Content Management System (CMS) - Proprietary vs. Open Source?

CMS stands for Content Management System. If you would like to create, add, edit, or delete content on your site, (but don’t have the web skills or HTML knowledge to do so), then a Content Management System is the tool for you. It’s as easy as typing a Word document.

Proprietary CMS: (Developed, owned and promoted by a profit driven company).

Open Source CMS: (Developed by a global community; available to the public at no charge).

This article will present facts about Open Source CMS vs. Proprietary CMS so you can make an informed decision.

Proprietary CMS:

  •  Costs money.
  • Commercially developed Proprietary CMS’s require management approval to fix bugs or make enhancements. A company with limited resources may find it difficult to stay on top of bug fixes, leaving their clients with sub-standard technology.
  • Because the source code is not available to the public, there is no way to determine with certainty that the commercially produced CMS is secure and reliable. (I.e., backdoor security holes leading to site attacks).
  • Tends to focus on features that are easily demonstrated (to enhance salability) vs. reliability (which is harder to demonstrate as it is measured over time and usage).                                                 
  • When it comes to support, staff turnover and lack of documentation may affect your experience (because the knowledge base may not have been passed on to current staff)....leaving you in the dark; frustrated and alone.
  • Companies that maintain their own Proprietary CMS may struggle to keep their platform compatible with the latest web standards (i.e., the growing mobile technology and browser market). If they don't keep their CMS on the cutting edge, your online sales could suffer.

Open Source CMS:

  • Open Source developers are part of a peer community and are often motivated by public recognition for their contributions.  They often add features that make the software more powerful, secure and effective for their own needs, then release it to the global community.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is greatly impacted by your choice of platform. The fact is that Open Source CMS's greatly outperform their Proprietary counterparts. This is beyond debate, however that's another article in itself.  
  • Open Source developers often use the very software they are working on. As Steve Jobs said, Apple made the best portable audio player in the world because the design teams were big-time music lovers. They made the iPod for themselves.
  • Because the source code is available, Open Source developers don’t need to wait for approval from a manager or committee to make changes. With no hoops to jump through, they make required enhancements immediately. Tough to beat.
  • If you have challenges with your Open Source CMS, there are community forums available with help available 24/7 (due to the global nature of the Open Source community).

So what’s the bottom line?

All leading web marketing agencies work with respected Open Source platforms like Drupal, WordPress and Joomla etc.


Because their goal is to serve their customers’ best interests and growing needs for the long-term. And that requires maximizing the stability, flexibility, and success of a client’s website.

If you decide to work with a Proprietary CMS developed by an independent company, you need to be aware of potential risks. For example, if you decide to switch to a new web services company, you're going to have to redevelop your whole website in a platform supported by your new provider. Ouch.

There are some extremely popular and reliable open-source CMS’s with an abundance of world-wide experts to help you when needed. If you're careful to select the best platform for your needs (or rely on a trusted advisor), you won’t have to worry about the issues raised in this article.

In closing, consider this:

Would you ever sign a long term contract for a service or product with no guarantee it will serve your growing needs....for a service that may not meet industry standards, by a company that may not be here tomorrow?

Written by Kevin Haluk, Managing Director, InVancouver Web Services & Mike Schell, ROI Director, SmartCast Inc.