Pitfalls Of Using A Proprietary Content Management System

Wordpress, an open source CMS, is open on a MacBook Air.

Anytime a digital marketing partner uses the word “proprietary” a big red flag should pop up in your mind. 


Digital marketing companies, agencies, consultants, etc. often use proprietary services to keep your business tied to their business long term. This could be good or bad depending on your partnership.

More often than not, the term proprietary is used when referring to a proprietary content management system or CMS. At first glance this may not seem like a bad thing.

So what if a company develops their own CMS? What does that hurt?

I’m glad you asked. 

Here I’m going to outline why a proprietary CMS could be detrimental to your business. But first, let’s talk through what it is. 

What’s the difference between a proprietary CMS and an open source CMS?

A proprietary CMS is built from the ground up and generally maintained by one company or one individual who built it. That company or person then has complete control over who uses it, the features, and the functionality. 

An open source CMS is generally managed by one company, but everyone can access it. Open source is typically free or low-cost and open to anyone to use – hence “open source.” 

Why you shouldn’t use a proprietary CMS.

There are two primary reasons to NOT use a proprietary CMS: 

  1. Lack of control and freedom to do what you want with your website.
  2. You’re stuck with the agency or person who built the CMS for as long as your website exists. 

Lack of control with a proprietary CMS.

A proprietary CMS is often limiting in its capabilities and what functionality the developer is willing to add or customize. And, if there is customization needed it can take time and be costly. 

It is also not a given that you will have access to the content or design. If you do go with a proprietary CMS ensure access is built into your agreement. 

You’re stuck with a proprietary CMS.

Before you agree to a proprietary CMS you need to be confident that 1. The developer of the CMS will be in business for the foreseeable future and 2. That you want to partner with them for the duration. If this partner goes out of business you could be stuck with a website that no one is able to update. Or, if you decide the partnership is not working for you anymore, you could be stuck with this partner (whether you like it or not) because they are the only ones capable of updating the CMS.

Lastly, you need to be comfortable the developer is going to keep the CMS up-to-date and upgrade it as necessary with the ever-changing landscape of Google and other search browsers. If not, your website could become out-of-date quickly.

What does this all mean?

Choosing a CMS is important. It is the most important decision you will make for your website. When you choose a CMS, consider a lot of different options and spend time evaluating which one will deliver the experience for your customers and ease-of-use for you. And, if proprietary gets thrown in the mix – dig a little deeper. 

Do you have questions about which CMS is right for your organization? Are you not sure where to start when looking for a CMS? Send a note to amanda@therosedigital.com. I’m here to help.

Published by Amanda Leeman

I’ve worked in digital marketing in Columbus, Ohio for almost a decade in a variety of roles.

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