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What's the Best Content Management System for Today’s Remote Reality?

Brent HeslopApr 29, 2020

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The world has been rocked!

We’ve seen a global pandemic tear through the economy and cripple many systems and processes that worked well enough during normal business operations but are not well-suited for the new reality.

Companies have quickly learned which parts of their business are resilient and agile and which functions struggle to adapt to change. Content operations, and the content management system in particular, have proven to be a significant hurdle for companies needing to rapidly adapt to remote-first, distributed workflows.

It’s never been more clear that a traditional, on-premise content management system (CMS) simply wasn’t designed to accommodate the kind of flexibility that today’s businesses need. But, it’s not just in a time of panic and tragedy that the on-premise CMS has been a less-than-ideal solution. Recent events have underscored and elevated the inherent problems with relying on an on-premise software for critical business functions and why an on-premise CMS, in particular, is ill-suited for today’s modern workplace.

The truth is that most legacy CMS solutions and on-premise software have not been the right fit for most businesses for some time. Our current circumstances have simply exposed the cracks in the foundation.

Content Management in the Remote Reality

Before a global pandemic shook the world, the business landscape was already shifting. Specifically, remote work has become a competitive advantage. According to a study from FlexJobs, the number of U.S. employees telecommuting at least half the time rose by 115% between 2005 and 2017. And telecommuting numbers have continued to climb in subsequent years.

This shift has brought about new policies and procedures, cultural changes, and — perhaps most importantly — strategic technology investments. After all, remote-enabled companies require remote-enabled technology solutions.

Many companies have already seen the writing on the wall. Increasingly, organizations are investing in tools and technologies that enable them to adapt to a globalized economy, take advantage of remote work opportunities, and respond quickly to shifting market conditions. While there are some barriers still in place, cloud-based technologies have become a preferred solution for the majority of firms.

List of benefits and barriers to cloud technology adoption

What we see now is that implementing technology to enable remote work is not just a competitive advantage. It’s a competitive requirement. Firms that have been lukewarm about investing in cloud-based solutions for critical business functions are now seeing the challenges of continuing business as usual. Systems and processes that were tenable, if not still burdensome, in regular operating times are simply not sustainable in these remote-first circumstances.

The limitations of the on-premise CMS are especially noticeable when you consider the increased importance of content creation, management, and deployment during these difficult times. Companies need a reliable and accessible system for distributing critical content and information to stakeholders — both internal and external.

Why On-Premise CMS is a Barrier to the Modern Enterprise

While the limitations of the on-premise CMS are likely to be self-evident, it’s worth considering the full range of barriers that these systems create for modern businesses in a competitive environment.

Challenges of on-premise CMS

Significant Investment in Hardware, Infrastructure, and Maintenance

The most obvious drawback of any on-premise technology is the steep up-front investment that comes with deployment. And even for those cases when on-premise software seems affordable right out of the box, the costs associated with customizing, hosting, and managing it can quickly outpace any initial savings.

For a critical business technology like CMS, there’s a sky-high list of costs necessary for achieving and maintaining always-up infrastructure. Some of the biggest contenders include:

  • Licensing for every user
  • Hardware and networking equipment
  • Space and secure storage for all this physical equipment
  • Redundant connectivity, power, and digital security measures

Even organizations that can rely on existing hardware and infrastructure are easily hamstrung by the ongoing expense of supporting, safeguarding, upgrading, and otherwise maintaining an enterprise-grade, on-premise CMS.

All told, this means signing up your IT team for an endless string of fix and patch requests, manual testing, and plenty of other routine maintenance. It’s no surprise that some estimates have found that 30-40% of all IT expenses can be traced back to updating and maintaining legacy, on-premise software!

Lengthy Deployment Configurations

On-premise CMS providers often tout their solutions as “flexible” and “customizable.” But what they don’t mention is at what cost. In most cases, there’s a hefty investment of time and resources that goes into getting things up and running — not to mention getting it configured in a way that fits your workflow! We’ve seen plenty of organizations that find it easier to change how they work to meet their CMS needs instead of the other way around.

Especially for an enterprise-ready solution, there is no out-of-the-box, on-premise CMS that is pre-configured and ready to deploy on day one. Under generous circumstances, you’re looking at months spent building, configuring, and testing an on-premise CMS installation. For complex deployments with specific integrations or mandatory security and compliance configurations, it’s not unreasonable for it to take six months to a year before the CMS is ready for use.

