Open Source vs Proprietary CMS – what’s right for you?

Deciding on the right Content Management System your new or updated website is an important but sometimes bewildering process.

The CMS is the technology that delivers your words, images and products from a database into your website. Imagine it as the foundation a house rests on – it needs to match the needs of your business and your visitors as time goes on and your business needs change.

There are many competing CMS platforms out there to choose from and new entrants to the market appear almost weekly. Every CMS needs to have search engine optimisation, an easy to use content editor and be able to handle multiple users at once.

Two of the terms you’ll see repeatedly while looking for a CMS are Open Source and Proprietary. In simple terms, these refer to how the software is developed and who owns the software

What do “Open Source” and “Proprietary” mean?

Open Source software is developed by multiple people (from dozens to hundreds) all around the world all working towards a common goal of expanding and supporting an existing CMS, which is typically free to download and use.

The term “open source” refers to how the “source code” (the underlying software that makes the CMS work in a modern web browser) is available for anyone to read, modify and install as they like. Examples of open source Content Management Systems are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

Proprietary software is generally owned, managed and updated by a software development company that earns income by selling the base software and further updates and support plans to clients. They typically do not allow for modifications to be made to the software by anyone else except for themselves and are often required to be hosted on their own servers.

Finding the right balance

Both systems have pros and cons. While the price for proprietary software can be high, you are being supported by a company that needs you to be happy with the CMS, technology, support and features to survive. On the other hand, you need to be sure you select a company that will be around in the long term as you don’t want to be stuck with a CMS that is not receiving new updates and vulnerable to security flaws.

Open source software on the other hand, is free for everyone but can require extensive tailoring to match your exact needs. There are often hundreds of potential solutions to meet your requirements available from developers around the world that need to be installed and evaluated to make sure they work as advertised.

iFactory uses a wide range of CMS platforms to suit our web development clients in Brisbane, across Australia and around the world in the way that works best for them. We create bespoke digital solutions that mix open source, proprietary and our own custom web development to make your digital project a success. For a powerful digital solution created with your business in mind, call iFactory on +61 7 3844 0577 or email us at to get started.

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