Is Open Source the future of content management systems?

Typo3 Olivier
Typo3's president, Olivier Dobberkau

Olivier Dobberkau, president of the TYPO3 association, gave us an overview of the basics of Content Management Systems ahead of T3CON, the annual event of the TYPO3 Community, which celebrates this year its tenth anniversary.

TYPO3 is one of many open source CMS that have appeared over the last 20 years. The most popular of them, by far is, a platform that currently accounts for nearly a quarter of all the visible websites.

TRP: What's a Content Management System and what is it for?

OD: Content Management Systems (CMS) are web-based applications for creating and managing the content of a website in a collaborative environment. A good CMS should feature an accomplished set of ready-to-use interfaces, functionalities and modules. Nowadays, they go beyond this by providing full flexibility and extensibility.

As users increasingly shift from desktop to mobile and tablet devices, requirements for content management have shifted too. The content lifecycle has dramatically changed in the last two years and future-proof CMS need to be fully prepared for this.

TRP: How has the content lifecycle changed and how should a CMS adapt to this evolution?

OD: While the main concern in the last few years was to make publishing easier, it is shifting towards providing a central point of collaboration for all people involved. This necessitates a shift from the old, linear "Create, Approve, Publish" model towards a content strategy which needs to be constantly in motion.

A good CMS should be able to interact with all aspects of the content lifecycle and allow you to adapt and test interactions and modifications of the content, the context and the users altogether. This is starting now and will challenge companies as part of their digital transformation.

TRP: What should you consider before selecting a Content Management System?

OD: You should keep in mind that a good CMS will evolve with your business requirements. I generally advise: "plan for the known, but be prepared for the unknown". By all means, try to prevent a hidden vendor or solutions lock-in. Invest the time to find a CMS that has a clear technical agenda based on open and robust standards.

Choose your CMS according to the market adaption in your region and do not assume that a CMS will solve all your problems. This means you should be able to have a rich choice of hosting providers, system integrators and CMS extensions.

TRP: What are the benefits of open-source CMS?

OD: The more generic answer is that you save licensing costs. The specific answer is that you often find vivid communities around those open-source CMS giving you a choice to choose on different means of contributions and insights on how even your business competitors are approaching their content management tasks. Nowadays, open-source CMS can help you to gain speed in your business operations, while adding quality and state of the art editing technology.

TRP: How can I make sure a CMS-based website is secure?

OD: A central issue for security is to regularly update and upgrade your website. Here's a list of 8 points to follow.

  • Make plans for it in advance.
  • Designate a visible task force within your organization, not only your technical staff.
  • Educate your users on possible risks for their content and reputation.
  • Subscribe to the security mailing lists of the software.
  • Opt for a security test of your software or ask the vendor about its security policies.
  • Restrict access to administration rights and file upload possibilities. For example, FTP access should no longer be accepted or supported.
  • Have a disaster strategy ready
  • Plan to have a maintenance page with your hotline or Twitter account
Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.