The Hidden Costs of an Open Source CMS
When it comes to building your new website,one of the most important decisions you and your web development team will make is which content management system (CMS) to use.
Open source solutions such as Wordpress and Drupal are increasingly popular options. As with other open source projects, they offer some compelling features—a library of community-developed plugins and modules, no licensing fees and access to the source code. These perks are certainly attractive, but make sure to also consider that while open source solutions may be free and open, and therefore possibly more attractive than a proprietary or “closed” solution, that doesn't mean they don't come without a price. In other words, there are often hidden costs or compromises behind the veil of “free”.
Here are a few of these important factors to consider before you choose an open source solution.
The Oh-Crap Moment
When something goes wrong on your site or you need a quick turnaround on a new feature, you or your developers may find yourself at the mercy of an expensive learning curve or unorganized and often out-dated online documentation. Also, consider that open source projects don’t come with a support line—not without a cost, at least.
The most intriguing attributes of open source solutions can also be the scariest—you have access to a community of developers who are constantly developing new code. On the one hand that sounds great—a free workforce! On the other hand, some 10 year old 10,000 miles away may write an unstable "hello world" plugin that eventually gets installed on your enterprise website. That's not just scary, it's a liability for you, your business and your customers.
(Planned) Change is Good
With open source, changes in the software are always available, but they're also inevitable—which isn't always good. When Wordpress 2.7 (Coltrane) came out, it brought with it a new interface. Most people would agree that the changes were a welcome improvement, but beyond that is a deeper concern—it's a change that was out of your control and one that forces you to update your CMS interface or risk running an older version, which often has security concerns. This could also lead to training needs for your staff, the need to update incompatible plugins and other hidden maintenance costs.