A Case For Open Source — How Non-Profit’s Can Save On Websites
Don’t get me wrong, buying a commercial content management system (CMS) does have a few advantages, not the least of which is commercial support and well-defined service agreements. Plus, you may find a commercially available CMS ready-built for your needs and will likely be faster to implement than open source. Documentation for a commercial CMS product is usually better than for an open source solution. The average person also assumes a certain degree of safety with commercial software as opposed to open source. All of these PROS do come with a price — A HEFTY PRICE. If your organization can’t find another place to use $30,000.00 then a commercial system is probably your best bet.
Open Source Content Management Systems
On the surface the only reason to try an open source solution (I was once in this boat) is price. Deploying an open source CMS will be SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than a commercial CMS. As is the nature with open source software, the code is “open,” making the opportunities for customization greater than they are for commercial solutions. However, if you dig deeper you will find that having no software license fee will free up your budget customize the solution for your group. Depending on your specific needs, there may very well be an existing open source CMS that has been built to address your niche.
The arguments against open source solutions are generally tied to one key concern — UNCERTAINTY.
Who will support me?
Is there documentation?
Who does the training?
As a result, there is often no brand name or customer service department to offer assurances or assistance. Many perceive enterprise—level workflow management difficult to achieve, and product deployment may take longer than with comparable commercial products.
Creating Customized Open Source Systems
The Open Source System Integrator
Your organization’s leadership is a demanding bunch. You, just want to create a customized, easy to use, well branded solution to offer them without breaking the budget. Using an open source system integrator to customize a “new” CMS based on an open source CMS framework can be the perfect combination of a pure open source product and a commercial one. The TYPO3 content management framework, for example, includes workflow as part of the system. It is robust enough for some of the world’s largest companies, better yet—it’s customizable. A solid content management framework gives you the basis for your own custom tailored solution that meets the unique requirements of your organization.
Using an open source system integrator also gives you peace of mind. These companies offer comprehensive service contracts that rival those from their commercial counterparts. Often they provide improved documentation and even videos to assist in the training process. Finally, they will provide onsite training for key people and some include training new staff as part of the service agreement.
Wrapping It Up
Deciding which way to go with your CMS deployment depends on a number of factors. But ultimately, you want the best bang for your organization’s dollar on the deployment. It really comes down to your requirements, your resources, and the demands of your situation. Generally non-profits find themselves with low budgets combined with hefty requirements and a swift timeline. So a customized a content management system built on an open source framework is the best answer. Look—some of the high-priced CMS solutions really look great, but the bottom line is the bottom line. You need to do what’s right for your organization; I am just showing an alternative.
DISCLAIMER: I am an Open Source System Integrator so this story is biased toward the service I provide. Do you blame me?