Open Source or Proprietary CMS?

Published on March 25, 2017
Last modified on May 19, 2022

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

What is a CMS?

With a Content Management System (CMS), you can change the text on your pages, add or remove images, manage your site’s SEO, and more.

There are a variety of CMS which are typically divided into two categories: proprietary and open source.

As a basic rule, a CMS is always used when creating a website. However, there can be certain exceptions, such as when you’re only creating a landing page or a campaign site that will run for 1-2 weeks; in these cases, it might be better to do it in plain html.

Is a webshop also a CMS?

Not usually. There are some webshops and websites created through custom development using frameworks.

Having said that, ecommerce platforms such as Magento has a very simple built-in CMS where you can easily make text pages.

WordPress, a classic CMS, can be expanded with a plugin from WooCommerce that provides ecommerce functionalities for WordPress.

Should You Choose Open Source or Proprietary CMS?

Proprietary systems are best for the supplier; open source systems are best for the client.

Using a proprietary CMS has the following disadvantages:

  • The company behind the proprietary CMS can be a small business. If the company goes bankrupt or closes, you may lose your investment and you may have to start over with a new CMS.
  • There are often large fixed costs - typically a monthly rate - which is significantly higher than the cost of hosting an open source system.
  • You can only choose among the plugins and functionalities offered by the company behind the system.
  • The system often develops much slower than an open source system because there are more developers behind the open source systems than behind the closed proprietary systems.
  • If you have developed special plugins, prices are often very high because there is no competition (often only the proprietary system develops special plugins).
  • If you want the design changed, it is usually associated with high costs because it can often only be made by the company behind the system.
  • If you want to switch suppliers but are otherwise satisfied with the system, it (with 95% guarantee) cannot be done because the company behind the system will not transfer the system's source code to another supplier. The source code is needed to continue the system.
  • You can get in a situation where you are bound to the hands and feet of the supplier.

Think well before using a system where you cannot switch your supplier freely without having to start all over again.