Save your budget - choose an open source CMS

Written by Finn Taylor on 21st June 2012

(Last updated 18th March 2022)

An Open Source CMS can offer a much better solution than the commercial options, not only offering significant cost savings, but also providing a more mature set of features and functions. NGO's, charities and corporates really need to make sure they fully consider choosing an Open Source CMS and the TCO (total cost of ownership) is likely to be significantly less.

Historically companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Lotus and Oracle have built their businesses selling their databases, application servers and middleware to both corporate business, governments, NGO,s and charities. Their argument was always that you get what you pay for - spend the money, buy from the biggest  and most reputable names and you can't go wrong...

Things have however changed - Open source has really matured from a small niche owned by geeky propeller heads, into a serious alternative to the commercial offerings.

If you are new to open source, then the key things you need to know are:

  • Open source software is developed by a community of users rather than a software company
  • Open source is not held back by commercial release cycles, resulting in a quicker development cycle
  • Bugs and issues are generally fixed quicker by the community as they have access to the source code
  • It is easier to find developers as there is a much more active developer community in the open source world
  • Most open source software is free to use, lowering your costs

Admittedly there are areas where commercial software such as Photoshop and Word has the benefit of being much more polished, more refined and ultimately more feature complete than the open source alternatives, however when it comes to running/powering websites we find the case to be the inverse.

The internet is powered and run by Open Source

If you are building a website and need a CMS or you are developing a web based application/platform, then Open Source should play a major part in your decision making. After all, why spend the majority of your budget on an expensive licence, when some for the best solutions are free open source solutions.

Over the last 15 years we have been truly shocked and astounded by the the scale of budgets wasted in corporates, charities and not-for-profit organisations. It is not uncommon for us to encounter situations where hundreds of thousands have been spent on Oracle databases, IBM web servers and expensive Java based application servers, only to find the the solution does not really fit the task and that it was and inappropriate choice.

Some of the most powerful and popular CMS platforms are Open Source

  • Wordpress - Perfect for simple sites, blogs and personal websites
  • Joomla - More powerful than Wordpress, with an active developer community
  • Drupal - A powerful community/social platform perfect for build website which social engagement
  • TYPO3 - An enterprise class CMS platform offering multi-lingual, multi-site, granular access control and workflow
  • Alfrsco - A powerful DMS orientated CMS solution built by a team from Vignette, Documentum and Oracle.
  • Magento -  A fully featured eCommerce platform available in both open source & commercial editions


Whilst there are a number of very capable commercial CMS solutions such as Communique, Open Text, Sitecore etc, these come with a hefty cost often starting at £30/40K per licence (this often increases as you need development/production servers etc), however the additional cost on top of this is finding good developers who are experienced in the platform..... they are rarer (as the platform is a niche) and they therefore charge a premium, ultimately increasing your cost.

Whilst there will be cases where a commercial solution may well fit your needs better, there is such a wealth of Open Source CMS platforms to choose from that you really need to make sure the Open Source solutions are fully evaluated.

Ultimately the Total Cost of Ownership of Open Source CMS systems is generally significantly lower than the commercial offerings, whilst most importantly offering significant performance and reliability benefits.

5 Reasons for not choosing an Open source CMS

  1. You have some very specific functionality that can only be delivered by a specific commercial platform
  2. Traditional wisdom says 'you get what you pay for' and opting for a free bit of software sounds too risky
  3. Your IT department is a Microsoft shop and has decided that their web CMS must also run on a Microsoft platform
  4. You have an internal development team who already knows a specific platform which they will development internally
  5. You have excess budget which needs to be spent on software licences


5 reasons for choosing an Open source CMS

  1. You have found a CMS which suites your needs, delivering the majority of the required functionality out-of-the-box
  2. A larger development community existing (compared to Niche commercial CMS platforms) ensuring you can find quality developers at a reasonable cost
  3. Access to the source code ensures you can change any aspect of the platform if required.
  4. Reliability and security are an important factor in your decision making
  5. You have calculated that the TCO is going to be significantly less

by Finn Taylor