There are indeed advantages to both options, but the choice of system will largely depend on the system requirements from a functionality perspective. The case for a custom build can only be made effectively if the system functionality requirements cannot be served by the open source alternatives.
The reasons for this are as follows:
In the past, open source systems received criticism for security vulnerabilities and a susceptibility to getting hacked. The issue was that, as source code is within the public domain, committed hackers would be able to easily acquire the source code and work on exploiting system vulnerabilities which could, potentially, give them access to thousands of systems. In the past, this was perhaps the biggest reason for going custom build.
In recent years, the mainstream open source CMS systems have really tightened-up on security with frequent updates being issued to keep ahead of the hackers. While issues still remain with older open source CMS, the newer versions – provided they are frequently updated – are as robust, if not more so, than their custom-built cousins.
In contrast, custom-built CMSs are often the brainchild of a single systems architect and, whilst other developers within that agency are able to offer superficial support, it is often the case that no one really knows the system like the lead developer. This can often be debilitating to the speed of developing add-on functionality later within a project (if the lead is tied-up on other projects) but, in a worst case scenario, could potentially cause terminal problems to future support and development if that lead developer leaves the agency. Custom-build carries an implicit long-term tie-in to an agency and this can have dangerous consequences when a business relies heavily on its web presence and web systems to operate.
There are of course caveats to a system being easily portable from one agency to another. The original build has to be executed to the highest of standards with coding following to the letter of the guidelines provided by the individual platforms.
As an agency, we have in the past (and, in fact, again very recently) adopted a project where the execution of the coding for almost all of the add-on peripherals was in a pretty nasty state. It takes time to unravel the mess and, for this reason, it is important that the team building the core system have a number of years’ coding experience with open-source CMS so that in the future the system can be easily adopted by a third party. All systems built by BORN are to such high standards.
Satisfied that open source is secure, we really need to consider whether open source will provide the necessary functionality. There is now a huge community involved in open source CMS coding, with an extensive library of extensions, add-ons and plugins readily and cheaply available. Basic features are inherent in almost all mainstream platforms, with super-easy user interfaces having evolved in recent years. Even complex functionality features are usually supported by an available extension or plug-in, which can be quickly adapted to suit the needs of the website and application.
But perhaps the biggest advantage to open source is the level of support. Worldwide, there are now thousands of developers that can support open source CMS. In the UK alone, the number of web development companies that could easily adopt a system originally developed by another agency is certainly in the hundreds. From a business continuity and resilience perspective, the level of support that exists in the market transfers control of the website away from the contracted developer to the website owner.
In real terms, this means that a system built on an open source CMS platform by BORN could be transferred to another competent agency seamlessly, within a very short handover window of just a few days.
This vast community of support also means better resilience within agency. As I am writing this, the CV of a competent Drupal developer has dropped into my inbox. While just a coincidence, the point is that there are plenty of decent developers out there and an agency like BORN would find it relatively easy to secure additional or replacement staff. These factors demonstrate that an open source system is unrestricted from reliance upon a single agency, or an individual developer within that agency.
So from a security, continuity and resilience, portability, maintainability and usability perspective, as an agency we can wholeheartedly recommend open source CMS. And we can narrow this down to one of a couple of choices quite quickly.
If you are thinking of migrating from a custom built CMS to open source, please contact BORN and we will be delighted to provide a competitive quotation to undertake the migration and ongoing support.
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