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The Pros and Cons of Open Source Content Management

Open source software; if it breaks you get to keep all the pieces.

As many are aware there are a number of very popular open source content management systems on the market. These systems offer massive advantages for someone to start up a website on limited or no budget and quickly get a site up and running. Unfortunately the thing that makes open source software so appealing is also its greatest weak point, this software is used by thousands of developers each day with full access to all source code, this means any bugs which can be exploited are quickly discovered. If you have experience in the field you are probably thinking, that’s fine, because its discovered so quickly a patch will be released quickly which users can apply to their page. Here is where things get tricky, in order to get your site patched and secure you need to keep things up to date, as in updated today by someone with the skills to apply a patch without completely breaking any modifications you’ve already made to the site.

This makes an open source content management system quite a risk for someone who simply wants to update content on their site and not perform updates (usually released through a weekly security update email) meaning the ongoing costs outweigh an initial outlay on purchasing a closed source solution, not instantly but over time if you have to employ a developer to deploy each patch it can quickly get out of control.

Closed Source Content Management Systems

The advantage of a closed source system is that the parts of the system that make everything run are only seen by the company which develops the software, finding a security vulnerability, while still technically possible, is very unlikely since hackers (with good or bad intentions) can really only view what the public can see on your site.

Large corporations and celebrities often run open source software with great success, what is not seen in these situations is a team of often full time in house staff maintaining the website, fixing issues as they occur and keeping the software and third party modules up to date in order to prevent downtime.

As an example next time you search for an open source content management system also do a search for “security vulnerability” or “security update” this will give you an idea on the number of updates which occur per month relating to that software package. Consider the costs of applying these updates in both downtime for your website and employing someone with the ability to perform the update without taking your site offline for large periods of time.

Situations where I would recommend open source software are limited to a skilled hobbyist who is capable of researching and deploying software updates on a regular basis or a professional IT developer who is comfortable fixing bugs. I would recommend against it for any company which does not have a software specialist on staff, in the long run you are going to pay a lot of money to have the updates deployed, if you change your mind down the track and decide a proprietary system is a more cost effective solution any money you’ve spent updating your open source solution will be lost.

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