Businesses use content management systems (CMS) to manage, store, and track content projects from creation to publication. Companies benefit from CMS solutions by utilizing a more holistic approach that enables users to collaborate on projects and to track content performance. Content management systems also help businesses organize multimedia files, access files from the cloud, and search through unstructured data sources.
In the simplest terms, a content management system (CMS) is a software solution that creates, manages, stores, and tracks digital content. A content management system serves as the infrastructure for a website or storage system so businesses and users can instead focus on their content itself, and its presentation if it is an outward-facing platform.
Content management systems can be used to manage content on a single computer but are more often times leveraged to create and organize content for an entire business or on a website. The types of content that can be hosted are virtually endless; content management systems can host everything from simple text documents to massive datasets to video and images.
Content management systems can vary greatly in functionality, with some serving mainly as content storage or website templates and others providing broader collaboration and project tracking functions.
Business content management – The most recognizable content management systems are business content management software solutions. These solutions are often used for personal use to manage, store, and share files, pictures, and videos, but business-centered versions also exist that consider compliance and governance guidelines as well. Business content management systems can also integrate with other content management systems, but are distinct in their predominant collaborative functions.
Digital asset management – Business content management software is similar to, but distinct from, digital asset management (DAM) software, in that the latter focuses primarily on the curation of brand-specific media files. Digital asset management systems are predominantly used by marketing and operations teams to manage their online brand presence. For this reason, DAMs provide powerful import and export capability, optimized processing, and automatic file type conversion tools.
Web content management – Another popular type of content management system is the web content management (WCM) system, which focuses on the creation, editing, and publishing of text, graphics, and audio and video files. Web content management systems offer front-end templates for users to choose from, so they can focus primarily on their content. This makes them popular with bloggers and artists.
Enterprise content management (ECM) – Enterprise content management (ECM) systems are utilized by businesses to house and manage bulk content including documents, records, product information, and emails. ECM is very similar to the rest of its CMS siblings but offers more in-depth security and compliance controls. ECM systems also provide additional process automation features to reduce the time spent doing redundant filing, labeling, and searching.
Headless CMS – In the wake of a rapidly diversifying digital landscape, an emerging type of content management system is headless CMS. Headless CMS provides only the necessary backend for a content management system, allowing the developer to use any front end they want. This provides extensive customization options and is useful when developing sites that will be viewed from a variety of devices.
Given content management software’s flexible nature, these solutions can be employed in a number of useful ways. Virtually every business employs at least one content management system, if not more. For most, it’s built into day-to-day activities and flies under the radar.
Teams might use a business content management system to create text documents, collaborate on them in real time, and then store them for later use. Storage can include both a personal space and a collaborative space, with the ability to easily move content from one to the other.
Marketing representatives can refer to a digital asset management system to quickly search for and retrieve relevant logos, media files, and other brand-specific assets that would otherwise be difficult to track.
Businesses of all sizes manage records for their employees using a secure enterprise content management system that provides ample storage space and permissions functionality. It can quickly label and file away hundreds of documents that would otherwise take hours of manpower to manually review.
Web content management systems can serve as a portfolio or resume for individuals looking for an inexpensive, professional digital space to market themselves and their work. WCMs offer artists and writers a platform to have their work published and presented without working with an outside entity.
While the upfront cost of some content management systems can be high (depending on the type you need), it can save you or your business a fortune and a massive headache in the long term.
Content management systems remove the burden of labeling, filing, and storing physical content. Physically storing records, files, and reports requires an enormous amount of space that can be expensive to rent and a hassle to navigate. The manpower it takes to physically store files can be taxing; your team’s time can be better spent in other areas that require more attention and thoughtfulness.
Many content management systems also provide in-depth version control and check for redundancy in files, which can ensure that an entire company has access to the proper versions of materials. This can be a challenging feat without a content management system to handle it.
For content management systems that are more outward-facing, such as e-commerce websites and portfolios, users can easily make rapid changes that update immediately. Web content management systems are designed to be straightforward and intuitive, even for non-designers or non-developers, so users can focus solely on content.
Content management systems can vary massively in cost, depending mainly on the type of SaaS solution a business is looking for, the amount of storage necessary, and the mode of implementation (local vs. cloud-based).
Some content management solutions are completely free (notably Google Drive, Dropbox, and WordPress). However, there can be additional costs, depending on a company’s scaling needs. In the case of business content management software, many free solutions will require the purchase of more space, should you run out. For some free web content management solutions, users have to pay for additional hosting space or templates if they are not satisfied with the free options available.
Other content management systems are expensive from the beginning. Enterprise content management systems can be notably pricey, given the extensive functionality and storage space required. This price can increase if a software requires a business to host an on-site server or if the solution utilizes cloud-based storage. However, many solutions offer a sliding scale of price determined by the size of the company.
Use Case — What do you plan on using your content management solution for? Do you need a straightforward file storage and sharing software solution, or do you require more complex or specific functionality? What kind of team is using this content management system?
Budget – Are you looking for a free solution, or are you willing to upgrade based on necessity? Are you looking for a customizable enterprise solution built around your company’s specific needs?
Number of collaborators or users – How many people are going to access this content management system on a daily basis? Will you require different user groups and permissions for them? What are each of these groups going to be allowed to access and edit?
As stated before, the functionality of content management systems can vary between types. However, all content management systems have three basic functions:
Different types of content management systems will have a wide range of standard functionality. These other functions can include:
This list is by no means exhaustive; the features found in content management systems can vary widely by type and use case. Types of content management systems are primarily delineated by these variations in functionality.