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By far the subject in the CMS world that has gotten the most attention over the last five years is that of open-source content management systems. Now currently, these systems dominate the market and account for more CMS-driven web sites than any of the other categories combined. The popularity of open-source content management systems is pretty easy to understand once you examine their pros and cons. One of the first things that attract people to open source systems is their price. Most open source CMSs are free to download and install, with no licensing fees whatsoever.
Even better, most hosting companies offer single-click installs of the most popular open-source CMS. This means that you can go from nothing to a fully managed web site in just a matter of minutes. Another huge draw for open source CMSs is the extensive developer communities that have evolved to support most platforms. Because the software is free and open source, the number of developers that actively work on improving and extending the software is exponentially larger than that of those closed proprietary systems.
This community gives a number of benefits to the users of the CMS. Well, first the software is updated frequently, and security upgrades, bug fixes, and code improvements are constantly issued. Second, developers are continually creating modules, plug-ins, and extensions that increase the power flexibility and ease of adding advanced functionality to manage sites. And of course having such a large community of developers means that anybody needing custom platform development or consulting can choose from a deep pool of developers at competitive rates.
I also want to make the point that by definition the majority of open-source content management systems allow you to access their source code and reuse it any way that you would like. Now the vast majority of users will never need to be concerned by this, but when you need to have somebody perform an advanced degree of customization to your CMS, it is comforting to know that you don't have any restrictions on what you can and can't do with the source code. That doesn't mean that open-source solutions aren't without their faults however. Although they are free, that doesn't mean that there won't be significant implementation costs.
As I have mentioned before, that whole 'install it and use it with no technical experience' line, that's a marketing pitch. To properly implement almost all open- source CMS, you'll need to invest the time to learn how to properly manage the platform or hire somebody to do it for you. Not only that, if you're working in a large organization, you will need to have somebody on staff who is a dedicated development specialist for the CMS, or contract an outside agency to provide the service for you. Now the real problem here is that for our more complex needs those implementation costs can become rather open ended.
Now too often people choose an open source CMS because it's free and only gradually come to the realization that they need help perfecting the system for their needs after many false starts and stops. Now this type of rather clumsy approach has given open-source solutions what I feel personally is a rather undeserved reputation, for being okay for small organizations and individuals, but not up to the task of delivering large or enterprise-level solutions. As we'll see, there are many open source solutions that can handle any scale or any level of complexity required.
Usually the failure is due to improper planning or researching, not in the CMS itself. Now another con that people often list when discussing open-source CMSs is support. Since an open-source software is often based around a community, direct support can be hard to come by. Often you are going to have to rely on user forums, existing documentation, or community-created knowledge bases for answers. This can make it time consuming to deal with issues that might arise when using a platform.
It is worth noting, however, that the open-source CMS market is a very mature market, and you should be able to find a development firm that specializes in your CMS that can handle any of your support needs. It is also not surprising that the sheer size of the open-source CMS market is often seen as a negative. The market is so crowded that often finding the CMS that's just right for your needs can be hard to do. If you're opting for an open-source CMS and you're going to do the search without the benefit of a consultant, you should prepare yourself for a long and exhaustive search process.
Now with that in mind, it would be helpful to discuss some of the options that you are going to find when looking at open-source content management systems, and we will do that in our next movie.
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