When Free is Expensive: Four Open-Source CMS Disadvantages You Need to Know

23 Jul 2022
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Posted by Crownpeak

It’s inevitable – no matter how shiny and up to date your website is today, the rapid pace of innovation and the relentless onslaught of hackers means that maintaining your website is pretty much a full-time job.

I’ve previously discussed the many security vulnerabilities associated with open-source CMS platforms. Here, we look at four other key areas where customers experience a profound difference between using an open-source Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) CMS vs. a fully managed Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) CMS like Crownpeak.

While open-source software may itself be free or low cost, CMS maintenance costs - which include software upgrades, security updates, and technical support - can quickly rack up significant ongoing bills. In short, when using free or low-cost technology, you get what you pay for. When you look a little deeper, the total cost of ownership (TCO) of an open-source CMS will end up being much larger than you might expect.

Many smaller and mid-size companies start with open-source types of CMS because they perceive them as being cheaper and easier to use. But having to stay on top of the latest plug-ins, updates and patches are some of the most obvious open-source CMS disadvantages, and, along with their lack of security, unanticipated website maintenance and support costs are among the major disadvantages of open-source options.

Quite simply, if you don’t keep up with open-source plug-ins, updates and patches, it’s only a matter of time before your website breaks (or gets hacked). And with open-source CMS all that maintenance responsibility is on you (or the agency you hire to do it for you).

As your company grows and your website needs expand, it is absolutely critical to have a robust security and maintenance program in place. If you are paying an agency to manage your website for you, are they actively keeping up on the latest technologies and threats? Or do you just call them when things break? What happens when the open-source platform reaches end-of-life? Are you prepared to pay a great deal and put up with months of disruption to have your entire site migrated to the latest version? Because if you don’t, your site will eventually stop working as older versions become unsupported.

You have a business to run and customers to please. Your company cannot afford to have any unscheduled website downtime.

Here are four key open-source CMS disadvantages:

1. PaaS (or when the cloud isn’t really the cloud)

It’s worth noting that many open-source CMS solutions commonly use the phrase “cloud” to describe their offering. Frequently that’s misleading. Many popular open-source platforms are deployed Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), which is an attempt to simulate cloud benefits by installing on-prem-like solutions on cloud infrastructure, however that means the upkeep of the software (including upgrades and patches) falls entirely on you or your implementation partner. When a PaaS CMS releases a new version, it often breaks your integrations, so in addition to the pain of upgrading, you also have to rebuild and test all your connectors. These software upgrade implementations – which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and months of development time – continue to plague customers of cloud-based PaaS platforms throughout the lifetime of the website.

2. Lack of dedicated support for open-source CMS platforms

Open-source systems are challenging when it comes to support – often there’s no one to call, and you are reliant on a community of fellow-users with varying degrees of knowledge and no inside understanding of your website. And this problem is magnified when it comes to our next topic: plug-ins.

3. The problems with plug-ins

Open-source CMS platforms rely heavily on plug-ins to give websites a range of different features. At first glance, the thousands of plug-ins available for open-source CMS seem impressive and easy to access. But they have more than a few issues, and this extensibility comes at a price, particularly as your website becomes more complex:

  • The more plug-ins you have, the more there is to maintain. If you don’t update them, your website can begin behaving badly.
  • They break. A lot. One critical plug-in breaks and your website can go sideways fast. This is problematic because…
  • Plugins have no real owners. Because they’re open-source, plug-ins often have multiple authors. You don’t know who they are or where they come from or what their intentions are, be they good or bad or incompetent.
  • There’s no consistent support. With multiple, anonymous authors comes no real responsibility (it’s the anti-Spiderman). That means when you have a problem you may, or may not, be able to find someone to support you.
  • And there’s the hacker thing. If you can access these plug-ins, don’t you think that hackers can do the same? Why put a lock on your front door if the key can be copied by anyone? When you are responsible for ensuring that your company’s website doesn’t go down, do you really want to rely on source code that is truly open to anyone, even that rogue player out who can hold your company hostage?

