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Content Management Systems or CMS is a whole different approach to web design. Instead of "static" or "flat file" sites that have actual files for each page, a CMS is software that links to a database. The whole process, from initial design and layout on the "administrator" side to inputs from site users, are a series of commands that link up with software on the site host server. These commands are actually "queries" that the host software uses to find the site's data on a database, which in turn resides on a separate server.

What does that mean to you, the site owner?
In short, it means you have complete and direct control over every aspect of your site's design, layout and more importantly, who gets to use what features the site offers.

What features are we talking about?
Here's a very short list of some of the most popular features available to you:

  • e-commerce
  • bulletin boards
  • live chat
  • automated image galleries
  • automated newsletter mailing
That's a very short list. In fact, the most popular CMS (Joomla!) has literally thousands of features that can be integrated into the basic software - and what's more amazing is - it's all FREE!

There's got to be a catch...
There is... and it's a big one >> SECURITY

Sites with these features are under constant attack by hackers attempting to gain control of your database. They do this for several reasons. Your site's data has value and it can be sold at nefarious web hacker sites for a song. All of a sudden your members start getting spammed, your site gets spammed and your database server disc space gets used to transfer all manner of illicit data like porn, pirated software etc. What's worse is, you could be held responsible as the site's owner. Not only that, you will lose your carefully nurtured online client base. They won't come back.

That's the scarey part and there are of course, solutions.

There are literally millions of web sites that use some form of CMS successfully only because the site owners made security the number one priority before uploading and developing their site. You need to ask yourself some fundamental questions before you proceed with a CMS for your site:

>> Are you prepared to manage security yourself?
>> Are you prepared to hire qualified staff to manage security?
>> Are you prepared to pay your web developer to manage security?

If you've answered "no" to any or all of these questions, my short suggestion would be to avoid deploying a CMS for your site entirely. It's really that simple.

Site security is a never-ending battle against organized rings and independant hackers who devise and deploy new techniques hundreds of times a day. CMS software providers are left to respond by developing patches and security fixes and notifying their users. But ultimately it's up to you the site owner, to ensure that those patches and fixes are deployed in a proper and timely manner.

If not, say goodbye to your site and you may even be saying hello to a lawsuit. I'm not exaggerating. That's how nasty it is!

Conclusion
Don't get me wrong: Content Management Systems are really the cutting-edge of internet and intranet web development technology. They deliver what they promise. But, like anything else - nothing is free and a CMS comes with it's own set of responsibilites and required technical expertise. If used properly and maintained regularly, your site could become the core of your marketing strategy and give you access to the biggest market available - the entire world! You just have to decide how far you want to take it.

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