9 Benefits of SaaS CMS Platforms and How to Choose One

9 Benefits of SaaS CMS Platforms and How to Choose One

Posted on June 11, 2024 0 Comments

What’s the difference between a SaaS CMS and traditional CMS? In this post, we’ll look at the differences, some examples of popular SaaS CMS platforms today, as well as the main benefits of using this type of cloud-based CMS over something else.

The technology you use to build and manage your digital presence can have a serious impact on your brand.

Choose the wrong one, and you could end up with a platform that limits what you do, creates more work for your development team and makes your brand look unprofessional. Choose the right one, and you could end up with a platform that makes it easy to scale your online operation, enables your entire team to contribute and strengthens your brand reputation.

But is a software-as-a-service content management system (SaaS CMS) the right choice for you? If so, which one should you use?

In this post, we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of CMS and, in particular, the SaaS CMS. We’ll look at what makes them different from traditional CMSes, the pros and cons, and a list of questions to ask yourself before you settle on one.

What Is a SaaS CMS?

A content management system is software used to build and manage websites. Many of these platforms are designed so that even the least tech-savvy of people can build impressive websites for personal and professional means.

A software-as-a-service CMS is one that operates entirely in the cloud. Not only that, the CMS vendor is responsible for maintaining the hardware and software. They take care of maintaining the infrastructure, cloud servers and storage as well as the CMS software.

So users need only create an account to get started with building and managing their website.

SaaS CMS vs. Traditional CMS

How exactly does this differ from traditional content management systems?

A traditional CMS is one that allows users to manage both the frontend and backend systems of their website. They are able to configure things like server capacity, databases, PHP, security layers, performance tools and more.

With a SaaS CMS, users don’t have to deal with the infrastructure side of website management as the vendor handles it all—storage and bandwidth limits, security, performance and uptime, the works.

There are other ways in which these content management systems differ. This actually gets a little complex as there are different types of traditional CMS. We’ll break them up into two categories: on-premise and hosted.

Here’s a basic breakdown of the differences:

On-premise CMSHosted CMSSaaS CMS
Website HostingLocally or in the cloudCloudCloud
LicenseMay need to purchaseMay need to purchaseN/A
CMS SoftwareInstall it yourselfInstall ityourself
Software MaintenanceVendor + YouHost + YouVendor
Security & PerformanceYouHost + YouVendor
  • Domain name
  • Physical servers
  • On-site utilities
  • Software license
  • IT/engineering team
  • Extensions and add-ons
  • Domain name
  • Hosting services
  • CMS software (for closed-source)
  • Extensions and add-ons
  • Domain name
  • Hosting services
  • CMS software (for closed-source)
  • Extensions and add-ons

On-premise CMS is software you install on your local server. Because of this, you need an in-house IT team to run and manage the hardware.

In terms of the CMS software, it could be proprietary or one you’ve purchased a third-party license for. While the vendor maintains and updates the software, you are responsible for everything else, including maintaining the hardware and everything you build and add onto the software. This includes all of the costs to house and maintain the infrastructure.

Hosted CMS is software you install in the cloud. Rather than self-host, you purchase server space and resources from a hosting company on a monthly or yearly basis. Depending on which CMS you use, you might also have to pay a fee to license the software.

While the hosting company takes care of maintaining the integrity and security of the server infrastructure, you and your team are responsible for the rest.

SaaS CMS simplifies this.

You pay a monthly or annual fee per site and per user to use the service. It’s like using any other SaaS, like Salesforce, Basecamp or QuickBooks. There’s nothing to install or maintain software-wise. You don’t need to procure a license. You just sign up and go.

That said, there are different SaaS CMSes built for different types of users.

The ones made for small businesses or personal use can usually manage and edit their websites on their own. Everything from design to integrating their website with other software has been greatly simplified.

However, CMSes built for enterprises might need some more help. While these users might not have to dig into the technical maintenance of their site, they most definitely need pros (either internal or externally resourced) who can build their front end, refine the UX and integrate the CMS with the rest of their stack.

SaaS CMS Examples and Use Cases

SaaS content management systems come in a variety of shapes and forms:

Drag-and-drop Website Builders

You’ve probably seen ads for this kind of SaaS CMS before. They usually have big-name celebrities talking about how easy it was to build their own website, like Karlie Kloss for Wix and Keanu Reeves for Squarespace.

It’s true. SaaS CMSes like Wix, Squarespace and Weebly make it very easy to get a website online without any technical knowledge. Even WordPress has its own SaaS CMS with WordPress.com.

There is a tradeoff, though, as these platforms cater to people building personal websites as well as smaller brand websites. Yes, they can build with ease, but there are limits to what they can create.

Ecommerce Shop Builders

One of the things I’d argue that basic drag-and-drop builders can’t do well is ecommerce—at least on a massive scale. That’s why there’s an entire market for SaaS ecommerce builders.

Shopify, BigCommerce and PrestaShop are popular solutions in this space.

Similar to regular website builders, they provide users with an intuitive drag-and-drop, feature-rich builder. Customization is no problem, and the same goes for integrating functionality from within the builders as well as third-party apps.

But the main focus here is ecommerce. So while these builders do this exceedingly well, they typically need another platform to close the gap between regular business marketing and ecommerce.

Digital Experience Platforms

Drag-and-drop builders changed the game. Unlike traditional content management systems that were user-friendly for people like web designers and developers, these platforms empowered any and everyone to build websites.

In order to catch up with traditional CMS, though, a more robust form of SaaS CMS was needed. It needed to pack all the power and control of the traditional CMS while still being so easy that anyone could use it.

