What’s Best for Higher Ed CMS?
If you’re considering upgrading your school’s website, selecting the wrong CMS can have lasting ramifications. And, with so many options out there, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed.
Google “proprietary vs open source CMS,” and you’ll receive over 50 hits to your search query. Some even come with catchy headlines, like: “Battle Royale: Open-Source vs. Closed-Source CMS” and “The Battle of Open Source vs. Proprietary Systems.” Clearly, the debate regarding the best type of content management system is still ongoing… and, apparently, fight-level intense.
There are a lot of content management systems out there, that’s for sure. So, how do you choose the one that best fits your higher learning institution? Understanding the difference between the two main CMS types is a good start.
Let’s start with the definitions. Open source systems, like WordPress and Drupal, are built with source code that’s freely shared with everyone. This means that anyone can apply that source code in any manner they want. The advantages of open source applications is that they can be improved by literally anyone. If there’s a problem, a solution can be crowdsourced from the user community — often quicker than an in-house team with limited man hours.
Proprietary software, on the other hand, is kept secret by the developers. The applications are maintained and updated in-house by dedicated personnel. The advantage with proprietary CMS is that it is often designed for a specific market. There are CMSs are there tailored for the transportation, travel, hospitality, and yes, higher education. Also, whereas open source CMS leaves customization to the end user, proprietary CMS can be set up on the front end for the unique needs of an individual client.
Let’s explore each type further.
Proprietary vs Open-Source: Let the debate rage
If you value portability, ongoing improvement/optimization, and adaptation, odds are good that you’ll be satisfied with a popular open-source platform like WordPress or Drupal.
If your website is built in WordPress or a similar CMS, it’s fairly easy to move into another CMS when and if you so choose. You may also feel secure in knowing that a large developer base is constantly working on improving the features and functionality of the platform. Such improvements are implemented through code updates, requiring very little effort from you and your staff.
However, there are also drawbacks. The code updates can create some technical issues with third-party plug-ins or websites running on older versions of the software. Because the code is available to everyone, it can be an easier target for exploitation and cyber attacks. And, chances are good that your site will require at least some customization, which carries added cost and the potential need for personnel skilled in HTML.
Closed-source programs offer some advantages over their open-source counterparts, chief among them is ease of use.
With proprietary software, there’s never a need for you or your staff to make changes in the code, because the CMS is already fully customized to your site’s unique needs. Any additional development is handled by the vendor. The software also allows for a robust user permission setup, allowing you to easily delegate tasks to appropriate team members.
Additionally, closed-source code has a reputation for being more secure. This makes sense, since potential bad actors don’t have the luxury of parsing the source code for vulnerabilities.
The only drawback with proprietary CMS is portability. While some programs make it fairly easy to transfer website content to another platform, there’s typically no such flexibility for the graphic and structural elements of the site.
So, what type of CMS makes the most sense for higher education? Because it’s better suited for specialized and customized content, we, at Beacon, view proprietary CMS as the better option. Cascade and OmniUpdate, in particular, are two platforms that we work with routinely.
OmniUpdate is specifically dedicated to the higher ed sector. It’s OU Campus platform was designed with features and modules intended for use by universities and colleges.
No HTML experience is necessary to work with either one of these content management systems.
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