Lack of Business Accessibility and Reliability

There’s probably not an enterprise executive who, at this point, hasn’t had a thought along the lines of: “How easily and consistently will our teams be able to access our software to execute critical business functions from wherever in the world they’re working?”

The accessibility and reliability of your entire business rely on your workers’ ability to access — consistently — your on-premise software solutions. In extreme cases like the one COVID-19 has presented, accessing that infrastructure most likely means using a remote connection or VPN.

If that access is threatened or limited, for instance, by a global pandemic that is forcing your entire organization to work from home with less-than-ideal internet connections that put significant strain on the VPN configuration, then your ability to effectively use your CMS could be jeopardized.

In the remote-work reality of today, this is a growing threat to business operations and productivity. Google Trends data shows that searches for “VPN not working” have grown over the last few months and reached a five-year high in March 2020:

Broken Google search VPN graph

It’s clear that on-premise CMS quickly falls short under less-than-ideal working conditions. Meaning your critical infrastructure may be inaccessible, content may be inaccessible, and critical communications may be cut off. Why should the accessibility and functionality of a content management system be tied to the (often lacking) speed and (also often lacking) reliability of VPN infrastructure?

The answer is that it shouldn’t be when there are remote-friendly options readily available — a topic we’ll explore more later in this piece.

Limited or Expensive Scalability

Last, but certainly not least, let’s consider the limitations of scalability for the on-premise CMS. At the most basic level, the scalability and uptime of the system are dependent on the upfront investment in the infrastructure mentioned above. In other words, if you want to get bigger, you need to spend bigger from the start.

Of course, that’s the last thing you want to hear at a time when your company is trying to scale or meet a surge in demand. Your CMS should be an elastic resource that fits your business needs at every level, not a static silo that dictates your entire business strategy.

And speaking of silos, let’s talk about a modern, enterprise-ready CMS that knocks those down and empowers your entire team to work together seamlessly whether they’re in-office, at home, or halfway around the globe.

Cloud-First, Headless CMS: The Future of the Modern Enterprise

Now that we’ve disclosed all of the reasons why the legacy, on-premise CMS is a poor choice for the modern enterprise, let’s look at what a better, more advanced solution is.

Cloud-first, headless CMS unites the accessibility and affordability of cloud-based architecture with the agility and flexibility of a headless architecture. But what is a cloud-first, headless CMS exactly? Let’s break it down.

First, a cloud-first, headless CMS exists — obviously — in the cloud.

That means your organization simply subscribes to the CMS, which is a service via the cloud. That’s software as a service, or SaaS, in action. The CMS vendor deals with all the cost, time, and resources associated with maintaining and upgrading the CMS software. Subscribers like your organization simply enjoy the efficiency and savings associated with a CMS that’s always up to date, doesn’t require any physical space, and doesn’t need an army of full-time IT personnel to fix and secure the system.

Next up, what does “headless” mean in this context? A headless CMS is a modern alternative to traditional, monolithic, on-site CMSs.

The monolithic, on-site CMSs that many enterprises still use make the fatal mistake of intertwining, or coupling, content and presentation. This approach means content exists with formatting and programming and requires manually recreating the content each time you want to use it for a new customer type, sales, or marketing channel. In a world where personalized, omnichannel content rules, this outdated, manual workflow isn’t scalable.

With a headless CMS (including the cloud-first variety), content and presentation still work together but are managed and stored separately. This separation is critical for enabling content creators to make, optimize, and distribute content collateral. At the same time, designers and developers are free to design and build the absolute best display for that content, whether delivering it to a website, a mobile application, a chatbot, an internal knowledge base, or anywhere else.

Headless CMS content hub diagram

The application programming interface (API) technology that makes this modular architecture possible also makes it easy for specific headless CMS platforms to integrate with other technology that you rely on to run your businesses. For example, the right headless CMS can integrate with anything from CRMs to DMPs, CDPs, ecommerce platforms, translation and localization tools, and more.