And that’s where digital experience platforms (DXP) like Progress Sitefinity CMS enter the picture. These types of CMS bring everything—and everyone—together into a single platform.

Rather than rely on disparate solutions to manage your website and all the channels connected to it, you have one platform that makes managing and analyzing your omnichannel strategy easy. What’s more, your team won’t need to rely on IT and engineering to implement or manage content on their behalf.

And it stays true to the ease-of-use promise established by these drag-and-drop types of websites. So, for content editors, it’s a piece of cake to do their day to day.

The Benefits of Using SaaS CMS Platforms

You can see why it is that people are flocking to SaaS CMS platforms. Here are some more reasons why SaaS CMSes have become the go-to choice for building websites:

1. Great Value

Rather than pay a big licensing or hosting fee upfront, you pay for what you need and when you need it. What’s more, you likely won’t have unexpected additional costs to deal with down the line.

2. Service Level Agreements

This isn’t really unique to SaaS CMSes as web hosts offer the same thing. However, it’s important to be aware that your SLA guarantees a certain amount of website uptime thanks to the failover systems and redundancy built into the infrastructure.

3. Scalability

This isn’t true for every SaaS CMS, but it is for enterprise CMSes as well as DXPs that are built for stability and scalability of your website. If you anticipate major growth and need a platform that will support it, then one of these SaaS CMSes is the way to go.

4. Little to No Maintenance

With a traditional CMS, you have to keep your software updated, make backups, fix bugs, monitor security and performance, deal with uptime issues and more. With a SaaS CMS solution, all that technical maintenance gets handled by your provider.

5. Outcome-focused

While you’ll have more control over the backend of your website with a traditional CMS, all the time you spend on it is time you’re not spending on your website. With a SaaS CMS, the focus is 100% on building an incredible digital product, creating content and improving the experience for your users.

6. Code-free Page Building

You don’t need to be an advanced programmer in order to design incredible websites or experiences with a SaaS CMS. This intuitive website-building solution ensures that everyone on your team can contribute with ease.

7. More Effective Collaboration

It’s important to stress this aspect of SaaS CMS as this is one of the primary obstacles to using a traditional CMS. Often, the development team gets saddled with all of the edits and work that need to be done because no one else knows how to use it. SaaS-based solutions tend to be universally friendly, allowing for everyone to be more productive and focused on their unique responsibilities.

8. Built-in Features

Unlike some traditional CMSes that come with little more than the CMS itself, SaaS CMSes are robust, feature-rich platforms. There’s no need to add an excessive amount of plugins or extensions to make your website do what it wants. From chatbots to personalization, this functionality is already included. Plus, with the automated upgrade process, you get the latest and greatest in features, patches and updates instantly.

9. Future-proof Platform

Take a look at something like WordPress which hasn’t changed in over a decade. It’s the responsibility of website designers, developers and the community of unpaid contributors to ensure that websites built with this technology have modern designs and functionality. With SaaS CMSes, this isn’t a problem as the vendor constantly works to provide users with what they need to design digital experiences for today’s and tomorrow’s consumers.

How to Choose the Right SaaS CMS

As you consider all the options out there, go through the following checklist to ensure they meet your expectations and requirements:

  • Cost: Will what you pay each month/year be worth it?
  • Goals: What are the primary goals of your website? Can you accomplish them easily enough with this CMS?
  • Infrastructure: Can this CMS meet your bandwidth, storage, security, performance, uptime and other technical requirements?
  • Scalability: Will your CMS be able to rise to the challenge if your site experiences a traffic surge?
  • Security: When collecting sensitive data from users, will privacy or security be an issue?
  • User-friendliness: Who will use this CMS? How much of a learning curve will there be for different members of your team?
  • User needs: Is the functionality that different users need (like marketers vs. developers) readily available? Or is this CMS meant for a certain type of user over another?
  • Customization and flexibility: Can you build the website you envisioned with this CMS?
  • Core functionality: Will you have the tools necessary for things like SEO, email marketing, blogging, ecommerce and more?
  • Integration: Does this CMS easily integrate with your existing technology stack?
  • Analytics: How easy will it be to track your website activity? And are the analytics advanced enough to provide you with the level of insight you need?
  • Support: Some issues you won’t be able to fix on your own. How good is their customer support?
  • Future needs: Will this platform adapt as the world of website design does?

While there are loads of benefits to using a SaaS CMS, keep in mind that it might not be right for your current project.

For starters, you or your employer might want more control over the backend. In some cases, that makes sense. Whether it’s a concern about security, uptime, resource management or something else, that’s something a SaaS CMS might not be able to give you.

You also have to consider vendor lock-in. Some SaaS CMSes make it difficult to transfer your website from their platform to another. So you and your employer need to be 100% sure you’re happy with what your vendor offers.

Aside from that, there aren’t many drawbacks associated with using a SaaS CMS. The only thing to be careful about is choosing the right one. While some people might assume that the popular platforms they hear about on TV are just as good as anything else, they’re not necessarily the right fit for everyone or every website.

So use the questionnaire above to ensure you’ve covered all your bases before settling on one.

Wrapping Up

Content management systems have revolutionized the website building process. Arguably, SaaS CMSes have taken it to the next level by enabling anyone with a desire to build their own website and start a business online.

When deciding which SaaS CMS (or any type of CMS) that you need, don’t just go with one because it’s the most popular choice or someone recommended it to you. While there’s a lot you can learn about the basic features and value proposition of a CMS from their website, you won’t know until you get some hands-on experience and see how it works for yourself.

If you’re interested in checking out Sitefinity CMS, schedule a demo today.

Suzanne Scacca

A former project manager and web design agency manager, Suzanne Scacca now writes about the changing landscape of design, development and software.


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