Open Source CMS vs. Commercial CMS

Companies have more data and documentation at their disposal than ever before. As a result, being able to effectively manage marketing materials, users’ manuals, training guides and other digital content can be difficult and time-consuming. While technology has enhanced many business processes, new tools also come with their own sets of challenges. With so many departments collaborating with one another, content needs to be managed effectively in order to remove the inefficiencies that come with siloed environments.

When deciding on which CMS is best for your organization, you’ll likely find quite a selection of choices. One common question we are asked is how an open source CMS compares to a commercial CMS.

At the very basic level, a commercial CMS is developed by a business. It’s written in proprietary code that is not available to anyone outside of the company who writes it. An open source CMS, on the other hand, is developed by a community of programmers. The code is available to anyone who wants to take a look at it. 

But there are other differences. Here, we offer a comparison of these two options:


Commercial CMS: A dedicated, paid staff that plans a development road map for the product and executes the development based on a pre-determined release schedule. These programmers know the ins and outs of the code because they know everyone who’s worked on the project.
Open Source CMS: Peer production, usually with volunteers, who barter and collaborate to develop an end-product whose source code is open to the public. In this kind of environment, it can be hard to figure out who contributed to the software.


Commercial CMS: Initial user training is included with the CMS purchase; ongoing support and maintenance is available; online support and user group meetings provide additional support and networking between users. You bought the CMS from a specific company, and you know who’s responsible for making sure it works correctly.
Open Source CMS: No training or support is provided; documentation is a compilation of sections written by volunteers and embellished by other users through the use of wikis; users also rely on online user communities and forums for assistance. Most likely, you can’t depend on anyone being there the moment you need assistance. On top of that, the caliber of support you might receive is as good as anyone’s guess.


Commercial CMS: Features are constantly being added and enhanced; competition between vendors incents ongoing development. Companies are always looking to break away from their competitors, so innovation occurs rapidly.
Open Source CMS: New or enhanced features are developed as time permits from the volunteers who develop the product; the product may not have all the latest and greatest features. Even if those features are incorporated into the product, they could include bugs or have security flaws. You never know who is writing the code.


Commercial CMS: Licensing and service costs vary depending on the model (perpetual vs. SaaS), the requirements, and the power and scalability of the CMS.
Open Source CMS: Free licensing; no services are available to configure the system for your needs. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that you might incur hidden costs related to maintenance and training.

Call us at 717-764-9720 or visit our website for help in getting started with your content management strategy.