No business regardless of how small can afford to have a static website. To stay competitive in today’s increasingly media drive marketplace, small businesses need to update their websites instantly, blog frequently, and maintain a consistent email marketing campaign using a constantly updated list full of active subscribers. Wasting time and money on a plain or outdated website will set a company behind the competition before they’ve even gone into business. To stay competitive, many small business website operators have started turning toward commercial and open source content management systems.
Selecting the right content management system (CMS) requires that a small business successfully identify and weigh the pros and cons of commercial versus open source website platforms.
Pros/Cons Open Source CMS
Open source CMS offer three distinct advantages over their commercial counterparts.
First, open source systems cost nothing and are completely free to use. That’s the entire point of open source materials. The content is created and offered to the Internet community at large for no charge.
The free nature of open source materials also provides the software’s second benefit. Because the community at large has access to constantly tweak, modify, and generally improve upon the software, many open source CMS include cutting edge features.
Finally, open source CMS exist as non-proprietary technology. This means that anyone can adapt the software to support different platforms and businesses that use the software aren’t locked into dealing with a single vendor.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the cons of open source materials, much of what makes this type of software great also works against businesses trying to use these materials.
While open source CMS don’t cost anything to use that doesn’t mean they’re free. Just because you’re given the lumber and tools needed to build a house doesn’t mean you have skills necessary to put everything together. Open source CMS don’t typically feature the plugin and play interface of their commercial counterparts, which means businesses will need to hire someone with the expertise needed to integrate the platform. In some instances, the cost of successfully configuring an open source CMS can equal purchasing a commercial version from a vendor but without the built in technical support. Learning to use an open source CMS without dedicated staff or support can be very difficult and time consuming for already overburdened small business owners.
Even though the community development of open source CMS was listed as a pro, it can also work against businesses trying to use the software on a day-to-day basis. While open source software offers a great playground for creative minds to dabble and innovate, they do so at their own pace. If a business experiences a bug in the software that prevents the website from functioning properly, it could take time before the release of a patch that fixes the issue. If that bug, for example, prevents customers from completing a purchase, it won’t take long for a business to regret its decision to use an open source CMS.
Finally, while non-proprietary software offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to system migration it also comes with the lack of vendor certifications or the competence a business should expect from a vendor partner. Hiring someone to migrate an open source CMS to a new platform can be gamble without a vendor recommendation or valid certification program.
Pros/Cons Commercial CMS
Businesses must also weigh the pros and cons before selecting to use a commercial CMS.
On the plus side, commercial CMS come with a centralized support system. After purchasing a system, a business can fully expect the vendor to remain responsible for fixing any glitches and accommodate any feature requests. While the open source community has no responsibility to create patches that fix glaring errors in a timely manner, businesses can hold private vendors of business CMS to a different standard.
Businesses can also better rely on their CMS when purchased through a vendor than when using an open source platform. Not every open source developer possesses the same degree of skill and experience, which potentially leaves the software they create vulnerable to bugs, security holes, and a lack of adequate testing. These problems can lead to defective software that can create some serious issues. Commercial CMS providers sell a product that must work or else no one will be buying, so businesses can feel more confident the product they are using has been properly tested and will work.
Finally, the learning curve involved with commercial CMS is significantly lower than with open source programs. Developers understand that most business owners that purchase their products won’t possess extensive programming knowledge. This leads to the creation of systems with simple, easy to use interfaces.
So while there are compelling reasons for small businesses to select a commercial CMS for their website, the software also comes with a few cons.
Unlike open source software, commercial CMS can carry a heavy initial price tag. Some systems also require ongoing support and upgrade costs that can make purchasing the software prohibitive to many small businesses.
If a business decides that they can afford the software, they become locked into working with whichever vendor they purchase from. Single vendor built commercial CMS are not easily migrated to another platform. Additionally, the closed nature of commercial CMS means you are stuck with the provided features, as the design leaves very little room for customizable features.
Purchasing a commercial CMS from a single vendor also means lowering expectations for systems that use cutting edge technology. Commercial CMS vendors are primarily concerned with providing products that are stable and function reliably. This means any cutting edge features may not be implemented until the vendor conducts extensive market research or testing.
As owners of small businesses become more sophisticated, the technology they use to advance their business must keep pace. Selecting the right CMS can make a dramatic difference to a business’ bottom line and overall customer satisfaction. At Local Fresh, we provide small business with the content management solutions needed to survive in today’s competitive market. Contact us today to see how we can help improve your business’ website.