October 13, 2010

Open Source Vs Commercial CMS: What Will You Choose

It’s a debate that’s been around for years and will surely be around long after all of us are dead and gone. Open source vs. proprietary. Whether you are talking about Windows vs Linux, Flash vs HTML5 or iOS vs Android, there are passionate arguments from both sides and compelling reasons to choose either of the two. Visit any forum on the subject and you will find ugly words being used, names being called and the intelligence, ethics and morality of the supporters of the other side being questioned. And that’s just among the moderators.  Clearly, this is not something people are ambivalent about.

So what’s the answer then? Well, as usual, the answer lies somewhere in between. At the end of the day, you have to choose what’s good for you after weighing the advantages and disadvantages of either side. And while CMS version of this battle does not have the box office value of the, say, iPhone vs Android war, it’s a crucial decision we have to make for every project. So here are the things each side brings to the plate, and the things they leave out.

Open Source CMS:

Open source CMSs are cheap. They’re not free though, because you need to pay to design and maintain an open source CMS site. But yes, you don’t need to pay the licensing fees that come tacked on to proprietary CMSs. And of course, you cannot discount the fact that open source CMSs tend to be far more flexible than commercial ones. This is because the open source community is constantly fiddling with the code, adding capabilities to the overall platform that didn’t exist before. Innovation isn’t tied to a single organization in open source CMSs. This community aspect also comes handy when you are looking for solutions to head scratching problems. An open source community may be chaotic, but it can be a whole lot more innovative, and faster than a corporate helpdesk. Another advantage of being a community product and not being tied to a single corporate entity is that you are not at the mercy of that entity. If the company publishing a commercial CMS goes down, all hope of support and updates go down with it. This is not the case with open source. And finally, you can tweak and modify the open source CMS to your heart’s content, nobody is going to set lawyers after you.

Commercial CMS:

Like we have mentioned before, the open source community can be a chaotic place, and sometimes it is reflected on the software. Frequency of updates, quality control and new features are all at the mercy of the crowd. And of course, if something goes wrong, no one is obliged to fix it. However, once you pay for a product like you do with a commercial CMS, you are entitled to things like regular updates and guaranteed customer support. Crowdsourcing can sometimes come up with great innovation, but for good, solid operations, you need stability that a commercial CMS can provide. Commercial CMS companies will also often setup your website for you, so you don’t have to go looking for a third party web designer.

As we see, both types of CMSs have their pluses and minuses. But what do you think? What do you prefer when it comes to CMSs? Do let us know in the comments section.

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