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A guide to content management systems (CMS)

Discover what content management systems and what your best CMS options are including Wordpress, Drupal and Joomla
Rachel Bridge

/ Last updated on 30th October 2017

Large wordpress logo on a background of wordpress logos

A content management system is a computer programme which allows several users to share files and other content. It is overseen by a central administrator who can manage the flow of work and also back up the work done on shared files to avoid someone accidentally deleting them.

Related: A guide open source software

How does it work?

The software system is controlled by a central administrator – most likely the entrepreneur who has started the business. The files on it can be accessed by anyone within – or indeed external to – the business who has been authorised to by the administrator.

Why do I need it?

Because it is a really simple and effective way of enabling people working in your business to access and share files, while at the same time enabling the entrepreneur/administrator to have an overview of who is working on what and what work is being done. It can also encourage and make possible collaborative work on a project. As well as word files, photos, documents, spreadsheets, video and audio files can be shared.

The practicalities

There are three types of content management system available – a web content management system to create web pages and websites; a component content management system to create documents from component parts; and an enterprise content management system which organises documents, contacts and records for a commercial business. The last of these is likely to be of most use to a start-up business.

There are two ways in which content management systems can be accessed – as a web-based service in return for a monthly fee,  or as a software package, which is installed and managed on your computer server. Some content management systems, known as open source are free to use.

Things to consider

As well as full blown content management systems, there are also a number of file sharing systems such as Dropbox which enable you to share documents and files amongst several users.

Top tip

If you are not IT-literate yourself, appoint someone to your team who is. There are more than 1200 different content management and file sharing systems available on the market, and some are a lot easier to use than others, so you need someone who can implement the most suitable system or your business – and teach the other members of your team how to use it effectively.

How much does it cost?

Free for an open source system – from a few hundred pounds a year for a proprietary one.

Where can I find out more?

The most popular content management systems are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. Other systems which are rated highly for usability include Expression Engine, Textpattern, Radiant CMS and Cushy CMS.

Related: 7 best tools for sourcing and managing great content

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