Which CMS Is Right For You? [Open Source CMS vs Proprietary Software]

which cms for your businessImagine you are tasked with selecting the Content Management System (CMS) to manage your business’s website. Would you know where to begin?

Many people who don’t deal with web design and development on a day-to-day basis may be left feeling confused and overwhelmed by the options when looking to have a website developed.

At the very top level you will need to consider how the different Content Management Systems (the system used to manage the content on your website) will fulfill the needs of your business’s online ambitions: is your website a simple brochure site or do you need to be able to sell online?

Considering Your CMS Options

After a bit of research you might find that you can work with a commercial vendor who will be able to build a bespoke solution to fulfill your needs online. You may also come across open source applications which provide a solution at low cost, or even for free.

But which option should you pick? Are there advantages (other than cost) of open source? And perhaps more importantly, what are the potential risks you should be aware of when deciding between Open Source and Proprietary Content Management Systems.

Before we delve into the pros and cons however it is probably a good idea to explain what the difference between an Open Source and Proprietary Content Management System is.

What Is the Difference Between Open Source CMS and Proprietary CMS?

Open Source Software has become an increasingly popular alternative to vendor-provided solutions. Open Source Software is a type of software where the source code can be modified and enhanced because the design has been made publicly accessible.

wordpress cmsThis allows programmers access to a computer program’s source code to modify and improve it by adding features or fixing broken parts. Examples of open source CMS include WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and Concrete5.

An alternative to Open Source Software is Proprietary Software (also referred to as closed source software) such as Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop. For these programs the source code is the property of its original authors who are the only ones legally allowed to copy or modify it.

In terms of web design, a proprietary CMS is built and maintained by a single company, is typically hosted by the company that builds them, requires a fee and does not allow access to the source code.


(data via s2ndesigns)

Why Do People Use Open Source?

There are a number of reasons why people use Open Source Software to build websites including:

Online Support & Community

Many Open Source programs have a large community and because they are used across the world have a large amount of online support through forums and blogs.

Keeps Costs Down

Open source can help keep business expenditure down as they are often offered for free. If you are looking for a quick and cheap website with a basic template which you have time to modify then open source might be right for you.

Options & Plugins Galore

Open source systems are supported by many developers across the world, meaning there are third party plugins for everything and anything.

What Are the Risks of Open Source Software?

Whilst there are a number of advantages to open source there also comes risks which may make a Proprietary CMS a preferable option. Some of these are explained below:

Lack of Support

Whilst open source software may have a larger community surrounding it, proprietary software will typically offer better support. For some businesses support for their website is essential, and the option of 24/7 or a direct helpline is a major advantage. Whilst you may be able to receive help for an open source program on a forum, receiving a direct response from a company may be far more helpful.

Vulnerable to Malicious Virus Attacks

Another major risk that comes with open source software is that programs are more prone to virus attacks. With open source it may be easier to detect the code for your website, or even what version of the CMS software you have installed, making your website more vulnerable to potential security risks and vulnerabilities.


With open source you are reliant on the vendor to keep the system updated. Pick the wrong software and in a few years you may find the community have moved on, development has stalled and your website becomes outdated.

Which Type of CMS Is Right for You?

It depends – both kinds have found their place in their market, and arguably have strengths and weaknesses. To find the right solution for your business you should consider the following areas:

How Much Custom Functionality You Need

If you need a website with bespoke features you may be better choosing a proprietary CMS as a developer will be able to tailor the website exactly to your needs.

Your Content Requirements

Do you need regular access to your website? If you are looking to set up a website and leave it untouched open source may be more useful.

Your Budget

Open source CMS is generally less expensive but as mentioned previously can be at greater risk for malicious viruses.

The Long Term Aims of Your Business

Choosing a proprietary CMS may mean that you have the support you need in the long term to continually improve your website. If your business is highly reliant on its website, for example an Ecommerce business then it may be more beneficial to choose a web design company who will be able to provide the support needed to grow your business in the long term.

In the end, all of these factors and more will come into play and each individual business will have different areas they will prioritize.

Need Some Help?

If you are still confused as to which CMS solution is right for your business’s needs online or have anyt further questions about your business’s aims please contact the team at Adeo Group.

Adeo Group are a digital agency with offices in the UK & UAE. Since 2004, we have been building online solutions to serve businesses on all ends of the spectrum, from small startups to fully functioning Ecommerce businesses. For more information you can reach us: 0141 218 4422 or email us: info@adeogroup.co.uk

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