When it comes to open source software (OSS), content management systems (CMS) and doing business, you can fill pages upon pages with myths and misconceptions. Which I won’t, because it’d be nice if you stayed around a bit.
While the following statement may upset some, it does hold true: there are open source CMS on the market that are absolutely NOT the best fit for enterprises. And while there are some CMS than can be transformed to enterprise-grade, others simply can’t. The good news? Some CMS are enterprise-grade right from the beginning.
There’s no such thing as “the best CMS”, but there are “CMS that are more appropriate for enterprises”.
When choosing a CMS, defining its purpose beforehand will make it easier to identify what your software has to deliver. You can then grab that list of must-haves and nice-to-haves, and start moving from purpose to impact.
Open source CMS frameworks like TYPO3 CMS are a bit like Lego in that you can build anything you want with them with virtually no limitations. They’re truly powerful and ideal for building complex solutions (but not for smaller projects!).
This one’s usually the first myth you come across when first hearing about open source software. A lot of people believe that OSS is just about saving money. It’s not. The move towards open-source technology in the past two decades has been a much more fundamental shift. Open source software isn’t about saving money, it’s about gaining control over your digital world.
That being said, it’s true that commercial software can cost thousands of dollars on initial purchase and on recurring licence fees every year. And yes, OSS systems are generally available free of charge on various platforms like GitHub or Bitbucket.
The biggest difference between open source and proprietary software is the licensing cost.
To understand what “free” means in this context, you first have to understand what you actually pay for with proprietary software. Most proprietary CMS charge a recurring licence fee every year. Some charge on other levels too, like the amount of editors on a team or the amount of pages or languages used. And some charge for both, and for more.
Given the fact that most open source systems are available free of charge, we could now argue that, yes, OSS is cheaper.
But while the initial installation of OSS is free of charge, you’ll need professionals to get the system customized to your wishes. And as you have access to the source code, you have 100% freedom to get the software changed to perfectly fit your needs. This takes both time and money. Taking this into account, the total cost of your website could be higher in the end because you’ll be getting it tweaked to be exactly as you want it to be. It’ll also be delivering immediate ROI.
Let’s assume you found a great open source CMS vendor and saved 50.000 Euros of license fees. You could now talk to controlling and party hard with the saved money.
But since you already allocated the budget for the CMS anyways, think about investing in a better concept or a better User Experience (UX) instead. Your users will thank you.
Every dollar spent on User Experience is a dollar well spent.
In the end we can say that this myth is plausible. Open source software can come out cheaper, but it is wiser to spend the saved budget on other tasks of the website instead.
Unfortunately that does hold true for a lot of smaller solutions. And when development communities think about “support” they most likely mean a forum or mailing list where questions can be asked, like how to implement a certain feature. That is not what professional support is about.
Luckily, bigger players in the open source realm have realized the need to professionalize the supporting structures around OSS and have therefore established professional, vendor-based support and even Service Level Agreements. Given the fact how much more professional the open source industry has become in such a short time, we can safely consider this myth busted.