Enterprise CMS vs. Open Source CMS: What is the difference?

Whether you’re looking for a content management system for the first time or you’re looking to switch, there’s one question at the beginning when choosing the right CMS: Do I go for an open source integration or an enterprise solution? We explain how the two software approaches differ and for whom which variant is suitable.

Whether you want to manage a website, publish content on a blog or do content marketing. There is no getting around a content management system,short CMS. Now there are a variety of different content management system solutions from classic to headless CMS. Likewise, there are a variety of platforms and providers in the marketing industry. To simplify the selection, one should first clarify whether it should be an open source or enterprise solution when choosing a CMS. Both variants have their advantages and disadvantages and sometimes appeal to different target groups.

What is the difference between Enterprise CMS and Open Source CMS?

Basically, both enterprise and open source solutions are used to manage and display content on the Internet. Depending on the (project) effort, it is not so easy to say which variant is better. By definition, open source solutions are those whose source code is freely available to everyone. In our content management system example, this means that the community can adapt any aspect of the code and thus of the system. As a result, an open source CMS is extremely flexible to customize – if you have the necessary know-how. In addition, the basic features of an open source CMS are free for the time being and can be extended at will. The operation of a homepage on the open source platform WordPress is free of charge, a template, which changes the design of the website, can then be purchased (although there are also free variants). In addition, plug-ins can be installed that enable new functions, such as a comment function or sending a newsletter. Most of these plugins come from the community. The best known representatives are Typo3, WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

An enterprise content management system, on the other hand, was programmed by a software manufacturer and, as the name suggests, is aimed at use by companies. Thus, these solutions are also associated with costs, but the enterprise solutions offer a larger built-in feature and service scope, especially for more complex and professional projects. In addition, enterprise CMS solutions per se come with a professional support scope. In our market comparison, we compared 17 solutions with each other. You can find tips on the right implementation partner here.

However, it cannot be said that an open source CMS is only suitable for hobby projects or that an enterprise CMS is only a solution for corporations in content marketing. To discuss for whom which variant is worthwhile, let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages.

Open source CMS advantages and disadvantages


  • Costs: When using an Open Source Content Management System there are no license costs. Some PlugIns and extensions can be however liable to pay the costs and/or only in the basic version free of charge be.
  • Flexibility: Open Source CMS are a great play, because the code can be changed arbitrarily. Plugins can extend the CMS and thus unlock additional features.
  • Community: Around the open source CMS such as WordPress, Drupal or typo3 has formed over the years a large community. So if you have questions or problems, you can fall back on expert forums and sometimes find solutions quickly.
  • Quick entry: Since an open source CMS is freely accessible, there is a low drop height when entering. One can test different systems quite without obligation and create a page without contract commitment.


  • Support: With an open source CMS you can not fall back on a dedicated support. In case of problems, you can ask the community, but you have to solve the problems yourself or with a service provider.
  • Administration & Implementation: As mentioned, these open source systems are often good for beginners, but the more complex the requirements for the website are, the more complicated the administration becomes. Especially for beginners, it is often then recommended to use a service provider, which in turn increases the costs.
  • “Hidden” costs: Just like the possible use of a service provider for administration, there are other costs that are not initially apparent with open source content management systems. These include server costs, licenses for plug-ins or the purchase of website templates.
  • Security: With an open source content management system, you are also responsible for the security of your own website. This does not only mean higher administration effort and costs for service providers. Since the code of open source systems is freely accessible, security vulnerabilities are also easier to detect by cyber criminals. Plug-ins can also represent additional security vulnerabilities if they are not programmed cleanly.
  • Problems with updates: The more plugins are used, the more difficult it is to update the CMS. Some plugins do not work with each other from time to time or lack updates to a new CMS version.

Enterprise CMS Advantages and Disadvantages:


  • Functionality: Enterprise Content Management Systems bring “Out Of The Box” a whole range of functions. So you don’t have to fight your way through a multitude of plug-ins, but have directly the most relevant functions. Especially for beginners a bit clearer.
  • Flexibility: This does not mean that enterprise content management systems are not flexible. Many providers also offer additional plug-ins, so that functionalities can be added later.
  • Ecosystem: Here everything comes from a single source. The functions are coordinated so that they work hand in hand. This also means that technical problems can be solved more quickly, as errors are easier to identify. This makes work easier in many places.
  • Implementation: Many providers also offer support during implementation. This means that you have a contact person who helps you with the technical setup, but also explains the system at the same time. Especially with larger projects, implementation is easier because you have the necessary functions right from the start and don’t have to coordinate plug-ins.
  • Administration: With an enterprise content management system, you can focus on content creation. Background activities and administration lie with the provider. Technical problems are also usually solved more quickly.
  • Support: There are not only dedicated support staff for questions and problems. Many systems also have their own academy or training programs where functions are explained.
  • Security: Unlike open source systems, the codes of enterprise solutions are not public. This makes them more difficult to crack.


  • Costs: The license fees logically lead to enterprise solutions being more expensive than open source variants.
  • Complexity: Enterprise solutions are worthwhile for companies, but those who want to get started in content management may be somewhat overwhelmed by the range of functions at the beginning.
  • Scope: Not every company needs the full scope of all functions. Possibly one pays for functions, which one does not use. With an open source system, you can put together exactly the package you need. But: many enterprise CMS vendors offer different packages with different pricing structures that mitigate this shortcoming somewhat.
  • Ecosystem: The ecosystem can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. This is because when using an enterprise content management system, you are naturally tied to the provider. If he doesn’t offer a certain function, you can’t upgrade it.

Conclusion and: For whom is which variant worthwhile?

The question of which CMS model is better cannot be answered in a generalized way. Both types of content management systems have their own advantages and limitations. To help you answer this question for yourself, we have compiled a checklist. There you can identify the key factors for your project. If you are then looking for an enterprise CMS, we recommend our comparison of “Enterprise Content Management Solutions”! There we have compared several providers with each other.

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