Great content management software (CMS) solutions are a must for today’s organizations. Web CMS (or W-CMS) helps to create, organize, and publish online content, including general websites as well as online storefronts. W-CMS is an ideal way to manage and curate the content your company needs to maintain a great customer-facing online presence.

So: Most of today’s organizational decision makers know that content management solutions are necessary, but choosing the right one may seem daunting, due to the many features, options, and distinctions between different CMS website and document management solutions. One of these distinctions is that between open source CMS and proprietary CMS.

Neither is inherently better, but understanding the differences between them can help make the decision making process easier. Here’s what you should know about open source W-CMS as well as some of the top options in this category.

How Open Source CMS is Different

“Open source” in reference to software means that the copyright holder has made the platform’s original source code publically available, and it can be enhanced, modified, and distributed with complete freedom. In contrast, copyright and intellectual property laws protect the source code of proprietary solutions—meaning that one must have the permission of the copyright holder to even access the source code, let alone modify or distribute the software.

Why Open Source?

Open source software frequently becomes a community endeavor. With the source code being freely available, developers around the world and in multiple industries can freely collaborate on creating solutions for a vast array of different challenges.

The collaborative nature of open source development also can be helpful in identifying and fixing security concerns quickly. Open source software solutions are also often free or much more reasonably priced than their proprietary counterparts. On the downside, many open source solutions don’t offer the type of comprehensive support that some proprietary solutions can provide.

Today’s Top Open Source W-CMS Options

There are countless open source W-CMS solutions available, but a few have certainly distinguished themselves from the pack.

WordPress is one of the best known open source W-CMS solutions, due in part to the ease with which it can be adopted and deployed. Its initial claim to fame was its use as a blogging tool—hence the name. Today’s WordPress is capable of much more, due in part to the 45,000 plus plugins available. Small to medium sites, including e-commerce sites, and professional blogs are just a few of the more common applications. Forbes, CNN, and Sony all make use of WordPress for web content management.

Joomla is a bit more technical than WordPress, but still approachable for the user who is willing to do a bit of research. Joomla is better suited to e-commerce and social media applications than WordPress. It’s used by larger online storefronts and by organizations that want to facilitate communication between their members, including corporations and universities.

Drupal is regarded by many as the most powerful W-CMS solution available, although it’s also understandably requires the most technical know-how to operate. It can be adapted for nearly any content management task, including those that require high security—which is probably why you’ll find it used by companies like Warner Brothers. It’s even the CMS tool of choice for the White House!

Choosing the Right CMS Solution for Your Organization

To gain a deeper understanding of the CMS solutions available and to learn what options and features are out there, take a look at’s Content Management Systems guide. It’s a great way to learn the ins and outs of what distinguishes one CMS solution from another, including the differences between open source and proprietary, varying licensing models, and web content management versus document management. In addition to this clear, accessible information, you can also explore a variety of the most successful CMS solutions on the market today via straightforward profiles that help you compare features, pricing, and specifications.

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