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Custom CMS vs. Open Source CMS

Custom CMS vs Open Source CMS

Both custom, or proprietary, and open source content management systems (CMS) have distinct advantages and disadvantages. Which direction you go will come down to personal preference, but it might be worth the time to lay out a few notes to help you make that decision.

Here at Five Technology we consider the CMS to be a commodity. What that essentially means is there are hundreds if not thousands of them out there and you are not going to find a lot of difference from one to the other.

  • Each provides the same core functionality (i.e. templating system, navigation, pages, file management, content plug-ins, etc.), but each may go a different route in accomplishing it
  • Open source has a library of content plug-ins provided by the community, whereas proprietary systems have a library of plug-ins that have been built over the years
  • Some are built on LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) while others are .NET (Microsoft) technology
  • Your data is stored in a database and thus easy to distribute and/or move if needed
  • The CMS has a method for customization of plug-ins, assuming you have access to the plug-in code
  • The overall cost to build, maintain, and support the CMS as well as your site is typically the same over time

If a website development company claims the CMS they offer is a competitive advantage, there probably isn't a lot of depth as to what they can offer you. With all being equal, there can be yellow lights that might cause you to lean one direction or another however.

  • Custom content management systems will generally have access to all source code and will be able to customize anything within the core CMS as needed. Open Source will generally be required to stay within the confines of released versions.
  • Open source platform may not have updated plugins for the functionality you require. While this scenario would be the same as a custom CMS where that plugin has not been built yet, a custom CMS team generally has less challenge building new plugins.
  • Proprietary or custom content management ties you to your website company a bit more than would be the case with open source CMS. Not as much as one might think though!
  • The cost to scale is much higher with open source, especially if your website has a lot of custom functionality.
  • Typically the cost to get started is lower with open source, but things tend to even out after your first few updates (core CMS as well as content plug-ins).

If you are looking for an black and white answer, you'll have to change the question. The real advantage of any CMS lies with the development team implementing your website and their comfort level and/or ability with the system. We recommend you choose a website development company you trust can deliver on time and on budget, and let them choose the CMS they are most proficient with.