Guide to Purchasing a Content Management System (CMS)

content management system money

by Behnam Ataee, CIO Dream Warrior Design Group.

Every business aims to increase profit and expand its market share. The savvy business person makes sure the tools they use today can accommodate these goals for their tomorrow. When dealing with websites, one of the most basic of these tools is a Content Management System or CMS.

As with every other business decision, this purchase requires thought and a basic understanding of some fundamental facts. You must understand the various breeds and their viability. After all, there are plenty of CMS systems ranging from absolutely free to upwards of $100,000.

Even if you consider the most expensive product, CMS use is expanding and based on ROI studies is beneficial financially to the companies that use them.

CMS Breeds

First, you must consider the needs of your company. Is your company handling an informational site? Do you need to have your newsletter process automated? How often do you release PR pieces? Do you have a Calendar of Events? Does the structure of your site change on a regular basis? Do you wish to display more than content, i.e. Products? Guest Books? Forms? Server Management?

These questions and many more need to be answered before you decide on the CMS you wish to use.

All CMS’ are not created equal

There are a variety of programming languages available and there is a CMS written in every single one of those languages. Your options fall into three categories WinASP, LAMP, and High-end languages.

Some may wonder why Cold Fusion has not been mentioned among the options. Since Macromedia was purchased by Adobe, there has been a general lack of enthusiasm for further development of the platform. Most programmers have migrated out of the arena. Additionally, for the same results as you may get with ASP or PHP you would end up paying 50 to 100 percent more

. If you wish to utilize a windows based server the natural choice for programming language would be “”.

The advantages to this method are high availability of servers and an abundance of programmers who can work in ASP. The drawbacks are first and foremost the windows environment itself and the vagaries including security issues, slow performance, and high cost of replication as your environment grows.

We recommend, for your own sake, you do not attempt any data intensive or highly sensitive processes to the WinASP solution set.

If you choose the UNIX environment, you have already guaranteed better security and performance. In the UNIX world there are two camps, the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) crowd and the High-End Language (UNIX, Apache, Java or C++) crowd.

Each solution has its appropriate place, but the ROI of the LAMP environment for small to moderately large companies is superior. Unless you are undertaking an immensely large scale project, you should consider the LAMP based solutions.

The High-End Language solution sets are more efficient for handling the very large scale environments, but the cost of development and maintenance puts them on the top of the price sheet.

Strategic Thinking

To ensure your continued happiness with your CMS choice, you have to plan out your present and future expectations. Usually, a well-written CMS will accommodate you over time.

A top notch CMS in any programming language will have the following characteristics:

• Accessible: It has to be user friendly and accessible to your least technical user.

• Modular: It has to be highly modular, so that when you need a new module (i.e. Catalog) it can be added easily and quickly.

• Extensible: It has to be able to extend beyond its original purpose with l little or no change (i.e. addition of various types of material, or various modules should not effect the original performance).

• Viable: Viability of any software is predicated by its structure. You have to look under the hood and see the Administrative side of things to determine the quality of the structure. This does not refer to the looks or placement of menus, but rather, to how well can it merge with your other solutions for today and tomorrow.

Bottom Line

So, a CMS has to pass six hurdles before it can become your application of choice. First, the Platform, then Cost of purchase and maintenance (ROI Analysis), and finally how Accessible, Modular, Extensible, and Viable it is for your purpose.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mr. T in DC