Published: November 11, 2014Topics: Trends to Watch

Weighing The Pros And Cons Of Using A Proprietary CMS (Content Management System)

Before we dig into the pros and cons of using a Proprietary CMS (Content Management System), let’s first establish, what is a Proprietary CMS? why do you need it? and what are your alternative options?

Content Management System’s are web-based platforms that allows you to add, edit, and remove content from your website, without having any knowledge of html or web development. A Proprietary Content Management System, is a CMS that is developed and maintained by one company, and requires a licensing fee (usually built-in to the hosting fee).

Alternatives to Proprietary CMS:

  • Open Source CMS:
    • Open source alternatives include the likes of WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.
    • The majority of website providers using open source solutions are not actually software developers. While these providers may be very familiar with their favorite Open Source CMS, they are not directly involved in the development of the Open Source CMS itself.
  • Custom CMS:
    • A Custom CMS is a CMS platform that you hire a software development company to build specifically for your business needs. Custom CMS can range anywhere from $50k – $2m+ to develop. With a Custom CMS, you are responsible for on-going development and maintenance, including security patches, bug fixes, software updates, and any new features that you require. Unless your company has an annual web hosting budget of over $1mil, this solution would not be ideal.
  • No CMS (using a webmaster):
    • I can’t imagine too many reasons why a company would not have a CMS platform for their website. Especially since, nowadays, there are so many options in the market, and the cost are significantly lower then ever before. But there are companies that are not using a CMS at all, so we bothered listing it as an alternative option. This requires of course, having a “webmaster” that makes all changes to your website pages. I guess, if your website only has about 5 pages, and serves no other purpose then an online business card, and you only need to make changes every couple years or so, maybe not having a CMS might be a good option.

Pros of using a Proprietary CMS:

  1. Full service and all-inclusive. Most Proprietary CMSs include all the feature required to operate your web presence. The list of features will likely include: design management, page management, meta tag controls, CRM, analytics and reports, domain management, email and web hosting, mobile website design, social integration, email marketing, and possibly many other features. Since most Proprietary CMSs offer all-inclusive service plans, you will get all of these features for one monthly charge (some offer additional discounts if you pay yearly). When using a Proprietary CMS, you don’t have to concern yourself with installing plug-ins, modules, or widgets, since all the features that you need are built-in. However, with most Proprietary CMSs you can still add modules or widgets that are not built-in.
  2. Vertical. Some Proprietary CMSs cater to specific industries. These vertical Proprietary CMSs will include features that are more relevant and beneficial to the industry that they serve. For example, Zealder is a Proprietary CMS that is built specifically for real estate professionals. Zealder includes additional features like, listing management, IDX/MLS integration, lead generation, that are considered necessities to a real estate professional. If you are fortunate enough to be in an industry where there are vertical Proprietary CMSs that specializes in that industry, you would do yourself a disservice by not using one of these vertical Proprietary CMSs. Of course, with most open source CMSs, you can use plugins to add the necessary features, but they will never work as seamlessly as using a vertical Proprietary CMS. Bottom line is, use a vertical Proprietary CMS that specializes in your industry.
  3. Better support. A big advantage to using a Proprietary CMS, is the fact that, the company that builds the software can offer better support for it. Unlike open source CMS, where the company that is hosting your website, have very limited knowledge of how the software was put together, and are not usually software developers that can fix issues with the CMS itself. Most Proprietary CMS providers will take the time to develop extensive documentation to support their entire software. With open source CMS, the base software may be well documented, but most 3rd party plugins will not be documented, and the ones that are, will be poorly documented and not have a standardized set of conventions. In other words, it will be a nightmare trying to figure out all the different pieces of an open source CMS.
  4. Easier to use. Another big advantage with a Proprietary CMS is that they tend to be easier to use. The fact that one company designed the entire blueprint of all the components of the software, will result in a software that is intuitive, and have all of it’s elements in all the correct places. One company controlling the user experience = better user experience.
  5. Deeper integration. Proprietary CMS has a natural ecosystem that allows all the components of the software to work seamlessly.
  6. Less expensive and quicker setup. Don’t be fooled! While most open source CMSs are free to vendors, these vendors will charge you a fee to set it up, host it, and make necessary updates. The cost of simply hosting an open source CMS is usually about the same cost for an all-inclusive, full service plan from a Proprietary CMS provider. But with an open source CMS, you can expect to pay additional fees for integrating 3rd party features, regular updates, and with no guarantee that your custom configuration will continue to work in the future.

