CEO Corner: Cloud CMS vs. Installed CMS

If I learned anything from my open source vs. proprietary CMS post, comparing CMS’s based on the method used to code them is no longer that relevant. Following the great discussion that was triggered convinced me that comparing along this dimension no longer contributes much to the CMS selection process.

The other thing I learned was that being cheeky, while good for attention, probably isn’t the most forthcoming way to educate the readers of this great publication. So this time around, I promise to be more thorough and objective!  Hopefully we’ll get some insights from the community again as well!

Cloud CMS

The Cloud is a term used to describe software and online services that live entirely on the internet and require no installation to a local computer. It is a term that has been trending upwards significantly over the past 4 years.

Cloud CMS refers to content management systems that live in the cloud. Formally known as SaaS CMS or Hosted CMS or ASP CMS, “Cloud CMS” is now the dominant term used to classify this type of CMS, according to the Google Keyword Tool.

There is some confusion in the CMS space over what constitutes a true cloud CMS. In my opinion, a CMS must be a multi-tenanted application to be considered cloud. I do not consider traditional CMS that can be hosted on cloud infrastructure to be true cloud. You know who you are.


Note that I’m a little biased here as Agility is a cloud CMS.

  • You don’t have to purchase servers to run the CMS
  • There is no software to install – it’s just there when you need it
  • There are no upgrades to apply – they are upgraded automatically
  • The fee you pay usually includes support


  • There is usually a fee associated with it
  • Cloud CMS’s are usually proprietary, so you don’t have access to the source code
  • You don’t have as much control over the software
  • It can be harder to get your content out if you want to switch systems

Installed CMS

Here I am referring to a content management system that is installed on local hardware or on a third party hosting provider. This is a more traditional type of CMS and is still the most dominant. Most open source CMS systems are installed, although cloud solutions like and Drupal Gardens are a bit of a hybrid.


  • There are many free and ‘one-time fee’ options
  • There are many open source options which give you more control
  • It can be administered by an internal IT department if you have one
  • You have more control over which upgrades are performed and when


  • The marketing team is reliant on the IT group or third partner company to maintain the CMS which can cause delays
  • You are required to purchase hardware or host it on a third party
  • If you host it yourself, you are required to maintain the software stack on the hardware that the CMS runs on
  • The software can become out of date if not upgraded frequently
  • If your CMS uses plug-ins, it can be time consuming to keep everything up to date

What did I miss? The best part of this site is the ability for everyone in the community to contribute, so let me know in the comments!