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Drupal vs. Contentstack Headless CMS Side-by-Side Comparison

Dhaval MajithiaJan 25, 2024

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Today, searching for the perfect content management system (CMS) is no different from the quest for the Holy Grail. After the dot-com boom in the late ‘90s, many companies found it easy to reach a global audience with their content via the internet. This era resulted in three dominant open-source CMS systems: Wordpress, Joomla, and Drupal. In addition, big players such as Adobe, Sitecore, and SDL entered the scene with their own feature-rich content management systems. While each one has proven a useful tool for many to establish a web presence, more complex enterprise web properties and a new generation of more sophisticated and engaging digital properties have given rise to a new breed of CMS.

Having implemented the top open-source and proprietary CMS environments for some of the most ambitious and innovative brands over the last 10 years, I would like to draw on that experience to illustrate the difference between the old and new ways of managing content by offering a detailed comparison between our own award-winning headless content management system – Contentstack – and one of the big three legacy CMS environments, Drupal.

The History of Contentstack

Contentstack and Drupal share a similar purpose, but they were created with different visions in mind. Originally created to become the global open source software for powering the web, Drupal CMS was created in 2001 and is still one of the most popular CMS options around. Contentstack, on the other hand, was created with a laser focus on making omnichannel content management easier for content stewards in enterprise organizations – typically users with little or no hands-on development experience. The result is a headless CMS that allows business users to easily add and manage content on their own, without the need to understand or touch code. No more support requests, no more waiting for an overburdened development team to respond –  with Contentstack any content manager can publish a new website with the touch of a button.

In the following feature comparison, you can see how Contentstack provides several advantages over using Drupal thanks to the ease of installation, development, and on-going content management:

Seamless Installation and Easy to Use

Ever wondered why most content management systems are so difficult to use? Installing Drupal itself consists of a multitude of steps. To actually configure Drupal CMS for your website is a painful exercise which typically requires working through endless pages of documentation. Not to mention, Drupal is known to have a steeper learning curve than other CMS platforms, introducing complexities and challenges for new customers.

With Contentstack, customers are able to stand up a new website in four steps (or less). This includes installation, basic templating, configuring the publishing options, and publishing the content. All with the added benefits of onboarding new business users in less than 30 mins and publishing content 2-10x faster. The magic ingredient that makes this possible is the separation of content from site-related programming and design. Instead of relying on databases, it’s built on top of Backend, a robust application development platform. So, you do not need to be an expert in databases, PHP, Ruby on Rails, or Java to implement Contentstack. Even basic HTML and simple JavaScript templating are sufficient to create an impressive website from scratch, in record time.

Staying on the Cutting Edge

Drupal has been in the market for more than a decade. Hence, it’s almost everywhere and today the developer community is focused on stability and making the software available globally. But slow development velocity and content publishing for new experiences, creating an inability to keep pace with changing business needs.

Contentstack was initially created for large websites with a large amount of content to be managed by multiple users, so stability and a global perspective were a requirement right from the beginning. However, the Contentstack team never stops pushing the envelope and regularly rolls out innovative new features that make Contentstack a tool that can keep up with the ever-changing digital landscape facing businesses today.

With the changing nature of web pages and the introduction of elements such as SEO and open graph meta tags, there is a need for a robust content management system that can quickly make new features available without relying on a convoluted library of often brittle plug-ins for new features.

Empowering Frontend Engineers

The rise of Node.js is largely considered a blessing by the developer community. For years, JavaScript handled the front end and PHP managed server-side tasks. However, with the emergence of Node.js, JavaScript became empowered to handle tasks on the server too. This opened up a world of opportunity for JavaScript developers. Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal – all remain stuck in the world of PHP, while Contentstack is wholly based on Node.js, which has taken the developer world by storm. This allows even front-end developers to create page templates with ease.


Thanks to the growing market of smartphones and tablets, people increasingly use their mobile devices to consume and interact with content. However, none of the three CMS giants offer mobile-friendly publishing by default. When using Drupal, in addition to choosing a responsive template, you may have to install several plugins or make changes to existing settings to ensure that a site displays even just reasonably well on mobile devices.

Contentstack was built on top of the mobile platform Backend and inherits comprehensive mobile capabilities. All data and content is stored in the JSON format which is easily available using REST APIs and particularly well suited for delivery to mobile applications. This modern approach characterized by being API-first and mobile-optimized allows content to be consumed easily across legacy clients, as well as the new generation of mobile devices.

User Management

User Management is one of the strongest suits of Contentstack and a key enabler of CMS success in the enterprise, since there is rarely just a single person in charge of all content management at a company. Traditional content management systems such as Drupal only allow you to set roles and users for different content types (aka nodes). You can allow or disallow a user to view, edit, or delete content within a node.

Contentstack, on the other hand, gives you more: a simpler interface and more sophistication for managing roles at a granular level. In addition to defining access to specific forms and environments, you can restrict a user from publishing content on a form level. You can even restrict users to certain publishing environments. For a real-life example let’s consider a combination of marketing staff and members of the corporate PR team sharing access to a form managing the company’s press releases. Here, one user might be granted rights to create new and modify existing press releases. Another separate user might be granted the right to publish releases. The latter is almost impossible if you’re using legacy Drupal.

Better ROI with Software-as-a-Service

Drupal is an open-source product, resulting in scores of firms dedicated to Drupal-related services, such as consulting, training, implementing, software development and more. In many cases using Drupal effectively means finding and hiring these special Drupal CMS experts – which aren’t cheap. On top of Drupal expertise, you’ll also need to shore up on other backend specialists that can help with configuring databases and smoothly scale the CMS environment. In addition, Drupal customers are typically caught in a recurring upgrade cycle, creating concern for customers who want to stay up to date with the latest features and security patches.

By contrast, Contentstack is delivered via SaaS, which eliminates the need for expensive servers. It is equipped with a dedicated service in which the backend stack and scaling don’t require you to hire a team of rarefied and costly specialists.

Multi-Target Publishing

Businesses need their content readily available on multiple platforms. By contrast, to accomplish this with Drupal, you would have to employ an array of modules.

Contentstack is equipped with a unique feature that allows publishing not only to multiple environments such as development, staging, and production but also to multiple channels for these environments. Simply publish to one or more environments and the content will automatically publish to all endpoints associated with those environments.

The Cost Breakdown

The costs associated with using a legacy CMS like Drupal are far higher than using a SaaS CMS like Contentstack, making Contentstack ideal for enterprise needs and budgets.

Although Drupal and Contentstack are both popular content management systems, they each serve different markets. Contentstack is focused on providing a seamless experience for enterprise users at scale, while Drupal is an open-source project geared towards a diverse global user base. I hope I’ve been able to convey some of the strengths of Contentstack in simplifying and accelerating content management for enterprises, which makes it possible to manage content for any digital front-end (web, mobile, app, in-store kiosks, etc.) content using a single platform.

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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