Cons of using a Proprietary CMS:

  1. Cannot be hosted by any other vendor. While this is true for all Proprietary CMSs, let’s compare the alternative options:
    • Open source CMS: Open source CMSs may be readily available by many vendors, but there is a hidden truth about these services – in most cases they require proprietary components to function properly. For example, WordPress, at it’s core is a great software for blogging (it was used in the past to host this blog until our needs changed, and we required deeper integration and better management tools). But with WordPress, to manage listings, IDX, CRM, and all other features that serve as the meat and potato of your real estate website management, other components are required. In most cases these components are proprietary, or at least their configurations are. There is rarely an instance where you can switch provider and not have to rebuild your website.
    • Custom CMS: In addition to the heavy upfront cost required (from $50k – $2m+), this type of setup can quickly become a dinosaur. You will end up having to carry that large dinosaur with you, everywhere you go. Since you essentially “own” this CMS, you are financially, strategically, and technically responsible for it’s maintenance. Now if your annual Web Hosting budget is over $1mil, this might make sense. But if not, I would run as far away from the vendor who tries to convince you that a custom CMS is the way to go.
  2. Source code not accessible. Most business owners that I know would call this a blessing. It’s very important to note that, the source code we’re referring to here is, the backend programming code that anyone without deep software programming knowledge, have no business accessing in the first place. However, HTML source codes in many cases, are accessible. Access to HTML source code allows you to integrate 3rd party widgets and modules, by simply copy and pasting codes that the 3rd party vendor provides you.
  3. If vendor goes out of business, your web presence may be disrupted. This is true for any vendor that you choose, whether its a Proprietary CMS, open source CMS, or a custom CMS. That’s why it’s important to consider how long a vendor has been in business when choosing a CMS provider.
  4. Product may be inadequate or may no longer be in development. This is especially true for Proprietary CMS providers that hire outside programmers to develop their product. But, with Proprietary CMS providers that have their own development team (or better yet, founded by software developers), the product tend to stay current or even ahead of the curve. Vertical Proprietary CMSs that are still in development, in most cases, will be far beyond what is available by other providers.

Should I use a Proprietary CMS?

Now that you understand the general pros and cons of using a Proprietary CMS, let’s examine situations where a Proprietary CMS would be your best solution:

  • If your industry has specific needs and there are vertical Proprietary CMS that serves those needs. For example: real estate professional websites may need listing, IDX, and lead management; medical professional websites may need HIPPA compliance. Yes!
  • If you’re a small or mid-size business with a limited budget, and don’t have time or programming knowledge to setup and maintain an open source CMS yourself. Yes!
  • If you want to get a full service website started as quickly as possible, with great support, and with minimal effort. Yes!

Zealder’s Proprietary Content Management System

Zealder is an all-inclusive Proprietary CMS solution, that serves the needs of individual real estate agents and small and medium real estate brokerages. Zealder minimizes or eliminates the cons of using a Proprietary CMS by the following:

  • Zealder is a vertical Proprietary CMS provider, that specializes in real estate web presence management.
  • Zealder also offer custom designs and features, and support 3rd party template designs.
  • Zealder has been in business for over 13 years.
  • Zealder was founded by software programmers, and it’s Proprietary CMS is in continuous development by an in-house development team.

While this article is meant to help you understand the pros and cons of using a Proprietary CMS, it’s not meant to be an exhaustive view on the matter. We’re interested to know, what form of CMS are you using? Have you done your own comparison, and what results did you find?