When people evaluate a Content Management System for a B2B website, they often miss some very important requirements. They always seem to look for the one that’s ‘best’ and cheapest. Instead, they should base the choice on the intended audience and skill set of the site operators.
Probably the biggest mistake is going for a Content Management System that is perceived as ‘free’. This is a mistake because there is skill in running a website, and many ‘free’ CMS require a multitude of skills and time to develop, test and deploy. This does not end up being a one-time cost either.
Let’s look a little closer at the various options without getting lost in a particular CMS.
There are many ‘community’ based software projects like WordPress, Drupal, Mambo, Joomla!, Post Nuke and a whole lot more that are technically free. That is, the source code is
available to everyone and can be freely modified and distributed, but not sold.
These projects are excellent sources for development applications but are not some kind of out-of-the-box solution. Many times they end up in the hands of inexperienced but well meaning people who get completely lost in the complexity and the assumption of open-Source software that you know what you are doing, and if not, you will find the answer. That is, no technical support.
It’s true there are user forums and it’s true that open source is a great hobby. But if you are not willing to dedicate your precious time learning about the applications and getting under the hood, then ‘free’ is not ‘free’.
Closed-source software applications are proprietary. That means the code behind the application is not available and is usually a trade secret. This is done for business reasons. It’s very difficult to develop software without money.
Companies license their closed-source applications for use only, not modification. Closed-source software companies like Oracle or Microsoft also offer paid support.
The big drawback to closed-source is its cost: It’s relatively expensive and requires additional resources (as does open-source) such as web servers and operating systems.
Hosted Services (SaaS)
Answering the call of the small business hosted services are application service providers (ASP) and the new breed, SaaS, or Software as a Service. This means you rent the application and not own it. This is an easy way for small businesses to get the tools that the big businesses already have. Probably the most well known is SalesForce, a Customer Relationship Management system that offers cradle-to-grave tracking of business leads and contacts.
A powerful inbound marketing platform called HubSpot incorporates blog, website and content management along with powerful analytics to track leads generated through a process called ‘closed loop marketing’. This is a process of gaining feedback in the form of email addresses, phone numbers and business addresses as lead follow-up, and data to track results.
There are also times when unscrupulous website designers sell an open-source application branded as their own. It’s important to understand and compare your options. It’s fairly easy to check on a brand by using a search engine like Google. You should be able to find a fair amount of feedback on a particular system you are interested in.
What you get for free is a lot of work. I know. I have a ‘free’ sail boat in my back yard. Free comes in many forms.