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Why should your school or trust consider using a proprietary content management system (CMS)?

24 May 2019 Katie Sixsmith

There are many different options that are available to you when choosing the right website platform and provider for your school or Trust. 

In this post, we focus in more detail on the benefits of choosing a proprietary Content Management System (CMS) and we address the common misconceptions about using a company’s in-house systems, which are sometimes raised during the website procurement process.

Won’t it cost my school the earth?

In an era of financial frugality, cost is often one of the most important factors when commissioning a new school website project. There are free options available, however these can come with their own pitfalls in terms of maintenance, security and the skill required to build them. We have addressed the benefits and considerations of these in a previous post.

With a proprietary CMS, you are paying for a licence to access a bespoke system which has been created for a specific purpose and is built, maintained and updated in-house. This will usually consist of an annual maintenance cost (varying by provider) and a one-time design and development cost at the start of the contract.

Prices vary by provider but there are usually several design options available ranging from a cost-effective templated solution to a fully bespoke design created specifically for your school or trust.

What if I want to leave in the future? Won’t I be left without a website?

Whilst it’s true that the ownership of the proprietary content management system will always belong to the provider and cannot be moved elsewhere - this doesn’t mean you will be left without a website.

Most providers will not ‘take down’ your website until you have given them notice of your plans to move to a new provider and a switchover date has been agreed. The original company will then make the DNS changes for you on that date to point your domain towards your new website.

In many cases, the copyright of the design will remain the property of the school or trust - meaning that they can take this with them, should they wish to leave. They will also be able to take the content of the website - as the copyright for this will also belong to the school. The only thing which cannot be transferred is the Content Management System as this will remain the property of the provider. 

Wordpress and other open-source CMS systems are constantly updated. Won’t I be missing out with a proprietary CMS?

Not at all! A proprietary CMS will usually have been designed to benefit a specific audience and will allow the users to take advantage of solutions which may not be readily available within an open-source landscape, or certainly not without intense manipulation of that software.

As such, the CMS will  be regularly updated and maintained by a dedicated in-house team. These specialists are also likely to be working on future developments, bug fixes, changes and software improvements that are specific to the education sector, which will ultimately benefit your school or trust when they are tested and rolled out. They are also more likely to take on-board customer ideas for new features when developing updates as well.

Is your system really that secure?

A proprietary Content Management System is the property of the company that has built it and is often the core component of their offering. This means that it’s imperative, not only for the benefit of their customers but for the continued success of their business as a whole, to ensure that this system is as secure, protected and maintained as possible.

They will often have a dedicated and experienced team who work extremely hard every day to maintain the security and upkeep of their CMS. They will be responsible for ensuring that the system is consistently operating at the highest standards, that data is protected and that your information remains safe and secure.

What about customer service? Am I just another number?

Choosing a proprietary CMS does not mean that you have to miss out on excellent customer service, regular updates or any of the benefits which are commonly associated with an open-source platform. Instead, you get the best of both worlds - you get the requirements you need, the service that you want and the knowledge that the system you are using is designed specifically for schools just like yours. You also can benefit from the knowledge that it is securely maintained, without the need to employ a developer, learn complex coding languages or make any back-end changes yourselves.

It is important to shop around and ensure that not only does the CMS you’re looking at meet your needs but also that the company who provides it ticks all of the right boxes too. We’d always recommend having a full demonstration of the software and in-depth conversation on the service, support and ongoing updates that you will receive from the company before entering into any long-term contract.

How easy will it be to use? Will anyone be able to help me?

Very easy! To ensure people keep wanting to work with that solution - a proprietary CMS has to be easy to use, otherwise people will simply choose to work with another provider or go down a different route.

The majority of providers will offer a comprehensive support package - through either telephone, email, walk-through tutorials or a mixture of all three.

Some providers will also provide specific training - although in our experience we have found that a long-term, interactive training solution is often more beneficial than an initial session of intense training - as you may be overloaded with information, or not be ready to start using the new system straight away.

When staff leave or change roles, this training then often needs to be repeated, to ensure a consistency of handover.

What does e4education offer?

At e4education, our prices start from as little as £999+VAT for our Essential Website range and from £1999 for our Bespoke offering. Whether you choose an Essential or Bespoke website with us, you will still have full access to our feature-rich CMS software and the same level of support and advice.

Our annual maintenance charge includes unlimited support and advice for the lifetime of your website, free access to all of our system updates - ensuring you are never on an outdated platform - and the peace of mind that your website is being securely maintained by a talented team of professional developers.

We have designed and created functionality which is of vital importance to school administrators such as the ability to create forms, take payments, integrate with existing MIS providers, produce news stories, write blogs, host galleries and create and edit web content in an easy WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) format. We have empowered schools to take responsibility and ownership of their websites with comprehensive interactive training tutorials, sophisticated user management options and an elegant, clean and easy to navigate dashboard.

With the introduction of GDPR in May 2018, we made changes to our functionality to ensure that our customers data is protected at all times and responsibly handled throughout the lifetime of their contract with us, including being disposed of correctly should they choose to leave. We encrypted form data, added cookie messages and privacy policy options and created a specific Data Protection Officer role within the CMS.

Excellent customer service is one of the key values that underpins our organisation and we strive to create meaningful, long-term relationships with all of the schools and Trusts that we work with. As part of this commitment, we have a dedicated customer relations team to provide our customers with regular account management contact, updates, resources, offers and insights. We also offer free access to our resources where schools can access blog posts, white papers and downloadable checklists on policy changes, marketing advice, website regulations and general best practice.

From the moment we start speaking to you until long after your website has gone live, we will be on hand whenever you need us. Whether it’s consultative advice, technical support or you just want to check in, we’re always happy to help. 

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