Content Management, Technology & Development

Determining the Real Cost of a CMS

Few things are ever really free, and a content management system (CMS) is no exception.

If you’re in the market for a CMS, you’re probably weighing the pros and cons of an open source system (WordPress or Drupal, for example) versus a commercial solution like OU Campus™. And you might be thinking that license costs (FREE!) are a big plus for open source.

hidden costs signDig deeper, however, and you’ll quickly see that licenses are just one piece of the CMS cost equation. Adding up the pieces will likely reveal that open source isn’t such a deal after all.

Here are the real CMS costs you need to consider to make a truly informed choice:

Cost of the system: Yes, you can acquire and use the core of an open source CMS at no charge. By comparison, a commercial system usually carries up-front costs and annual license fees that vary based on number of users and other factors.

But that’s where the freebies end. Virtually everything else associated with an open source CMS will cost as much—or more—than a commercial system.

Even open source systems themselves can carry some costs. For example, commercial plugins or modules for WordPress or Drupal require license fees. Take full stock of the setup you need and the associated fees before establishing the final cost for your system.

Cost of configuration: Any CMS will come with initial costs for configuration. You might have an in-house team who’s ready to set up an open source CMS, in which case you’ll mostly pay for their time (plus opportunity costs from pulling them off other projects).

Many colleges and universities that go the open source route, however, find themselves hiring new talent or bringing on contractors to get the skills they need. Given demand for open source CMS developers, retaining talent can be hard.

Cost of maintenance and support: As with configuration, costs here will be determined in part by whether you hire or contract. Regardless, you’ll need to pay someone—or more likely a team—to keep your CMS up to date, address security issues, maintain plugins/modules, add and manage users, and build enhancements.

There’s value in consistency. If you change contractors (or staff, for that matter) you run the risk of losing system knowledge, falling behind, getting stuck, and incurring additional costs.

Cost of hosting: Whether you maintain your own hardware or contract cloud-based hosting, you’ll pay ongoing costs to keep your CMS running and your site online. An OU Campus software-as-a-service (SaaS) deployment offers a cost-effective solution for hosting and maintenance alike—we ensure optimal uptime and push updates automatically.

Cost of design and content: Keep in mind that CMS software and support are only part of the overall website budget picture.

If you’re redesigning your site, your most significant expenses will be discovery, architecture, visual design, and HTML/CSS development. Once it’s up and running, you’ll make ongoing investments in content development.

Your choice of CMS can have some bearing on these costs. For example, if you choose a system that’s easy for users to learn and manage, you’ll spend less on training and day-to-day tasks.

Cost of doing it wrong: Configuring, customizing, and maintaining an open source CMS can be complicated, and mistakes aren’t easy—nor cheap—to fix.

Whether you find yourself changing systems or sticking with the same platform, correcting major errors can mean virtually starting from scratch. You want to get it right the first time.

That’s why OU Campus is a smart investment for any college or university looking for a powerful and affordable CMS. We provide comprehensive services for implementation, maintenance, and support, designed especially for the higher education community.

For many schools, the actual up-front and ongoing expenses of open source surpass the cost of OU Campus, and along with dollars, open source can cost you peace of mind. With OU Campus—especially our recommended SaaS deployment—you hand maintenance and support to a trusted partner who knows all the ins and outs of your CMS.

Every situation is different, but we’re confident that when you look at the full-cost picture, you’ll find that OU Campus makes budgetary sense.

puppy on coach

Understanding Open Source

Delve into four common assumptions about open source CMS solutions.

Download white paper

Share this article:

Rich Paul

Sales Engineer

Rich is a California native with a lifelong love for technology. He has over 15 years of business development and web experience, building several web applications and businesses from the ground up. Now, he's a Sales Engineer at OmniUpdate, assisting the sales and marketing team with demonstrating technical aspects of OU Campus to prospective and current customers. Besides being immersed in technology, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, as well as reading and hiking.