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How to choose the right CMS for your business


Websites power much of the internet and are the primary tool for discovering new brands and products.

Choosing the right content management system (CMS) for your business depends on a variety of factors and has a lot of long-term implications for your business. It’s important to consider all angles before investing in a solution.

In this article, we’ll evaluate the types of CMSs available to produce content for a website and the pros and cons of each.

What is a Content Management System (CMS)

The technology platform that allows marketers to manage web content is a Content Management System (CMS). It provides an online interface to maintain and grow the content of a website. CMS solutions are made to solve problems for different types of businesses and fall into 5 main categories: enterprise content, digital assets, documents, component content, and web content.

This article will strictly focus on website content management systems (WCMS) and the types of CMSs used to manage them.
Types of CMSs

Types of Content Management Systems

The categories of CMS used to manage online content depend on two main things: how it's hosted and how the frontend is managed.

The types of CMSs we’ll explore are Hosted or SaaS, Self-Hosted, Monolithic, Decoupled, Enterprise (ECM), SaaS Content Platforms.

Hosted vs Self-Hosted Content Management Systems

The main two differences between a hosted or self-hosted CMS is the maintenance required to keep it up and running, and the control you have over its code and infrastructure.

With a hosted CMS, you trade customizability for ease of use whereas with self-hosted you’ll exchange hands-off maintenance for more control. These decisions weigh heavily on technical expertise, budget, and resources.

Let’s take a deeper look into the qualities of a hosted and self-hosted CMS to consider which option is best for you.

Hosted CMS

Wix,, and Hubspot are examples of a hosted CMS. Hosted CMSs are great for small businesses with tight budgets because there’s no maintenance for servers, security, or support teams. A business that needs to publish content quickly and does not mind the limitations of a platform's functionality or design may have the best luck with a hosted CMS.


  • Great for small businesses with limited budgets and resources
  • Great for non-technical beginners


  • No control over speed
  • Limited customization options for website

Self-Hosted CMS (not, Drupal, Ghost, and Strapi are examples of self-hosted CMS. Self-hosted CMSs require monthly maintenance to stay secure and thus require a support team to do so.

A scaling business with a budget to invest in a support team and want to have control over their website would have the most success with a self-hosted CMS.


  • Generally open source (no monthly cost)
  • Limitless customizability, including functions and style
  • Great for growing businesses that want more control over their website experience


  • Monthly maintenance to stay secure
  • Support limitations - Need a team to support / Forum Support Only*
  • If decoupled you have to manage two different systems (backend and frontend)
  • Manual maintenance, painful upgrades, and complicated installations
  • 3rd party theme and plugin conflicts

Monolithic vs Decoupled Content Management Systems

Once you’ve decided on how you want to host your CMS, the next step is to decide on the architecture used to manage the frontend.

The main difference between monolithic and decoupled CMSs are how the functions are split up. With a monolithic CMS, all of your website’s functions are in one system whereas, with a decoupled CMS, two separated systems communicate with each other.

Let’s further explore the differences between monolithic and decoupled CMSs.

Monolithic CMS

WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are examples of monolithic architecture. A monolithic CMS, or a coupled CMS, is an all-in-one solution that lets you save, manage, and publish content to a website. This traditional approach to content management provides both the back-end admin as well as the front-end user experience, all from one codebase.


  • All-in-one system
  • Less development required
  • Generally open source at no monthly cost
  • Great for growing businesses


  • Routine maintenance to stay secure
  • Slow
  • Security target
  • Limited functionality
  • Limited customization

Decoupled CMS

Contentful, ButterCMS, Ghost, and Strapi are examples of decoupled architecture. A decoupled CMS is a content management system that removes the front-end component (the head) but leaves the backend intact for content administration. A headless CMS doesn’t impact how (or where) the content is displayed. Its sole focus is on the storage and delivery of content.


  • Future-proof
  • Hosted & SaaS - fast, secure, great content experience
  • Faster and more flexible content delivery than traditional CMS
  • Easier deployments and upgrades
  • Fewer publisher and developer dependencies
  • Seamless third-party integrations


  • If hosted, then you have to manage 2 systems
  • Generally more expensive because the backend and frontend need to be integrated

Enterprise Content Management (ECM)

Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), Sitecore, Acquia, and Contentful are examples of Enterprise Content Management (ECM). An ECM comes with a price tag, but offers a more integrated content experience for more advanced marketing teams.


  • Central content repository
  • Document security
  • CRM / CDP integrations
  • Platform support


  • Expensive
  • Can be slow if not fully optimized

Saas Content Platforms

Contentful, CrownPeak, and ButterCMS are examples of software-as-a-service (SaaS) content platforms. A SaaS content platform is a fully cloud-hosted and managed environment that eliminates all technical issues for the client, but still allows for endless customization via a self-hosted frontend. SaaS content platforms allow developers to capture content via an API and display it to the user in anyway desired.


  • Fast
  • Future-proof
  • Serverless
  • Secure
  • Great content experience
  • Ability for easy distribution to other channels
  • Updates, installations, and security maintained by software company


  • Monthly costs
  • Expensive because the backend and frontend need to be integrated

Considerations when choosing a CMS

As mentioned, choosing a CMS has many long-term implications for your business. Speed, security, cost, and support are just the tip of the iceberg. Below we have outlined a few important things to ask yourself before you start to explore your options.

What is your budget?

How much control over the user experience do you want?

What is your team’s technical experience?

What are your marketing / content team needs

How will your online presence need to scale over the next 3-5 years

How quickly do you need your website live?

Will your website require special functionality?

Do you need code-level access to your site?

Do you require 24/7 customer support?

Potential Pitfalls

As with any big decision, it is important to keep an eye on potential pitfalls when choosing a CMS. We have outlined a few key risks to consider when choosing a CMS below.

Failing to properly assess your business’ needs and constraints

Not including key people in the decision making process

Overlooking your future needs for scaling

Getting distracted by system bells and whistles

Not understanding system constraints during (or not choosing a CMS prior to) your design process


Ultimately, the right CMS will depend on a number of factors that are unique to your business. Ensuring you take into account your present and future needs is the best way to assess which CMS combination is right for you.

Still unsure of what CMS might be right for you? Contact Tragic Media for a consultation.