Proprietary Vs. Open Source CMS

Which is Better for Your Business?

Content management systems (CMS) have become the standard for building business websites. There are hundreds of brands to choose from ranging in price costing from nothing to tens of thousands of dollars. As a business owner is it business savvy to pay for a website built on proprietary software when Open Source CMS exist?

What is Open Source CMS?

In an Open Source CMS, the background source code is freely available to developers to modify and update. The development and support of the CMS are performed by a large network of volunteer and paid developers and nonprofits. You can usually use Open Source software for no cost.

While there is typically one managing body, the software and rights belong to no one and is available to everyone. This accessibility allows the source code of the CMS to be modified by anyone who has the skills and time to make updates and also possesses the technical knowledge to apply these new functionalities to their website. Content management systems can be hosted anywhere including nearly any ISP (Internet Service Provider) or hosting company, or can even be hosted on your own. 

Some of the most popular open-source Content Management Systems used today include:

  • WordPress

  • Joomla!

  • Drupal

What is a proprietary CMS?

Essentially, it’s the opposite of an Open Source CMS. The underlying source code is not freely available for modification and the only support and updates are provided by the company who developed the product. Typically, there is a license fee included for its use.

Proprietary content management systems are usually built and maintained by a single company and typically do not allow its users access to its source code. They are often hosted by the company who builds the website.

Benefits of using an open-source CMS

  • The costs of using an open-source CMS are lower than using proprietary software

  • You want a website solution in a timely manner

  • It is beneficial for your company to make regular updates to the website’s content to ensure that your information is current and relevant

  • You have a unique idea and need to build custom functionality into your website

  • Your online presence is your main lead generator of prospects, or you would like it to be, and you are planning on investing a large marketing effort to your online presence

  • You frequently blog

  • You are comfortable making technological enhancements to your website in a regular manner through add-ons or software enhancements

  • You have access to hundreds of companies making add-ons for your website

  • You and your technology partner have a plan to keep the CMS software updated for bugs, security issues and enhancements

Key Issues with proprietary solutions include:

  • Companies and their software solutions come and go. You have to be confident that the company you’re working with will both be in existence and will be able to continually invest in their product.

  • Usually, if your website is built on proprietary software you have limited ownership and access to the content and design of your current website if you decide to move on for any reason. 

  • You may have few options for software enhancements and customizations, and if you do, they could be very expensive. Oftentimes you are limited to the standard modules and functionality available and there is limited software development.

  • Many proprietary platforms are not current with technology and online trends (including social networking and Google’s updates to their search algorithms). 

  • They are sometimes very difficult to use or are inadequate as they initially aimed at serving specific markets (ex: real estate or dentistry) as they made a grab for early market share and then simply stopped developing. 

Choosing Between the 3 Most Popular CMS Platforms


Initially released in May 2003, Wordpress is the most commonly used CMS platform for websites online. You can select from nearly 1,500 themes and around 14% of the websites on the internet use a Wordpress CMS including Time and Wordpress, initially a CMS designed specifically for blogging, remains an option that is ideal for blog sites. It has a simple page layout unless customized that includes a Header, Footer and Main Body (where the blog would go). There is also a built in Navigational System that automatically generates new links as new pages are created. 

Who’s it best for: A writer who wants to share their stories in a very simple format.


If you own a business and you wanted to setup an online storefront, Joomla! is probably the best option to serve your needs. There are more than 6,000 free and commercial extensions from the official Joomla! Extension Directory, and more are available from other sources. These extensions are more capable of handling specific tasks that your business website need to succeed. 2.7% of websites built on the internet use a Joomla! CMS including IHOP, Porsche and Linux.

Who’s it best for: Businesses trying to either sell their goods online (eCommerce) or drive traffic to their stores.


Similar to Joomla!, Drupal is often used for larger scale business websites. Drupal core contains basic features common to other CMS including menu management, RSS feeds, page layout customization, and system administration. The core installation can be used as a brochureware website, a single- or multi-user blog, an Internet forum, or a community website allowing user-generated content. Drupal is the back-end system for at least 2.1% of all websites worldwide including and

Who’s it best for: Businesses and large organizations with a tech savvy staff.

Contact iGenMedia

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have regarding this information or our services. We would like to hear from you and would welcome the opportunity to discuss your business specific needs. Please visit our website at or call our offices at 630 930 0900 or Contact Us.

Article by Stuart H. Schisgall - iGen Account Manager - Stu is a graduate of Kenyon College with certifications in project management and marketing from Northwestern University and New York University.  His experience and expertisese include: web marketing, search engine marketing (SEM) and optimization (SEO), new media marketing, social media, journalism and account management.


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