Open Source CMS or Proprietary CMS – Which Should You Choose?

Once you set out to create a website for your business or for a variety of purposes, you have various choices to make when it comes to the software and the resources you’re going to use. Having a good CMS to build your website and to make it easy to keep it updated with content, is crucial to your success.

We all have the tendency to want to choose one over the other because it is better in general, but in actuality, there is no such choice to be made here. This article is here to share all the benefits and drawbacks of both Open Source CMS’ and Proprietary CMS’.

Which one you choose, when it comes to any kind of software, depends solely on your individual needs and purposes. From this point of view, no CMS can be judged as better or more superior to the other, since the decision is a matter of preference.

There are some key points in both kinds of CMS that one has to understand, which will help you make a more reasonable and educated choice.

So today, we’re going to share what there is to know about both of these kinds of CMS’ along with their own strengths and weaknesses.

The basis of an open source CMS is:

  • It is open source! Meaning that the source code is completely available for anyone who wishes to study it and modify it in any way. Thanks to this, people can freely extend the code and add specific functionalities according to their requirements.
  • An open source CMS is usually maintained by a large community. There is always a core group of developers, like there is with WordPress, but it is also supported by its user base. People come together to find solutions, help each other and to share extensions that would benefit the pack.
  • An open source CMS can be hosted just about anywhere. Most of them have one click installs in the control panel of the accompanying hosting service, which is very convenient.
  • The CMS software itself is usually free of charge. You can also get plenty of extensions, themes and a wide range of tools for free. But there are plenty of paid extensions and themes as well. Some solutions can only be properly done with paid software. An open source CMS is usually the most cost effective solution.

The basis of a Proprietary CMS is:

  • Proprietary CMS are closed source software. Good ones usually include API’s or frameworks, which allow people to create extensions and add functions according to their needs. They usually don’t allow anyone to access the source code, which can also make them safer.
  • They are built and maintained by a single company, which means that they are also more centralized.
  • A proprietary CMS is usually a paid software, so you’ll have to pay for some sort of license if you intend to use it. People usually pay this fee monthly or annually. It is paid for along with the hosting costs in a lot of places.

The Pros and Cons of Open Source CMS and Proprietary CMS

We know now, that whichever CMS we choose depends on our company’s, website’s or our own individual needs. But what are the individual advantages and disadvantages that makes one better over the other? Let’s find out!

Open Source CMS

Content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla! have got very popular over the years, due to their open source nature. About every fourth website on the internet is created in WordPress for example.

Developers from all over the world saw the benefits, because it made their work much faster and easier. For this reason, more and more people invest work into them, develop extensions to further advance them.

Pros of Open Source CMS

Cost effectiveness – As I mentioned, all open source content management systems can be used free of charge, which makes an incredibly attractive options. This lets you cut your website development costs in half at least. If you have the necessary skill, you can develop a full-blown professional website from scratch.

Regular updates – Few content management systems are able to keep up with the rapid updates that WordPress receives. It has a long history of updates which makes it formidable in this aspect. Other content management systems just don’t have the sheer manpower behind them that would develop them so far.

Flexibility – Everything from the very basic from the most advanced technical details of an open source CMS can be modified or extended to suit you. It is also much easier to find a developer or enough man power to get your project up and running.

Even if you have a website up and running for years, you can easily upgrade it or modify it according to your liking.

Portability – A lot of content management systems come together with a hosting service and it is often difficult or impossible to move a website to another host, because of this. Websites that have been developed with an open source CMS however, are much easier to move from one web host to another.

Ease of Use – WordPress for example has been built so anyone can use it, literally. It was set up in a way that you just have to install it and you already have a website up and running. You can manage a lot in your website, simply by using the interface. It does require a bit of coding if you have something specific in mind, but few other CMS around the world can match up to it.

A huge community – Popular open source CMS’ have millions of developers and enthusiasts all over the world. This makes it easy to have help with building your website and to find yourself a development crew if you need one.

This huge community also strives to make improvements in the system and to enhance it with further functionality. They are helpful and have solved almost every problem that one would come across as they try to develop their website in a specific open source CMS.

Cons of Open Source CMS

Security – Although a huge number of developers are supporting each open source CMS, constantly developing it and enhancing their security, there were always hacks. Due to their open source nature and popularity, people have been studying these systems in depth. They constantly worked to make some exploitations in the system and use it to their advantage.

But this risk is there, no matter what web technology you’re using. If there is something truly valuable on your site, people will try to hack it.

Custom Styles and Builds can Be Expensive – The moment you step away from a CMS interface’s base functionality and don’t have the necessary programming skills, you’ll have to spend some long hours with learning or hire a developer.

There are some free website templates available that are quite good but most of them look cheap.

Developing a custom theme or some kind of custom functionality isn’t a walk in the park and requires some technical knowledge, which will cost you some cash.

Also, some plugins and some added functionalities are paid for, so developing a website doesn’t always come free of charge. In short, you get what you pay for.

