The debate to employ either a commercially developed Website Content Management System (WCMS) or to utilise an Open Source WCMS has been widely discussed within the industry. Both options have their benefits but let’s look at the unforeseen complications that you don’t hear about when deploying an Open Source solution.
To clarify, the main advantage with Open Source WCMS solutions is the source code (the code the program consists of) is made available to the website integrators, providing them with the ability to make customised changes to the software program as they see fit. An approach which is great for immediate updates, but is it wise for the long term?
Customised changes to the underlying code can severely limit the future support and growth of the application. This is because changes made to the core software program can impede the ability to apply future updates, fixes or additional modules that are developed for the improvement of the solution. In the event of this happening an organisation may find itself in the precarious position of having to remain with the current version together with any limitations or issues that version may have.
Let’s also not refute the benefits that Open Source solutions can provide technically minded people wanting to get under the hood and tweak the application as and when they require. But before starting on an open source website project, consider the following potential issues:
Free does not mean inexpensive. Free access to an open source solution does not equate to a free or cheap content managed website. The nature of open source implies that the product is not going to be as ‘out-of-the-box’ as you would expect in comparison to a commercial package. This could equate to longer implementation times and a higher level of expertise required when implementing and customising website projects.
If you can’t use it why have it! When developing a commercial CMS package, usability and client support is essential for the survival of the product. For these reasons, CMS specialists take the time to ensure that the usability of the product is advanced and help and training guides are thorough, enabling non-technical staff to take control of their website. Conversely, Open Source solutions are developed around technically minded users. Arguably this defeats the purpose of a client’s investment in a CMS by limiting content management to those with technical expertise.
Plagued with an uncertain future. Developers of Open Source WCMS are generally not driven by commercial gain. Consequently the completion times for fixes and updates can be significantly longer than one would experience (or tolerate) when partnering with a commercial provider. Fixes or updates that could jeopardise the effectiveness of an organisations online strategy are not necessarily prioritised efficiently.
Community support model. Open Source products rely on its community network to deliver support to its user base via forums and web blogs. For organisations looking for a comprehensive support package, Open Source solutions are unable to provide the responsiveness that a product specialist willing to take ownership of that issue is capable of.
For businesses looking at integrating a reliable website solution to lay the foundation for their future online requirements, thoughtful consideration is advised when weighing up the benefits of both options. Choosing an Open Source solution for its immediate and recognised benefits may not always work out for the better when compared with a commercially developed website CMS.