4. Headaches with end-of-life open-source platforms

Going open-source means you have to manage and endure painful forced upgrades when product versions reach their end of life and are no longer supported by the community, or you’ll incur costly upgrade support from your web agency. Either way, it’s expensive and you risk downtime. And let’s be clear, website downtime impacts your customers and that might cause you to lose revenue. At the same time, the longer you put off upgrading to the latest platform, the more it opens your website up to hackers. That’s a tough one to explain to your CEO.

Let’s be honest, this isn’t like upgrading a new iPhone. Installing new packages, ripping-and-replacing old software requires a small army of system engineers and developers which are quite costly. Suddenly that “cost saving” aspect of using open-source becomes an expensive hit to your bottom line.

Future-proof your website with a true SaaS CMS:

If you’re facing an upgrade to your open-source CMS or considering your next platform – now is the time to make the move with a CMS migration to a more modern, robust, true SaaS CMS like Crownpeak’s Digital Experience Platform.

1. Give PaaS a pass

If your CMS is hosted in the cloud, you might as well get all of the advantages and benefits it can offer – and you won’t get that with PaaS. Since Crownpeak is a multi-tenant SaaS solution, it is built to scale. The latest features and technologies are always available, and the decoupled, headless architecture means the product is interoperable by design – new product integrations and updates won’t break your website. Upgrades are automatic and behind-the-scenes, which means you will always be on the latest version with automatic access to new features, performance improvements, and security enhancements without any additional costs or worry. That gives your team more time to focus on the content and the flexibility to delight your customers with cutting-edge digital experiences across every channel.

2. We’ve got your back

Your customers depend on your website to be up and running at all times, as do your C-suite executives. Our software is fully maintained by us, 24x7/365, for you. Security updates are applied automatically, ensuring you always have the latest. And with Crownpeak, you know exactly who to call when you need something. You won’t have to depend on a global network of random open-source developers who may or may not be there when you run into a problem. Our dedicated team is here to make sure you have a great customer experience.

3. Never chase plug-ins again

In contrast to the wild west of open-source CMS plug-ins, where anything goes (or comes at you unexpectedly), with Crownpeak’s true SaaS CMS your website is always up-to-date and fully protected.Crownpeak’s composable architecture is API-based, allowing you to integrate new, best-of-breed functionality quickly and easily, ensuring compatibility and security are maintained at all times. All updates and maintenance are deployed into test environments to make sure they don’t affect additional systems before they are deployed to the live environment and officially published. The ease of adding and testing new packaged business capabilities means you can scale your business without breaking your website (or the bank).

4. Get out of the shadow of CMS end-of-life issues

No bones about it, if you’re on an open-source platform , you’re going to have to migrate your CMS anyway whenever a new version is released. We make it easy now and for the life of your website. Because of Crownpeak’s true SaaS architecture, there’s no inevitable, painful, disruptive and costly end of life creeping up on you, no vendor lock-in and no security concerns or caching issues inherent in out-of-date open-source systems. What’s more, we can get your site up and running in a fraction of the time it takes compared to open source, and with a nod to your CFO, you won’t have to tackle costly upgrades over time. Because it is interoperable by design, Crownpeak is built to scale, giving you the ability to integrate with a variety of frameworks and languages. It is code agnostic and allows developers to use the tools they are comfortable with. It’s easy to copy-and-paste code snippets from popular open-source platforms into Crownpeak, and PHP and front-end HTML developers can work within Crownpeak tools to include custom code or move code that’s already been developed right into Crownpeak. Plus, it’s so easy to use, for many tasks, you won’t even need a backend developer.

As your company grows and evolves, you need a CMS that will evolve with you – without bringing the headaches of open-source CMS. With a composable SaaS CMS like Crownpeak, you select the capabilities you need right now, then seamlessly add to them over time with the latest, market-responsive, best-of-breed capabilities – as you need them. That’s as future-proof as you can get.

A more robust, scalable and easily manageable website is ready for you

Quite simply, SaaS CMS is easier, faster and cheaper to maintain over the long term. Crownpeak offers IT leaders peace of mind and lets you rest comfortably knowing that your CMS platform is safe, secure, always up-to-date and managed by a team of experts who have a vested interest in your success. Our world-class technical managers are always available, offering support for your specific needs, helping you create the composable, scalable, future-proof website you’ve always dreamed of.

Learn how your company can build and scale enterprise websites in record time without ever worrying about security or upgrades. Speak to an expert today →

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