What Does Open-Source CMS Mean and Why Should I Worry About It?

A content management system (CMS) is a software platform that allows you to easily manage and run your website. You’ve heard about using a “open-source” CMS, but what does that even mean?

WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are open source platforms used by approximately 75% of websites. WordPress is the most popular open source CMS, powering 40% of the internet and including The New York Times, Disney, and Sony. 

WordPress comes with over 54,000 free plugins, 5,000 free themes, and 65 languages. Joomla, the second most popular open source CMS, is known for its power, flexibility, and ease of use. Drupal is a more complex and powerful option that requires advanced technical knowledge to build and maintain. The Australian government, Los Angeles and the White House all use Drupal.

Using an open source CMS has both benefits and drawbacks.

Pros of Open Source Content Management Systems

  • An open source CMS can save money: An open source CMS can be cheaper than a proprietary CMS if you are creating a basic website with little to no customization.
  • The developer community of an open source CMS is large: Using open source software gives you access to a huge virtual “staff” of developers all working to improve the product. Thousands of developers contribute new templates and plugins to improve the platform.
  • A free CMS is portable: One of the main advantages of using an open source platform is that the code is easily accessible. If you ever need to change your site or hosting environment, you should be able to access all the code.
  • They are frequently updated: Open source CMS platforms are constantly improved by a large developer community. Bugs and security flaws are quickly fixed, and the CMS is constantly evolving.

Drawbacks of Open Source CMS

  • Open source CMS customization is costly: For a custom design or functionality that isn’t already built-in to a template or plugin, using open-source software can be more expensive than using a proprietary CMS with built-in functionality and features.
  • You need someone to monitor, update, and support customers: Though an active developer community ensures that open source code bugs and security flaws are quickly fixed, your website won’t update automatically—you must monitor for updates and install them as soon as possible to keep your system safe and running smoothly. Sucuri discovered that between 61 and 86 percent of hacked open source sites were using out-of-date versions, leaving them unprotected by current security patches.
  • Hackers often target open source code: The main disadvantage of open source CMS is security. Most websites use an open source CMS. That makes them appealing to hackers, who can launch large-scale attacks using a single security flaw. While developers are always working to close security gaps, the fact that the code is open source means that malicious developers can examine the code for flaws and exploit them. A hacked website uses WordPress, according to Sucuri’s Hacked Website Trend Report.
  • Finding an open source developer is difficult: Yes, there are thousands. You’ll need to do some research to find a developer with the skills, experience, and work ethic you need for your project and ongoing customer support.

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