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Open Source vs Proprietary eCommerce CMS: Which Is Better?

You know one thing is common between businesses, entrepreneurs, and developers in the eCommerce world – the challenge of choosing the right eCommerce CMS

And when it comes to the debate of open source CMS vs proprietary CMS the dilemma gets more nuanced. 

You’re not alone in this struggle.

This decision can impact your website’s performance, security, and overall success. Each option has its own set of advantages and drawbacks, making the decision even more complex. So, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of these two options and help you pick the perfect eCommerce platform.

What is Open Source eCommerce CMS?

An open source eCommerce CMS gives you full access to the original code, allowing you to modify and customize it, giving you full control over the design and functionality.

You can build your eCommerce website to meet specific business needs, integrate various plugins, and make changes whenever you want without restriction if you choose open source eCommerce CMS. It’s highly flexible and can grow with your business. However, you need to have the technical skills to manage and maintain it or hire a team of experts to do it. Examples: Magento, Zen Cart, OpenCart, etc. 

Advantages of Open Source eCommerce CMS

  • Complete control over the design and functionality.
  • Customization option to modify the code to fit your specific business needs.
  • Easily troubleshoot issues with the help of forums, online resources, and developers.
  • Option to integrate various plugins and tools to enhance your site. 
  • Budget-friendly as there are no license fees. 

Disadvantages of Open Source eCommerce CMS

  • Requires knowledge of coding and development to customize the platform. 
  • Time-consuming as customization and setup require continuous tests and trials. 
  • The owner is responsible for the updates and security patches. 
  • No professional or official support and need to rely on inconsistent community support. 
  • Even if the software is free, there are additional costs for hosting, plugins, and professional help. 

What is Proprietary eCommerce CMS?

A proprietary eCommerce CMS is a platform in which the source code is privately owned and controlled by a company, not open for free access or modification.

In a proprietary eCommerce CMS, the software is owned and maintained by a specific company.  Users typically pay for a license or subscription to use the platform. The source code remains unchanged, which guarantees a stable and safe environment. The CMS provider typically offers customer support, frequent updates, and security fixes. Examples: Adobe Experience Manager, Kentico, Sitecore, etc. 

Advantages of Proprietary eCommerce CMS

  • Users get dedicated customer service and technical support. 
  • Regular updates and security patches are provided by the company.
  • User-friendly interface designed for ease of use.
  • Compatible with a diverse range of commonly used platforms, programs, and protocols. 

Disadvantages of Proprietary eCommerce CMS

  • No control over customization as a specific company handles the entire software system. 
  • Totally relies on the company for updates, support, and features. 
  • Often involve high licensing or subscription fees, especially for small businesses with tight budgets. 
  • Less flexible as there are fewer options to integrate third-party tools or plugins. 
  • Vendor lock-in makes it difficult to switch to a different platform. 

Key Difference Between an Open-Source CMS and Proprietary CMS

Now for the main part that we all have been waiting for – what makes open source and proprietary CMS different?

Well, there are a lot of key factors that draw the line between these two famous CMS solutions. And you should have a clear idea about it. Thinking why? Because you need to choose the right platform for your project. 

1. Ownership and Control

Open source CMS platforms provide users with the ability to access and modify the original code. It offers complete control over the design and functionality of their websites. 

On the other hand, proprietary CMS platforms are owned by a single company, rather than you being the owner. It just limits users’ ability to customize their sites as the source code is not accessible for modification. So users have to depend on the source code provider company to update and maintain it. 

2. Cost

Open source CMS is generally free to use. Generally, the core platform won’t cost you a penny, but the additional cost may come from hosting, features, support, premium plugins, etc. This makes it a great option for startups or businesses on a tight budget.

Proprietary CMS follows a different pricing model. You’ll typically pay a licensing fee or subscription plan to use the platform. This cost can be significant, especially for small businesses or startups. But keep in mind, that it also comes with features like dedicated support and guaranteed security updates. 

3. Security

Security mainly relies on the community or the development team of both platforms. 

