The major advantages and disadvantages of using the Drupal Open Source CMS backend to run your business website.

Whether you enjoy the accessibility of WordPress, find it easier to create with Joomla’s custom tools, or are still deciding which Content Management System is right for you, we all deserve to make informed choices—especially when it comes to choosing an open source system to run your business on. So, in the interest of clarity we’d like to shed some light on the top advantages and disadvantages to using one of the most popular open source platforms out there.

Drupal, much like WordPress, contains thousands of modules that can increase your website’s functionality, but unlike other CMS platforms the options for scalability with Drupal range from personal blogs to enterprise level “mega-sites.” With all that customization it’s important to know where Drupal can be an asset to you, and where it can take some getting used to.

Advantages

Scalable

The possibilities for adding custom modules to Drupal are virtually endless. With over 16,000 add-on modules Drupal gives everyone from hardcore web developers to bloggers with limited HTML experience the power of choice. Whether you need to add a shopping cart to your website or want to add a comments section to your blog, Drupal allows you to customize to your heart’s content.

But what really empowers businesses when they have the freedom to choose? Whether you’re hiring third party developers to build your site, or are on a DIY kick to bring your site up to date, Drupal’s customizable modules allow you to scale your website at a pace that works for your business.

Say you’re just getting started with a website and only want to create a splash page to let customers and investors alike know that you exist, you can do so easily with Drupal, you’ll also have the ability down the road to support different types of content such as video and podcasts, and you’ll be able to add a plethora of different user functionalities that are critical to e-commerce and/or publication sites. Need further proof that Drupal is scalable? Huge websites such as Princess Cruises, Zappos, and Even the White House use Drupal for their web building needs.

Community over Profit

One thing that makes Drupal completely unique is the community of people that support and add to it. Because Drupal is an open-source software solution its modules are made available to the public without relying on astronomically priced licensing fees. What’s more, Drupal owes its competitive advantage the expert ‘volunteers’ that help solve issues in the site’s online forums as well as their in-house developers that get revved up about building new technologies for websites.

Drupal’s community is one built out of passion when it comes to web development and it doesn’t matter if you’re a novice trying learn as much as you can about building sites, a veteran developer, or an entrepreneur that needs a site built for them—Drupal offers a sincere forum for people who want to develop the best websites in the world.

User Management

Just as much as Drupal gains a competitive edge by having a robust community that supports its open source applications it also allows administrators to create a community within the sites they create through the use of custom user roles. Each user role allows for different access levels, so rather than having to assign permissions to each user you want working on your site, you can assign roles that correlate to the amount of control each user has over making changes to the site.

For example, if you want to make someone an author, this person will then have permission to complete tasks such as publishing blog posts, but won’t have access to higher functionalities like creating meta tags for separate pages. What’s more is that you can easily add and remove roles, as well as easily modify what permissions each role has access to.

Disadvantages

Too Many Options

Is there such a thing as too many options? That’s a loaded question. Yes, the amount of options that Drupal gives users is one of the things that makes it a great tool to use. On the other hand, there aren’t any companies or developers out there that need to make use of ALL 16,000 of Drupal’s modules. The downside to having too many options for customization? First is the problem of choice, meaning that unless you’re a skilled developer there will be a big learning curve when it comes to figuring out whether you need to use a Commerce Product Option for Checkout, or a Commerce Checkout Redirect.

Second, large Drupal sites typically load a little slower because the script will produce a big server load. On the other hand, if you develop a site using WordPress you’ll have to enlist a number of plugins that can quickly become unwieldy as well.

Not DIY Friendly

If you are the industrious sort (not to mention have a lot of time on your hands) then Drupal is the open source CMS for people who love to learn and grow their skills. However, if you’re running a company and need a site up quickly, then Drupal is not DIY friendly. If you have someone on your staff that’s an experienced developer then it’s possible to get a Beta site up fairly quickly.

If you don’t have an experienced technical staff, however, and need your site up and running in short order, then Drupal is probably not the right CMS platform for you. The upshot of working in Drupal, however, is that with the right project management, and the right development team, your site will surpass the capabilities and professionalism that the average WordPress and Joomla CMS are capable of creating.

Compatibility

Drupal owes its success to the fact that it’s one of the newest and most comprehensive CMS platforms on the block, this, unfortunately, means that Drupal isn’t compatible with a lot of older software. This won’t be an issue for any business that wants to build a brand new site, but for any company that would like to integrate aspects of Drupal with their current CMS, the waters look pretty bleak.

As Drupal hosts its own core of modules it won’t integrate with similar plugins that you’re currently using on WordPress or Joomla. The solution to this? Either start from scratch or keep on at your current pace. Just keep in mind that it’s the scalability factor that makes Drupal the open source CMS platform that more and more companies are using, not just because of the functionality it offers them today, but because its less likely to break down over time.