CMSs have serious security problems
  4. The user interface for leaders like Drupal and Joomla is too complicated for most end users (someone is definitely going to correct me on this one in the comments)
  5. There’s no one to yell at if something breaks (unless you find them in a forum and TYPE CAPITAL LETTERS AT THEM)
  6. Upgrading them is a major pain and always breaks stuff

Proprietary CMS

Now we’re talking my language. Charging money for software – that’s still a thing! You give me some cash, and I guarantee you specific deliverables in a specific timeframe with professionals guiding you every step of the way. Yes, you have to pay a fee for my software but I’m going to make sure that it is available, running fast and up-to-date. Something wigging out on your site? No worries – help is a phone call away. Want to upgrade to the latest CMS features without tearing out all your hair and gazing violently at your developers when they get out of their chair at 10:00 PM? No problem. The patch was applied overnight, or it’s in your inbox.

Propriety CMS is awesome because:

  1. Someone other than you, with a job they can get fired from, is accountable for your site
  2. The companies building them are businesses that need to make money – that means they really care if you’re happy
  3. They are enhanced according to the needs of the end users – not developers
  4. The overall cost of ownership is often lower than open source
  5. You get what you pay for and if you don’t, you can sue them

I would love if we could open up the debate so that people who are evaluating this choice have a good resource.  What do you think?

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About this CMS Enthusiast

Michael Assad

Michael Assad

I am the co-founder and former CEO of Agility Inc. – makers of fine content management software. A casualty of the dotcom bubble burst in 2001, I turned to freelance web development. Over the last 11 years, I led the growth of Agility to become the fastest growing web development company in Canada for multiple years running, and then on to become a leading CMS provider. I am also the founder of Unbound Media – an online publication dedicated to demystifying digital for brands and publishers. I am a boarder, golfer, F1 fan, and fitness nut who loves a good Munich lager and appreciates a fine Cuban cigar.

 
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