Why a Proprietary School CMS is the Wrong Choice for Your School Website

Why a Proprietary School CMS is the Wrong Choice for Your School Website

When it comes to purchasing a new school website and the accompanying content management system (CMS), often the only real concerns are related to the features and functionality of the CMS, not the potential risks of which particular CMS is actually being used.

We recently wrote an article about why you should choose the WordPress CMS for your school website. Today we flip the coin and give you some insight into why we think a proprietary school CMS is a wrong choice for your school website.


1. It holds your schools data hostage

When a website is developed on a proprietary school CMS, moving it away from a vendor is not simply a case of downloading the files and transfer to another supplier. In fact, there is no simple way to transfer your site away at all.

The website must be totally rebuilt wasting thousands of pounds. When a school website is created with a proprietary school CMS, schools are held hostage to that CMS, with an incredibly steep exit cost to redevelop with another school website provider.

There is certainly a good business case to create these systems. In over 20 years working in the design industry, I have worked for many agencies that created proprietary CMS systems. The main reason they built them? To boost retention. Not because they were better for the client.

This still rings true today with virtually all the current school CMS systems, which is why from the very beginning Brothers Creative have used the open source WordPress CMS system. We feel schools should have the right to leave if they are not provided with an excellent quality of service and should never be penalised with ridiculous costs to transfer their school website away.

2. Security

In today’s climate where website hacks of major UK companies are common news, website security, especially for schools, should be a prime concern.

Many proprietary school CMS systems are operated by fairly small companies of roughly 5-20 employees. Sounds great right? Small school website companies provide that extra special touch of personalisation.

But in such small teams, their web developers will not have the skill required to make constant security patches to their proprietary CMS. It is financially challenging for most school website companies like this to invest hours per week of development time to maintain security patches.

On the contrary, the open source WordPress CMS we use is maintained by thousands of developers and because of this has a much higher grade of security than your standard school CMS.

We trust a system that is updated daily for security risks versus a proprietary system with one developer’s attention every few weeks (or months or years) to address security. The risks to your school website’s brand are too great to trust to one or two people managing your CMS systems security.

2. Efficiency of scale

As business people, we understand the realities of the cost of scale, where using a widely used product or service can save our school customers thousands of pounds. Adding a unique feature for your school website using a proprietary school CMS can cost you in the £1000’s, just for one feature. You can hardly blame them. They need to research, design, develop and set aside testing time. All this on the payroll of your typical school website company.

Whereas using a CMS like WordPress, with a library of thousands of tried and tested functions and plugins, usually cost our customers nothing at all.

3. Updates and new features

The digital landscape is an ever-changing beast. There are constantly new and better ways to do things, often taking less time and improving the customer experience. The cost of making these updates to a proprietary school CMS is steep. Likewise, making the same update to the WordPress CMS that is being used by millions of users worldwide is much more likely to happen at the speed that the web is moving forward.

4. Risk management

I’m often asked that if I was knocked down by a bus tomorrow (lovely, thanks!), what happens to the school website? One thing I do not have to worry about is what happens to our school clients websites. Because we use an open source CMS system familiar to literally thousands of web developers, someone can easily pick up where we left off.

On the other hand, what happens if your school website company decides to dissolve, or a key web developer decides to leave who is responsible for the CMS? That proprietary CMS would be defunct and cease operation. This would likely require your school to redevelop your site the same cost or higher than you paid in the first place. Not forgetting the fact your site could be down for days or weeks. Of course, this is a worst-case scenario, but why take the chance?

We choose to trust a bulletproof system like WordPress and the stats are very impressive. WordPress websites now account for 30% of all sites on the internet. 60% of all CMS systems on the internet are WordPress. WordPress is trusted by huge brands worldwide like Walt Disney, The White House, IBM, Bloomberg, MTV, and the list goes on and on.

5. Service

Perhaps the biggest point for me and something I am most passionate about is customer service. By using a proprietary school CMS, you are dealing with a school website company with literally hundreds of school customers who they know have no choice but to stay no matter how great the service. The number one reason schools come to us from other school website companies is because they are tired of the poor support from their existing supplier, or being charged for the smallest of requests. Sound familiar?

By using an open source CMS we know that at any point a customer can and should have the right to leave us. Because our clients can leave us with little or no cost to them, this forces us to remain a client-centred business, which we proudly are.


I hope you found this article useful and if you have any questions you can call us on 01604 581042 or contact us

Jason Brothers

Jason Brothers is the founder and owner of Brothers Creative and has been in the industry since 1996. His vision is to provide affordable solutions for Schools & Academies to forge ahead in the world of online marketing.