Stefan Schinkel
Chief Revenue Officer

What is a Cloud CMS: Everything You Need to Know

Sep 24, 2020
By: Stefan Schinkel

The process of choosing and adopting an enterprise content management system (CMS) is a complicated one.

Companies must weigh factors such as their current technological environment, their future aspirations, as well as whether their staff’s work can adapt to the new platform. This is in addition to the budget considerations and making sure you get the necessary features to help your business achieve its objectives, which may be different depending on which member of the C-Suite you ask.

A product that meets all of those expectations may sound like an impossible dream, but that vision can become a reality when you invest in a cloud CMS (like dotCMS) also known as a cloud-based CMS, cloud-hosted CMS, or a SaaS CMS.

What is a Cloud CMS?

To define what a cloud CMS is, let’s first look at what a cloud CMS isn’t by looking at on-premise CMSs. Back in the early 2000s (and in many cases, in 2019) an on-premise CMS required you, the user, to:

  • Download a version of the software
  • Unpack and install the software on your local server, or the server at a web host
  • Manually update and maintain your software
  • Secure your own server and data, or pay a third-party to do so

A cloud CMS, on the other hand, saves the end user time and labor by centrally hosting the CMS in the cloud (often through cloud computing services like Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure). This means that the end user takes advantage of the architecture provided by these cloud services, while at the same time, the CMS vendor handles deployment, hosting, security, updates, and maintenance. This saves the end user time, and money, considering that they don’t have to invest in a dedicated IT team as the company grows.

Cloud CMS Benefits: Why Choose a Cloud-based CMS?

As content delivery technology has evolved over the last ten years, so have customer expectations. Content creators must understand how to apply this technology to meet those higher expectations. These dueling desires have led many content providers to move from on-premise solutions to cloud-based CMS platforms.

These platforms give content authors the capabilities of traditional CMS solutions while allowing them to take advantage of the increased functionality and flexibility that cloud-based solutions offer.

1. Faster Time To Market

Since cloud-based CMS platforms typically require less time on both the development and the installation phases, brands can usually get their websites and applications up and running much faster than they would with an on-premise CMS.

This speed to market isn’t limited to launch day, either. Brands can rely on the cloud to spin up new websites, apps, micro-sites, and landing pages much faster, too.

2. Less Dependence on IT Teams

Traditional, on-premise CMS systems are often highly dependent on the expertise of IT staff to get the infrastructure ready to launch, and also to maintain them in the long run. Naturally, this costs money, and requires far more time.

Also, because in-house IT teams need to keep customizing, repairing, and upgrading elements of the CMS, the codebase eventually becomes large and complicated, creating a constantly growing buffer zone between the CMS and the content authors who use it. A low-code, cloud-based CMS smooths out the development and implementation processes, which removes that buffer and reduces the content creators’ dependence on the IT team.

dotCMS’s ‘NoCode’ philosophy directly attacks this issue, empowering marketers with codeless interfaces, workflow management, and page editing. Plus, the recently launched Edit Mode Anywhere feature allows marketers to edit content directly in any environment, including single page applications, progressive web apps, and digital signage, without having to rely on IT.

3. Enhanced Security & Compliance

With data breaches of major online sites making front page news more frequently than ever, data security has become a top priority for many brands. Every enterprise-level site needs protection from phishing, cryptomining, malware attacks, data theft, and other hacking activities. At the same time, the processes involved in securing data hosted at on-premise servers, including complying with regulations such as GDPR, has become more complicated and expensive.

Along with security, compliance is crucial for an enterprise-grade CMS. Every company needs content governance, or a set of guidelines around how content is created, managed, and published. This requires robust workflow features and the ability to set roles and permissions for CMS users.

A strong cloud CMS should ensure your security and compliance from the get-go, protecting your data from prying eyes. What’s more, the CMS vendor will also be responsible for updating their security and compliance protocols in line with new legislation and trends, allowing you to focus on your business. dotCMS, for example, has industry standard security features, as well as the ability to create complex workflows for effective content governance. The CMS also has versioning and backups for compliance through its TimeMachine feature.

Read More: GDPR Compliance: Everything You Need To Know.

4. Improved Scalability

Growth can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, high traffic levels mean that thousands of viewers have the potential to become paying customers. On the other hand, high traffic can also tax the capabilities of an on-premise server, bringing entire websites down. Cloud-based content management systems will offer scalable infrastructure, allowing your website and application to handle traffic spikes when those spike occur, and then scale back down to save costs. The CMS should also have support for in-memory and disk caching to improve the performance of complex websites.