Open Source platforms rely on the community for identifying and patching vulnerabilities.  This can be a strength as a large and active community of developers working on it. However, the reliance on community support can sometimes lead to delays in addressing security issues. 

When it comes to a proprietary CMS, it’s important to keep in mind that the responsibility for maintaining security lies with a dedicated team. However, because of restrictions around accessing the code and the lack of transparency about the team behind it, using a paid platform doesn’t automatically ensure security. Users often have to rely on the owner to keep the software secure or find patches as they go along.

4. Technical Expertise

You need to have enough technical knowledge to set up, customize, and maintain an open source CMS. And if you don’t have that there’s a solution. You can hire an expert developer or a team of developers who are experienced in handling these aspects. 

As the proprietary platform owner handles updates and security patches, it requires minimal technical knowledge to get started.

5. Flexibility and Customization

Open source CMS platforms are highly flexible. You can add, remove, or alter any feature to suit your needs. That means extensive customization is possible here. 

On the contrary, proprietary CMS platforms are less flexible. You are confined to the features and functionalities provided by the company. 

6. Integration with Third-Party Tools

Open Source platforms offer flexibility for integrating with third-party tools. However, ensuring smooth integration and finding compatible options may require some technical expertise.

As the proprietary CMS is more restricted and under the control of a specific owner, there are limitations with third-party integration.

Open Source CMS vs. Proprietary CMS: A Quick Comparison Table

Here’s a table summarizing the differences between Open Source vs Proprietary eCommerce CMS – 

Feature Open Source CMS Proprietary CMS 
Ownership and ControlFull access to code Source code protected 
CostFree core platform, additional cost for hosting and pluginsSubscription or licensing fees
SecurityCommunity-driven securityA dedicated security team depending on the owner company 
Technical ExpertiseRequired or need to hire developer for setup and customization User-friendly interface, minimal technical knowledge needed
Flexibility and CustomizationHighly flexible and extensive customization optionsLimited flexibility and confined to built-in features
Integration with Third-Party ToolsPossibleLimited possibilities 

Table: Difference between Open Source and Proprietary eCommerce CMS

Open Source vs Proprietary eCommerce CMS – Which One to Choose?

Now comes the million dollar question: which platform should you choose for your eCommerce business? 

Well, let me make it loud and clear – there’s no “one size fits all” answer. What does it mean? It means that depending on priority and specific needs the choice between open source vs proprietary eCommerce CMS varies. 

But I can help you with some criteria that you can and definitely should consider before taking this important decision –

 Choose an Open Source eCommerce CMS if – 

  • You have a limited budget
  • You need full control of the platform 
  • You need a fully customizable platform 
  • You or your team have technical expertise 
  • You want a platform that can be tailored to your exact needs
  • You do not require dedicated support and can rely on community support 

Choose a Proprietary eCommerce CMS if – 

  • You prefer a user-friendly interface that requires less technical knowledge to work with 
  • You need reliable, dedicated, and professional support 
  • You want regular updates and security patches 
  • You have the budget for licensing or subscription fees
  • You don’t require extensive customization options and are satisfied with the built-in features 

Final Words 

And that’s a wrap! I hope this comparison of open source CMS vs proprietary CMS helps you choose the right one for your business. Open source options offer flexibility and control, while proprietary solutions provide ease of use and support. Before choosing one, consider budget, technical skills, customization needs, etc. Both types have their own strengths, so weigh the pros and cons carefully to find the best fit for your eCommerce platform.

See you in the next blog!


Is proprietary software high quality?

Proprietary software is often of high quality as it is developed and maintained by dedicated professional teams, who ensure smooth performance and dedicated support.

Will I need to pay for updates with Open Source CMS?

Updates for open source CMS are usually free, but you may need to pay for professional support or customization related to these updates.

Isn’t Proprietary CMS more secure because it’s not open source?

Not necessarily.  Open Source platforms can be secure if you stay updated with the latest security patches from the community. Proprietary platforms guarantee updates, but the responsibility ultimately falls on the vendor or the source code owner.