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What is a Content Management System or CMS?

When I decided to build our website I asked a few of my friends who were involved in IT where I should start. To a man they all came back and said “wordpress”. I said great but what is it?

WordPress is a content management system or CMS for short. A CMS is basically a program thats used to manage the content of a website. The absolute beauty of wordpress is that anyone who has the drive can build a website without having to know any programming language or html. You can create, modify, remove or update your website without the need for hiring an expensive webmaster. It is a wonderful evolution and even better, It’s free!

WordPress is an open source project which means that literally thousands of people around the world are working on it to make it better. It is currently being used by 19% of the top ten million websites in the world, that just shows how powerful a platform it is. There are several alternatives:

  1. Drupal
  2. Joomla
  3. Habari

I have never used these programs so can’t comment but I wanted to provide the alternatives. Anyway, back to wordpress. WordPress comes in two forms, wordpress.com which is fully hosted by wordpress on their servers, meaning you won’t have to set up your own hosting provider, and wordpress.org which is self hosted, meaning you do. Some of the differences are highlighted below.

Focus on your beautiful content, and let us handle the rest.
Get your hands dirty, and host your website yourself.
Premium hosting, security, and backups are included. You can even upgrade to a custom domain, like YourGroovyDomain.com. You’ll need to find a host, and perform backups and maintenance yourself. We offer VaultPress for security and backups.
Choose from hundreds of beautiful themes. Make it your own with Custom Design. Install custom themes. Build your own with PHP and CSS.
Integrate your site with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social networks. Install a plugin, like Jetpack, to enable sharing functionality on your site.
Popular features like sharing, stats, comments, and polls are included. There’s no need to install plugins. Install plugins to extend your site’s functionality.
Personal support and forums are always available. Visit the support forums for assistance.

Why would I bother with the hassle of hosting a site myself if I can just do it for free and easily on wordpress.com? That’s a great question and I asked myself the same one. I have self hosted wordpress for many reasons:

  1. You can use commercial or custom themes as well as all the other free themes on wordpress.com. This gives you complete freedom to modify your website any way you like. On wordpress.com yo are limited to the free themes that are provided and you can’t realise the full potential of wordpress as a CMS.
  2. You can upload any plugin you want. Plugins provide an incredible amount of functionality, if you want to do something with your site you can be pretty sure there is a plugin to help you do it. e.g a paypal button. No plugins allowed on wordpress.com.
  3. With a self hosted wordpress site you can monetize it in several ways, using paypal for your services or products. Access to professional themes that will support your business needs and the freedom to sell ads like google ads or any other alternative ad source.
  4. You will also struggle to benefit from Search Engine Optimisation unless you self host.

That’s enough for this post on CMS, although limited to wordpress I hope it will provide you a good start with understanding what a CMS is, the alternatives to wordpress and a more in depth insight into wordpress itself.

I would always advocate a self hosted site and my next post will cover how to go about getting your very own self hosted wordpress website. When making the decision about wether or not to self host think of this analogy, wordpress.com is the equivalent of using a library computer, you’re operating within a controlled environment and so you don’t have the same freedom as if you were using your own.

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