Chance of Abandonment – Nobody would see WordPress vanish from the face of the earth within a thousand years, but some open source content management systems do. They get abandoned by their developers, people lose interest in them and they just fade. It wouldn’t be nice if this happened with a CMS that your website was built upon, so you should make a careful choice.

Open Source Platforms Aren’t Always Similar – Each open source system was developed by different groups, for different purposes. They are not equal and a lot of them might not be the ideal solution for what you have in mind.

Popular Open Source Content Management Systems

  • WordPress ( – WordPress is THE most popular open source content management system out there. It offers all the tools necessary to build astonishing professional websites. Although it does require knowledge in PHP and CSS if you want to build custom functionality or templates.
  • Google Sites ( – One of the most user friendly content management systems currently available. This one makes it easy to create a website with simple drag and drop tools, which makes it incredibly convenient.
  • Drupal ( – You can build a lot of websites simply and easily, while sparing yourself a lot of work. Drupal does however require knowledge in PHP and CSS, to add a bit more advanced functionality into it. But it is an extremely flexible CMS.
  • Magneto ( – Magneto is an ideal website development CMS if you’re looking to build an eCommerce website. It has awesome tools for managing products and sales.

Verdict on Open Source CMS

Open source content management systems are advertised as being completely free, which is true. The core of the software is free to use, but once you start to build a website out of it, you’ll notice that most of the places you would reach out to, for plugins, templates and help in development, are all paid for.

Still, the amount of money you will save in the long term will be a substantial amount and will make your online presence much more sustainable.

Proprietary CMS

As the name suggests, a proprietary CMS comes with a set of restrictions, which isn’t necessarily bad, because it comes down to your individual needs. Proprietary CMS systems are usually specialized for a specific industry and the content associate with it. For example, they can be built for cooking websites only or car dealership websites only. The main benefit of them is that they spare plenty of your initial development costs, if you know exactly what you want to build. They make it much easier and much more convenient to manage an online store for example. There are a lot of proprietary eCommerce content management systems that take a share of your profits every month, for letting you use their software. So they can be very useful.

You just have to be comfortable with the company whose product you’re using, because they will host your website and help with any technical issues it has. The company usually provides a fully managed hosting service along with 24/7 support, which is priceless if you’re not that much into tech.

This solution is for those people, whose business don’t depend too much on their online presence and would just like to have a website ticking in the background. If you’re busy with managing your company and the day to day tasks that come along with it, you can give your online presence into the hands of a company. They will take care of frequent updates and keep the technology fresh and ready for action throughout every second of the year.

Pros of Proprietary CMS

It can be safer – Your website is constantly in the hand of professionals who look after it and manage it as well as possible. They provide a hosting solution, install updates, install modules and basically do all the work that is required.

They are also less popular and have less people sniffing into their code, which makes them much harder to hack.

Low initial cost – A proprietary CMS is usually paid for on a monthly basis right from the start. This will cost more long term, but you have no work to do with setting up your website. You don’t have to pay a developer or anyone else besides the company you “hire”.

Constantly updated – A good proprietary CMS has frequent updates. You might receive more updates than what you would receive by hiring a developer or a developer company to work with your website.

Cons of Proprietary CMS

Not Many Customization Options – Since these systems are made for a specific type of industry and audience in mind, it might get hard to customize the website to fit your exact needs. You’re not building your own system, so it’s only natural that you don’t have as much freedom with it.

Lack of Portability – You don’t always get to extract data and files out of your system with a proprietary solution. Your hands are pretty much tied, because you won’t even be able to move your website from one hosting service to another.

You Have To Trust The Company – Since they own the platform and the storage space your website will be built upon, you’ll have to invest a lot of trust into your vendor.  They have to be constantly developing and updating their software, to handle their costumers’ needs better. They also have to be in reach when you need help with your website.

A lot of CMS vendors keep their platforms outdated, so it’s important to do a bit of research and read some customer reviews before you jump into doing business with a vendor.

You’re just Renting Software – Once you buy into a proprietary CMS, you won’t own the code it is built with. It’s not yours and will require a monthly fee from you, to keep your website running.

Popular Proprietary Content Management Systems

  • Ghost ( – Ghost is free but it does have a paid Pro version. It comes in different packages, which offer a specialized hosting package, support and many more. It is written in node.js.
  • Kentico ( – Written in ASP.NET, Kentico is a powerful content management system. It has plenty of features that aid eCommerce, online marketing and building communities, which gives a great boost to your online presence.

Verdict on Proprietary CMS

If you or your niche has very specific requirements and you want the simplest solution, like most reasonable people, you’re likely to find yourself using a proprietary CMS. Keep in mind that it might be hard to move away from such a system. Be sure that you’re in it for the long haul and that keeping your website hosted and built with one such solution is worth it.


There they are! You can see the benefits and the drawbacks of each CMS type. By now, there are plenty of options to look through, each better than the other. But your decision should be based solely upon what works best for you and your business.

If you don’t mind spending more initially, want plenty of custom functionality, good looks and control over your online presence, while saving money in the long term, go for open source.

I hope that we helped you learn something new today and that you’ve found out which type of CMS would suit you best!

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