Five Factors in Deciding on a Traditional or SaaS CMS

By Greg McAvoy-Jensen08/05/2011 10:01 am

Greg McAvoy-Jensen with Mt. Reba in the background

I recently had the honor of doing a webinar with Scott Liewehr and CM Pros. The focus was how to choose between a CMS supplied in a traditional manner and a SaaS ("Software as a Service") CMS.

A traditional (sometimes called "on-site," "on-premise," or "installed") CMS is delivered in the way we have been used to having our software. You buy the license to it, and have it installed on a server you select. In the SaaS CMS model, you don't buy the software. The vendor provides its functionality to you as a subscription, using servers you don't have to worry about. Here are some of the key differences.


Traditional CMS's require expertise. Your company will need either on staff or in your circle of consultants someone who understands how to install, customize, and administer the CMS. This is not true for the SaaS CMS, as the vendor provides all those services.

Web Governance

Most organizations find that marketing and IT are the main departments involved in the CMS. Organizations differ in what the optimal balance between the two would be. Traditional CMS's will need the help of the IT department on an ongoing basis. If the organization chooses to go SaaS, the IT department is mainly needed at the beginning to help evaluate the vendor.


Similarly, the marketing department in particular should evaluate in realistic terms its need for control and, conversely, its desire to be free of dealing with technicalities. If you own the CMS installation ("traditional"), you have the ability to decide exactly who touches the CMS, its server, and its network. You can select the exact hardware used, make decisions about the architecture, and be involved in low-level meetings to solve problems and troubleshoot bugs. Some people need that level of control. For others, it is a distraction. These people would rather such things be the concern of someone else, so a higher percentage of their time is spent in the creative space of marketing. For these, the SaaS model fits well.

Time to Launch

Most often CMS projects have a tight deadline, or at least a strong preference for a quick launch. A SaaS CMS would generally be a faster option, as the infrastructure is already in place, the software is ready to go, and the vendor already has a skilled team of people ready to provide customization and training. If the time horizon is longer, this point is moot.

Budget Type

The overall expense of a traditional CMS is often highest right at the beginning, which is a nice fit for a capital budget. SaaS CMS's tend to have lower initial expenses, so their costs tend to be steadier and fit  more into an operational budget model. Be sure to consider lifetime costs as well.

Both SaaS and traditional CMS models are important options. When you weigh these five factors for your organization, which choice rises to the top?


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Traditional CMS or SaaS CMS: Determining Best Match for Project Requirements

A Free Recorded Video Presentation Video Presentation with Greg McAvoy-Jensen (Granite Horizon) and Scott Liewehr (CMProfessionals)