The Benefits of Cloud-First, Headless Content Management for Enterprise

The cloud-first, headless CMS is a growing technology category that solves each of the challenges presented by on-premise CMSs. A solution such as Contentstack offers near-infinite scalability, with up to 99.99% uptime, industry-leading security, and universal accessibility from any location and every device. Best of all, because it’s a cloud-first solution, there are no unexpected costs, no infrastructure requirements, and no critical maintenance required at the worst possible times.

The following covers additional benefits of upgrading your enterprise to a modern, cloud-first, headless CMS.

The positive impact of cloud technology on business

Subscription Model Allows for Agile Pivots

One of the most disturbing things about an on-premise CMS is how you’re pretty much stuck with it. Even if you eventually determine that you selected the wrong solution, your business model needs to shift, or you have to scale one way or the other. The importance of which has never been made more apparent than it is right now.

With a cloud-first, headless CMS, you don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on setup, physical infrastructure, and software licensing — that can’t be refunded — just to get your solution up and running. And you certainly don’t need to hire a whole new team to manage your CMS solution. Instead, the process of subscribing to a cloud-first, headless CMS solution is as simple as it is to subscribe to any other business service. That means that not only are you free from set up and maintenance fees, but you’re also free to change your subscription if your business pivots direction.

Location Independence Enables Limitless Business Continuity

Let’s get to the brass tacks of our current operating environment. We’re a long way from “business as usual” and most enterprises looking at a new CMS solution recognize the drawbacks of their legacy system. One of the main reasons why the on-premise CMS is such a bottleneck for organizations is because it’s not a technology designed to be accessed, maintained, or even functional in a remote work environment.

But cloud-first, headless CMS is quite the opposite.

Like all cloud applications, a cloud-first, headless CMS is accessible by anyone with an internet connection and login credentials. From any location and any device, team members can securely access your firm’s entire archive of content, push through changes, approve communications, publish new information, and deploy content to any channel.

It’s business as usual. Access to critical business functions like internal and external communications doesn’t depend on an individual’s ability to access the network or connect to an overloaded VPN. Business continuity is one easy-to-overlook consideration, but when it truly matters, it’s often the most important thing to get right.

New Experiences Can Be Scaled and Deployed On-Demand

Beyond accessibility, the cloud-first, headless CMS also offers another significant advantage over on-premise solutions: Nearly infinite scalability.

Using a cloud-hosted solution creates a foundation for scalability in three core ways:

  1. Scalable infrastructure
  2. Rapid deployment
  3. Reduced maintenance and IT expenses

With a legacy system, any one of these three bottlenecks — infrastructure limitations, long deployment times, or finite IT resources — could drag down a critical project like deploying new content, launching a microsite, or expanding into a new channel.

But, with a cloud-based CMS, there’s no such limitation. Capacity and infrastructure scale up and down to handle surges in traffic, spikes, or any other unexpected events. Deployment times are dramatically faster. And, there are no expensive, ongoing infrastructure or maintenance issues to consider. It’s all managed as a service in the cloud.

This SaaS, cloud-based architecture means your enterprise is free to grow, scale, pivot, and expand without being collared by the challenges and reality of the legacy CMS with all of its technical costs and resources overhead.

Dive Even Deeper Into the World of Cloud-First, Headless CMS

The growing demand for dynamic, personalized consumer experiences doesn’t go away in the face of a rapidly-changing environment. Instead, it may be more important than ever to strive to engage consumers who are exploring new ways to carry out day-to-day interactions with businesses via the internet.

Give your team around-the-clock functionality and your consumers experiences they can rely on with cloud-first headless CMS technology created to keep up with rapid change.

To learn more about cloud-first, headless CMS and choose the vendor that’s best for you, dive into Contentstack’s three-part ebook series where you’ll learn:

About Contentstack

The Contentstack team comprises highly skilled professionals specializing in product marketing, customer acquisition and retention, and digital marketing strategy. With extensive experience holding senior positions in notable technology companies across various sectors, they bring diverse backgrounds and deep industry knowledge to deliver impactful solutions.  

Contentstack stands out in the composable DXP and Headless CMS markets with an impressive track record of 87 G2 user awards, 6 analyst recognitions, and 3 industry accolades, showcasing its robust market presence and user satisfaction.

Check out our case studies to see why industry-leading companies trust Contentstack.

Experience the power of Contentstack's award-winning platform by scheduling a demo, starting a free trial, or joining a small group demo today.

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