With out of the box support for Docker, Swarm and Kubernetes, dotCMS cloud can auto-scale to meet traffic demands. The platform also has built-in caching through a number of providers like Hazelcast and Guava, and multiple cache providers can be chained to optimize performance. You can even configure different cache providers for various regions.

5. Smoother Integrations

Several cloud-based CMS platforms, including dotCMS, provide content authors with a vast array of choices for integrating other popular online products and services. Not only can content providers integrate their CMS with their eCommerce platforms, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and internal data repositories much faster and easier with a cloud-based platform than with a traditional on-premise system, they can also typically manage integrations from a single dashboard.

As a best-of-breed CMS, dotCMS readily integrates with a range of enterprise tools including Salesforce, Marketo, and commercetools. Plus, dotCMS’s RESTful and GraphQL API support, LowCode API Tooling with its Scripting as a Service feature and open source nature give companies the freedom to integrate and connect with any platform, device, or software on the planet. This ensures that you aren’t just getting a content management system in the cloud, but also a content hub to support a greater digital experience platform—constructed on your terms.

6. Automated Updates

When an on-premise CMS requires an update, the IT team must often take the current system off-line in order to install, test, and launch the new platform. This necessary downtime can cost the site owner thousands, or even millions, of dollars in lost time and revenues. With a SaaS CMS, the CMS vendor handles all the updates and maintenance automatically, with almost no downtime at all. For dotCMS users, you don’t have to worry about this because upgrades are included.

7. Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

When faced with the decision of migrating to a cloud-based CMS, one of the first concerns a brand will face deals with how such a change will impact the firm’s bottom line. While a traditional CMS involves thousands of dollars in upfront costs for hardware, software, and integration, a cloud-based SaaS CMS uses a monthly subscription pricing model. This pricing model ensures that the stakeholders only pay for the services, maintenance, and bandwidth that they use, making it a much more cost-effective model for most firms.

8. Enterprise Architecture

While not all cloud-based CMSs can boast an enterprise architecture, an enterprise SaaS CMS should provide you with infrastructure that facilitates:

  • Headless content management to support the variety of distribution channels a large organization would need to support.
  • Access to APIs (including RESTful API and Graphql support) to allow developers to integrate with a multitude of frontend apps and third-party systems.
  • Multi-tenancy and multi-site management for enterprise-size busineses to manage multiple brands, websites, and product-lines.
  • Front-end framework agnostic to seamlessly integrate with both legacy applications and new frontend technologies like React and Angular.
  • Containerization for easier CI/CD and auto-scaling to meet traffic spikes.
  • A wide range of enterprise software integrations to share data and functionality across best-of-breed tooling.

Cloud CMS vs On-Premise CMS: Is There a Middleground?

We’ve seen how a cloud CMS can trump an on-premise solution with speed, vendor-led updates, security, and maintenance, as well as enterprise-grade architecture.

However, on-premise CMSs do have their perks. By hosting your CMS, or at the very least, your data, in-house, you get to control how that data is stored and used.

So, one question remains: is there a middle ground?

If you’re looking to balance the benefits of both a cloud-based CMS and on-premise hosting, dotCMS’s hybrid hosting is the answer. With dotCMS, brands are able to host elements of their digital presence in the cloud, while other elements are hosted on-premise, thus combining the benefits of both.

dotCMS: A CMS in the Cloud—And Then Some

With dotCMS Cloud, however, you get a platform that's built on the reliability of AWS. The platform is containerized and ready for orchestration with Docker Swarm or Kubernetes to ensure portability, scalability, and productivity. With powerful APIs and an open architecture, dotCMS lets you build a best-of-breeds ecosystem by integrating nearly any third-party tooling needed.

Where dotCMS Cloud really shines, however, is its ease of use. Upgrading to newer versions is included in your subscription, so you don’t have to worry about constant patches or other maintenance tasks. With dotCMS Cloud, you can focus on building your digital experience platform.

For more information on how to migrate to a cloud CMS platform, contact dotCMS today.

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product brief

dotCMS Cloud (Anywhere)

dotCMS Cloud is a multi-cloud global offering on AWS and GCP infrastructure and products. dotCMS Cloud + brings all the advantages of a hybrid-headless Content Management System, including hosting an in-house/Third-Party built Single Page App (SPA), so your technology team can continue focusing on innovation.

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