Why go Open Source? A comparison between Custom and Open Source CMS

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The recent years have been a ripe era for the CMS sector with a tendency towards furthering this even more. E-commerce is on the rise since many people want to have a go at the challenging, but rewarding concept of being your own boss. Bloggers are still going strong and maintaining a steady number and blogging remains one of the most popular ways to share information on the web. Designers and developers create, share and improve their proficiency while building a customizability-base for those entrepreneurs and bloggers.

It is clear that if you wish to dive into the waters of online entrepreneurship or blogging you will end up in a certain CMS boat. Let’s disregard different brand choices and broaden the scope. What I’ll be taking a peek at is the core differentiation in the CMS sector; the two types that lay the foundations of it all. These are the custom CMS (also known as proprietary CMS) and the open source CMS. And while good and bad examples can be found in both of them, here’s my opinion on why open source is the better option.

The custom (proprietary) CMS

•   Locks you, the user. It has set parameters and you cannot change them once they’ve been set.

•  Lacks customizability. This has to do with the locking of the user – there is a set configuration of features that cannot be changed. Or if it can, it’s very expensive and requires a lot of CMS reworking.

•   You are dependent on others. A custom build CMS has been setup by a certain person or team so every time you need help you can turn only to this CMS’ creators.

•   Security tests require a high budget. Custom build CMSes are most often tested by the team that created them. Because they’re “locked” no open community has access to them. In order to get a custom build CMS security tested you have to pay for security audits which are sometimes worth thousands of dollars.

•  Extensions are painful. You are good in your field and naturally your online business or online influence as a whole extends. As your achievements grow, so should your website. Custom build CMSes are very hard to extend though, which will bring additional costs, time wasted and unneeded traction.

•   Risk of quality. There are many good programming teams out there. But sometimes you can’t be sure about the quality of the CMS you’ll receive. This is where community feedback and voluntary testing kicks in. This is a no-go in custom build CMS though, because as I pointed out, it’s locked. So you have to take the risk of quality with hopes that the product you’ll receive will be a good one.

•  It’s simply too expensive. It’s not only about extension or security audits. Custom build CMSes are usually very expensive because they are made exclusively, even though in many cases they don’t really excel compared with their open source counterparts.

The open source CMS

•    Gives freedom to you, the user. There’s a reason for the word open to be there. Even governments from Europe to the Middle East or Asia are gradually starting to cherish the advantages of open source. So let me explain further about this freedom in the context of CMS.

•  Freedom from dependency. Sure, the open source CMS is initially built by a certain team of developers. But it’s open to everyone who’d like to take a go on it and modify it. Thus a broad range of developers get to know the software so you can turn to any of them and they will be able to help you with your problem. You have the freedom to receive support not only from a set number of people. There’s a whole community waiting to help you.

•   Dynamic and highly customizable. There are always new contributions, new updates, new ideas that flow into the open source CMS. Chances are that when you give people the freedom to create and share, they do it with full force. Developers will work on new modules and plug-ins that you can utilize on your journey through e-commerce. Designers will unleash their creativity and offer stunning new templates suited to any needs you have.

•  Freedom of security. Opening the CMS up to a community has a serious advantage: people will analyze the software through a magnifying glass to see whatever flaws it has. White hat hackers will offer their input regarding the security of the CMS after friendly security tests. Developers will sort through the code to discover faulty sections. You receive constant security checks…for free. The slight drawback here is that black hat hackers may exploit these openness and target open source CMS.

•   Ultimately scalable. There are a ton of features, modules and extensions that scale perfectly with your business’ growth3. Some of them are paid and others are free. The important factor is that all of them are easy to both access and implement on your personal or corporative journey towards success. Open source CMS equals flexibility.

•   Guaranteed quality. How can software usage turn out bad when it has gone through the scrutiny of a whole community? It can’t, of course, and that is why you have a guaranteed quality CMS if you check the community reactions and feedback. Chances are that a CMS which heeds the call of its users and contributors will polish its software and make it excellent.

•   Either free or inexpensive. Many open source CMSes are free to use, or whenever they are paid, it can turn out as a symbolic price compared to the custom build CMS. The importance here lies that you can choose from many different paid options according to your needs. This is especially valuable to beginners in the e-commerce sector since they can bootstrap their business at minimum cost and see if it will work out before spending resources.

•   The slight disadvantage is the possibility of a steep learning curve. Open source CMS may confuse the initiate user, but luckily there’s a trend of striving towards simplicity in the industry.

In my eyes there’s a clear winner here. Of course, you may have certain needs and preferences that lean towards a custom built CMS. I won’t contest this – different end-users have different needs and ways to fulfill them. This is the beauty of freedom of choice after all. Sometimes it’s a custom CMS that will do the trick – but I believe there will always be a better open source counterpart. 

Aside from the listed advantages there’s also a personal motivation for partaking in an open source project. Open source is undoubtedly the future of internet. It is a future that equals the freedom to discover, share, communicate, and create. This future will be of benefit to both end-users and developers; designers and bloggers; online entrepreneurs and freelancers; individuals and companies.

Who wouldn’t like to be a part of this?

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