The Best CMS for Higher Ed: Self-Hosted or SaaS?

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Technology & Development

The Best CMS for Higher Ed: Self-Hosted or SaaS?

ladders going up to cloudsIn your quest to choose the best web content management system (CMS) for your college or university, you’re going to come across the choice of either SaaS or Self-Hosted.

So, what do these terms even mean, and which is best for your institution?

SaaS is an acronym for “Software as a Service.” With a SaaS system, you simply purchase a license and then access the software online. Your connection is secure, the CMS is safely stored in the cloud where files can be accessed anywhere and at any time, and your CMS vendor’s expert tech team makes updates worry-free with ongoing system maintenance. Best of all, moving your CMS to the cloud reduces your expenditures of effort, time, and money, easily shaving 20% or more from the IT budget.

Self-Hosted is a do-it-yourself solution. Your institution will purchase, manage, maintain, and be responsible for the software and hardware, operating systems, servers, and networking used by your institution. With data stored locally, your school has full control of the system.

Which one is right for your school?




Autonomy Complete data autonomy with institution having total control over all centralized data Strict security measures safeguard all data in the cloud
Direct Costs Institution invests in and owns all hardware; up-front costs usually include ongoing maintenance and support staff costs No up-front capital costs for purchasing, installing, or hosting software and no costs for maintaining, securing, or replacing hardware
Ease of Use May take more time to get up and running; institution is responsible for technical implementation Less time-intensive to implement; CMS provider handles all technical aspects of implementation
Control Institution has complete control over all infrastructure CMS provider experts manage and monitor your school’s website data
Integration with Other Systems Institution must have deep knowledge of other campus systems and is responsible for all integrations CMS provider handles integrations as specified by the institution
Longevity System is owned and operated by institution; despite security and operating risks, can use software long after it is out of date System stays current as long as vendor is in business
Maintenance & Updates Institution’s IT team is in charge of day-to-day system maintenance, as well as scheduling updates System maintenance included in licensing fees, as well as automatic updates without service interruption
Mobility & Accessibility Website files are available to update when system is up and running Website files are available to update 24/7/365 from any internet connection
Scalability Hardware can accommodate set number of users; additional expenses are incurred to purchase add-on hardware as users increase Server space is unlimited, allowing flexibility for system to grow seamlessly as users increase with no interruption in system service or efficiency
Security Institution’s IT team monitors security and makes updates to system as time allows; data is secure in centralized location, but without ongoing monitoring, could be vulnerable to internal leaks and security breaches All patches and updates are monitored daily by CMS provider; ongoing monitoring wards off critical privacy and security issues to ensure optimal protection
Staff Dedicated institution personnel required to keep system running efficiently and effectively Limited school resources needed as hardware infrastructure and management are CMS provider’s responsibility


Understanding that college and university staff have limited time and even more limited budgets, OmniUpdate made the leap years ago to offer a SaaS solution. In fact, OU Campus was the first cloud-based CMS in higher education. Today, we have more SaaS customers than any other CMS provider in the higher ed market, and 85% of our customers choose SaaS because it’s less expensive, makes their work easier and more productive, and leaves less room for error since we do all the maintenance and updates for you. However, we also continue to offer Self-Hosted deployments for schools that prefer to manage their own systems.

Considering a new CMS for your institution? Download our white paper, Choosing the Right Campus CMS: A Guide to Process, Platforms, and Potential for Higher Education.

Download white paper

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