Jon Stewart, President

We often get asked about the key differences between proprietary CMS (Content Management System) platforms and open source CMS.  While ZenSource was specifically designed to bridge the gap and combine the best features of both platforms with open source agility and proprietary security and support, there are some key differences to help you arrive at the right solution.  Whether it's proprietary, open source or a ZenSource type of hybrid platform, the CMS criteria is for selection is a careful and detailed process when considering your marketing ecosystem's future scale.

This article breaks down the key differences with proprietary CMS vs open source CMS and where ZenSource helps intersect both platforms.   

What defines each type of platforms?

A proprietary CMS is a software application that is owned and licensed by a particular company or organization. This means that the source code of the CMS is not available for public use, modification, or distribution. Only the company that owns the CMS has control over its development, maintenance, and updates. Often times, it means that software company also controls where the application can be hosted and supported.

On the other hand, an open-source CMS is a software application where the source code is available to the public for use, modification, and distribution. Anyone can access and modify the code, subject to the terms of the open-source license under which it is distributed. The development, maintenance, and updates of an open-source CMS are typically driven by a community of contributors, rather than a single company.

Here are some key differences between proprietary and open-source CMS:

  1. Cost: Proprietary CMS usually comes with a licensing fee, while open-source CMS is generally free to use.
  2. Flexibility: Proprietary CMS is often built for specific purposes, while open-source CMS is usually more flexible and can be customized to meet various needs.
  3. Control: Proprietary CMS provides full control to the vendor, while open-source CMS allows developers to modify and improve the software to suit their needs.
  4. Support: Proprietary CMS usually comes with dedicated support from the vendor, while open-source CMS relies on community support or a third-party vendor.
  5. Security: Proprietary CMS tends to be more secure because the code is not accessible to the public. However, open-source CMS can be equally secure if it is regularly updated and maintained by a community of developers or development partner. 

Ultimately, the choice between proprietary and open-source CMS depends on your specific needs and preferences. While proprietary CMS offers more control and support, open-source CMS is more flexible and cost-effective.

How do I choose?

It really comes down to what you’ll be able to support and what you feel comfortable with taking on for your implementation and longer term growth.  And of course, your cost to invest in the licensing, implementation costs as well as hosting and ongoing support needs are a critical component.

When to choose open source CMS:  

If you have an implementation partner or an in-house team you trust to scale your web applications, open source is an attractive option because it has total flexibility to develop whatever experience you need. However on the flip side of that, since most open source platforms can be hosted and supported anywhere, you’re also not locked into a particular software company or implementation and support partner. And in most cases, open source hosting options are cheaper because their hardware specs are not as intensive, and developer resources are easier to find.

With open source platforms such as Drupal vs. WordPress, they have a vast community of modules to start with as well as no licensing fee to get installed and off the ground.  While Drupal is more secure than WordPress because it has a much more rigorous and managed security team and process, both platforms make sense when you have a partner that can manage your hosting and security updates in addition to your application roadmap and enhancements.

When to choose proprietary CMS:

If you need a platform that is supported, and often hosted by a company that your budget can support, proprietary often makes more sense.  Proprietary platforms will maintain the code, release security updates and provide dedicated support that with open source you may have to do yourself, or with your development partner. Also, many proprietary platforms are migrating more towards full DXP (Digital Experience Platforms) that integrate content management with other marketing automation, customer insights and personalization to name a few.  While those come at a large price tag, if you’re going to take full advantage of a proprietary suite of tools over time this type of platform may work better for you and your brand.  Lastly, proprietary platforms tend to have solid features for things like multi-site management, workflow and scaling to support many sites or apps in one CMS install. For complex and growing ecosystems, proprietary offers a compelling story.

Why choose ZenSource?  An intersection of open source and enterprise.

ZenSource was designed specifically to bridge the gap between proprietary and open source by providing a best of both worlds approach.  If you’re intrigued by the flexibility and portability open source offers but also need rock solid security, support and hosting options, ZenSource may be right for your organization. 

  1. Open Source CMS – leveraging the Drupal framework, ZenSource has evolved its admin interface and built custom modules on top to provide an incredibly easy to use authoring interface with customization possible for unique needs.
  2. Proprietary site management and workflow level features – ZenSource comes out of the box with granular workflow, permissions and multi-site capabilities so you can manage and scale even the most complex ecosystems in one install.
  3. API First and Open DXP – our headless ready architecture allows you to manage data in one place as well as deploy to any third party app or custom front end framework. It also integrates with any third-party marketing automation platform to create a seamless DXP solution over time as you scale your martech stack.
  4. Secure, scalable AWS Cloud Hosting – optional hosting in our SOC 2 Type II Certified, Center for Internet Security compliance cloud with dedicated 99.99% uptime and 24x7 support.  It’s also more affordable because we’ve architected our cloud to take in your website usage and traffic data and optimize the environment in real time. Therefore, it scales up resources automatically when it detects more traffic and usage and then scales back down when the AWS resources are not needed. Pay for what you need, when you need it, not when you don’t.
  5. Local on-shore dedicated support – you will have a direct line to a dedicated support team that knows your code, your environment and will support your web app, CMS and cloud needs, powered by the best developers and cloud architects in the industry.   
  6. Upgrade Proof – ZenSource wraps is SLA around all your web app modules.  We take care of all Drupal core updates, incremental and version upgrades so you’re always on the latest version.  This is a feature that no other platform, open source or proprietary alike will deliver

For more information, contact our head of jon [at] (biz dev here.) 

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