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Open Source in Practice: Moving Off of a Proprietary CMS

Guest blogger Jenna Bos is the Senior Marketing Manager at Blue Coda, an Acquia Partner. Blue Coda is an agency focused on ROI-driven website development. Jenna believes in generating results through the combination of creating outstanding content and implementing a smart digital strategy.

The implementation of an open source solution for an end-user involves a combination of the available software and the people who know how to implement the software in a way that is tailored to the client’s needs.

Blue Coda has worked with Acquia for the past five years, during which we have tackled mid-to-large sized projects together. The main verticals for these projects have been healthcare, education and non-profit. Blue Coda won “Acquia Site of the Year in 2015” for the Shared Value Initiative website. The website for the National Apartment Association (NAA), a joint project of Acquia and Blue Coda, won Best Community Site from the Drupal Commons Community in 2014.

Putting Security First

When it comes to security, the more eyes there are on a product, the more opportunities there are for developers to catch, and then fix, any security vulnerabilities. Open source solutions like Drupal have an entire community ready and able to address any security vulnerabilities, making them the safest choice.

There is also an element of trust inherent in the way vulnerabilities are shared and managed. The community is immediately made aware of any vulnerabilities so that teams can work to protect their clients.

Proprietary solutions contain vulnerabilities that can exist for extended periods of time before anyone notices them. These proprietary solutions also then rely on their developers to resolve the vulnerabilities and are limited to the talent of these developers.

As security continues to be a top priority for our clients, we evaluated whether or not we should continue to use proprietary solutions, ultimately deciding to use open source solutions going forward.

Switching from Ektron to Open Source

Blue Coda is proud to be part of the open source community and an Acquia partner,, so we knew that the transition to using exclusively open source content management systems would be easy. The next step would be to transition any clients that were using proprietary solutions to open source, requiring our team to not only be well-versed in open source solutions, but in some proprietary solutions as well. Of particular concern to the Blue Coda team was Ektron, a platform that the development team knows well.

Recent rumors surrounding Ektron’s acquisition by an equity firm and subsequent merger with EpiServer had Blue Coda reconsidering their ability to continue to recommend Ektron as a solution for their clients. The merger caused some hesitation due to the precedence set by acquisitions across all industries which have put the needs of the health of a merger over the needs of the end-user.

The potential merger of EpiServer and Ektron seemed likely to leave Ektron customers without the requisite level of service they would need to continue to host their websites at the quality and security they had come to expect.

Because of the turnover associated with a merger of this size, Blue Coda was left wondering about the security and stability of their websites on Ektron. More troubling was that there was no smooth migration path from Ektron to Episerver—there was no lift and place solution.

It made sense for Blue Coda to rethink proprietary solutions altogether moving forward. If a site rebuild was necessary for Ektron users anyway, it was time to think about using an open source solution for current Ektron customers.

“Our values have always aligned to the needs of our clients, and that means being knowledgeable of and aware of the latest and greatest technologies available to them. As we saw the direction of our proprietary content management software (CMS) partner, open source CMS seemed to be the only solution that we could really, honestly, without reservation, recommend to our clients. This meant reevaluating our relationship with Ektron and looking into forging a partnership with Drupal and Acquia.”
-Jason Schaffer, CEO, Blue Coda

In the next post, we’ll talk about options for those looking to make the leap from commercial CMS to an open source CMS solution using a combination of Acquia and Drupal. We will use our experience with Ektron specifically to demonstrate how the migration occurs. In the meantime, let us know in the comments—have you switched from a proprietary solution to open source? What was your experience?


Posted on by Joseph Dee (not verified).

Can you comment on the cost difference between using a proprietary CMS solution like Ektron over an open source CMS? How that may effect the customer bottom line.

Posted on by Jenna (not verified).

Hi Joseph,

Thanks for the good question here. Blue Coda chooses to use open source solutions for a variety of reasons including security, flexibility, cost, ease of use, value and the ability to integrate with third-party integrations.

All of these reasons, to some degree, can affect cost over time. Breaches are expensive, the cost of labor can be expensive for admins using a platform that is not user-friendly, and the ability to integrate with applications saves time and money.

While those financial factors are significant, they can be difficult to measure precisely. The most obvious costs for comparison would be the up-front and recurring operating costs. Proprietary solutions have higher up-front costs than open source solutions like Drupal and recurring operating costs for hosting, support and access to upgrades.

Open source solutions like Drupal are free to acquire, meaning that the cost to set up your site on Drupal can be applied toward customization and optimization as opposed to software fees.

That being said, we are all about quality. While open source solutions such as Drupal are inherently less expensive, there are many other factors that make them the best choice for our clients.

Thanks again for the question! Let me know if you have any follow-up questions.


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