Static brochure websites are a thing of the past. Today, more and more businesses are looking to take greater control of their online presence in order to live up to the demands of an ever-evolving social web. From blogging to keeping pages fresh for search engines, websites need to change their content more frequently than ever before.

For many companies, this means investing in a content management system (CMS) – one that’s secure, reliable and easy to use.

Of course, this demand has led to a huge growth in the number of CMS available. There are now thousands to choose from and – with plenty of jargon to confuse things – it can be tough to know what is right for your business.

This article explains the differences between open source CMS and cloud CMS, and explores how a business can determine which solution is best for its needs.

CMS in 60 seconds
A CMS provides a central location from which many people can publish, edit and modify content. That content can be almost anything, from text, documents and video, to images or scientific data.

A CMS allows people to manage the structure and appearance of their site, the appearance of published pages, and the site’s navigation (many CMS are used for purposes other than web-publishing, but that’s what we’re looking at today).

Open source CMS
As this article clearly explains, open source software simply means you can see what makes the software tick (aka the source code), and you can change it to suit your needs (meaning it is fully customizable). This is obviously a pro, as is the fact that open source software is usually free and continually updated and improving (because many people are working on it).

On the other hand, this openness can also be a con because it makes the software easier to hack. This means you will need to make an extra effort when it comes to security. Some popular open source CMS includes WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.

Cloud-based CMS
A CMS that’s based on the cloud means that it is hosted on a large network of remote servers. Your website’s content is stored remotely and the actual content management service is delivered via a web-based application or browser, rather than with software on your computer.

The obvious advantage to a cloud-based CMS is that you, or anyone with login details, can access your entire site’s content (even unpublished data), as well as the tools to change the appearance of your site, with nothing more than a browser and an Internet connection. The ‘cloud’ is very secure, fast, and generally offers excellent uptime and value for the money.

Examples of cloud-based CMSs include WordPress, Joomla, and Squarespace.

Choosing the right CMS for your business
Open source CMS and cloud based CMS are not mutually exclusive and, at least in theory, you don’t have to choose one or the other for your business. Many CMS systems encompass both functions.

So why should you know the difference between each? The answer is 1) not all of them have both features, but most importantly, 2) it is just the first part of the puzzle to determining which system is best for your needs. Once you determine which type of system you need, you can determine which CMS is right for the other usability features you need. Here are just some of the questions you should be asking yourself:

– How much do I want to spend on a CMS?
– Is the CMS regularly updated?
– What is the technical know-how of my organization?
– What are the support features like? Will I able to get help when I need it?
– How will it fit into my organization’s current work flow?
– Who will be using this CMS?
– What will integration be like?

And remember, we only talked about web-publishing CMS solutions to help illustrate the differences between open source and cloud based systems. There are countless CMS options that are used for other functionalities, such as enterprise level project management and freelance content management. All of these points and questions will apply, though, so once you have the answers to these questions you should be on your way to finding the perfect CMS for your business needs.

Roland Benedetti is an IT professional with over 14 years of experience in the fields of content management and information management for leading software vendors, integrators, media and e-business companies. With a mix of technical, functional and management skills, Roland focus primarily on innovation in IT, which often implies Open Source development models. Roland is currently working full time for Nuxeo, a software company providing a full enterprise content management platform, open source, for any kind of content-driven application.

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