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Open Source ECMS: Combining Freedom and Reliability

Until relatively recently, mid- to large-scale enterprises in need of a Content Management System (CMS) solution would usually license a CMS from one of the market-leading vendors, such as Microsoft, Vignette, or Interwoven. These firms provide comprehensive, customizable solutions that are regularly and easily updated. They offer training for software users and provide reliable, professional support, along with local services through international partner networks.

However, their licensing and development costs often make their CMS software expensive to implement - sometimes running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the project.

Moreover, these systems tend to be modular; having purchased one module, companies find themselves having to buy more and more modules. Implementation is slow due to a shortage of certified developers and database license costs can be frightening. But, as long as the customers have the necessary financial resources, they can rest assured that their needs will be met.

In the last couple of years, there has been a large increase in the number of Open Source CMSs, such as Mambo / Joomla!, Drupal, and Plone. Many companies have started to view these Open Source solutions as attractive alternatives to high-end proprietary products. This is not merely due to cost considerations, but also for the freedom that Open Source offers in terms of open standards and the consequent simple integration with other applications.

For smaller companies and projects, Open Source solutions are usually sufficient. The difference in cost more than makes up for the perceived disadvantages: lack of professional support; voluntary communities of developers; poor customizability; lack of release co-ordination; erratic upgrades.

Larger companies, even those convinced of the advantages of Open Source software and the freedom that comes with open standards, often require something more enterprise-ready. They want a robust, high-quality product with equally high levels of service and support. Such customers want responsibility from their supplier and they want reliable assistance and support for their projects.

The table below outlines some of the perceived advantages and disadvantages of proprietary and Open Source systems:

  Proprietary Open Source
Perceived advantages
  • Reliable, professional support and training available (consultants / partners / guarantees)
  • Out-of-the box, comprehensive, modular
  • Regularly and easily updated
  • Low cost: no license fees
  • Freedom: open standards facilitate integration with other systems
  • Easy to customize
Perceived disadvantages
  • Expensive
  • Closed standards might hinder further development
  • Lack of professional support
  • Unstable developer communities
  • Lack of release co-ordination
  • Erratic updates

What companies really need is the best of both worlds: Open Source licensing combined with enterprise-quality CMS. In the last few years, a small number of firms have come to the rescue, launching themselves in the Open Source Enterprise Content Management (ECM) space. According to a report from German vendor-neutral CMS consultancy JDK, eZ Publish was ranked as the top Open Source ECM vendor.

eZ Publish combines the freedom of an advanced Open Source CMS solution with a business model that focuses on product responsibility. It comes with a full set of services and guarantees that cover the license model, software, development process, support and even training and certification programs.

What guarantees and services does eZ Publish provide at the various stages of the project life cycle?


eZ Publish employs a dual license model. The GNU GPL license that accompanies the free download allows users to customize, modify and distribute all parts of eZ Publish. However, to accommodate the needs of commercial enterprises, an eZ Proprietary Use License is also available. With this, custom modifications and enhancements can be protected with the right to license, sell and re-brand the software.

Product features and functionality

eZ Publish offers out-of-the-box functionality for web publishing, e-commerce, forums, intranets and document management systems. It allows companies with limited resources and time constraints to “jump start” their project, but also remains flexible enough to further develop customized web solutions. eZ Publish comes in two versions: eZ Publish provides out-of-the-box functionality useful in most scenarios. The product price includes installation, configuration and updates. eZ Publish Premium, meanwhile, offers the kind of custom functionality required for more complex and specialized projects.

eZ Publish provides all the functional features required for enterprise web applications: flexibility, extensibility, scalability, multilingual support, open standards and reliability. A range of community-created extensions is available, providing even more functionality. The system is also sufficiently “future-proof”, as it allows the integration of new technologies and functionality without having to be rebuilt from scratch.


If a company prefers to outsource development, it can call upon a network of almost 200 eZ Publish partners around the world who supply expert consulting services. This partner network delivers the responsiveness of the top-tier CMS providers, while avoiding dependency on the goodwill of the Open Source community. By providing partners with service and support guarantees, eZ Systems ensures that they can meet enterprise support requirements. A certification program also ensures that developers have the necessary skills to work with eZ Publish at advanced levels.

As long as eZ Publish is configured correctly, upgrades are easy to install. eZ Publish development is performed in cycles of about five months, according to a development roadmap. This ensures that IT developers and enterprises can plan their own projects effectively and provide feedback along the way.


eZ Systems provides reliable, professional support that is not available from any other comparable Open Source CMS. The company offers eZ Network, a yearly maintenance service with a range of support levels. This automatic maintenance and upgrade service eliminates many potential problems before they occur and quickly addresses critical issues when they arise. With a staff of about 50 developers across several countries, eZ Systems ensures a level of stability and support that is rarely achieved by other Open Source CMS providers.

Training and documentation

eZ Publish's simple, intuitive user interface minimizes barriers for users with little technical experience, and returns control over content back to those who provide it and who know it best. eZ Systems also offers training sessions and a range of workshops for end users, administrators and developers. Documentation is freely available online and books are available through the eZ Press, the publications division of eZ Systems. More specific questions can be posted to the active, community-driven forums or you can buy support hours for assistance direct from the eZ experts.

Essentially, eZ Publish users are free to either do the work (installation, customization, support) themselves or hire a professional service provider – either eZ Systems or one of its partners. eZ Publish combines the freedom of Open Source with the reliability of proprietary systems.