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Why You Need an Open Source CMS to Run Your Hospital Website

December 30, 2014
CMS, Digital Marketing, Drupal, Open Source, Technology, Website

What is a CMS?
CMS stands for Content Management System. You have probably heard of WordPress, which holds a commanding lead in Open Source CMS market share, followed by Drupal and Joomla. Essentially, a CMS is software that is designed to simplify the creation and maintenance of websites, so that internal marketing teams in healthcare systems and hospitals can make rapid, inexpensive changes to their websites and microsites. These systems manage online content, generate web pages and allow users to upload and change content without requiring technical expertise. (TL;DR: It’s a bunch of pre-built code.)

What is Open Source Software?
The website for the number one ranked hospital in the U.S. – the Mayo Clinic – runs on the Drupal open source platform, as do sites like the American Heart Association, Florida Hospital, Intel and others. Open source software (OSS) is software that can be freely used, changed, and shared in modified or unmodified form by anyone (source: Open Source Initiative). It’s distributed freely and open to all under licenses that comply with the Open Source Initiative ― that is to say the source software is available without any compensation or obligation to the original creator. Millions of applications and devices depend on open source software. There’s a good chance it affects your everyday life without you even knowing it.

Open Source Software in the Real World
Every time you browse the web and visit some of the world’s most popular sites like Facebook or Twitter, you are using open source software. Sites like these depend heavily on freely distributed, open software to power their vision. Everything from the server (Linux) to the web service (Apache) to the actual language the site is written in (PHP) are products of the open source software movement. These three technologies alone are responsible for driving more than 81% of the web today. But the web isn’t the only technological area that has been affected by open source software – take Android phones for example.

Android, the operating system developed by Google, powers four out of every five smartphones and is open source. Google envisioned a system that would be open, extendable and secure. These cornerstones made it possible for device manufacturers to build upon a common system and completely revolutionize the mobile market. These are only a few examples in the vast world of open source software.

Drupal in the Real World
Drupal-based platforms power over two million websites and is the fastest growing CMS platform in the world. Major players outside the healthcare industry have built their digital marketing and internal tools on top of Drupal:

  • FedEx News
  • Universal Studios
  • Warner Brothers
  • AOL Corporate
  • MTV
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • NASA
  • U.S. House of Representatives
  • U.S. Department of Education
  • Governments of Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, UK and more

These entities use pre-built open source software for a number of different reasons. Open source software has provided a mechanism to create large, secure and stable sites without a large budget or a dedicated internal development team that holds the keys to a proprietary system. 

Drupal and Security
Imagine having over 32,000 experts contributing to a single product. A product that is used by large corporations, government agencies like NASA and even some investment firms. This product also spans 230 countries and over 180 languages. It’s secure by nature and is trusted by many ― this is Drupal.

Critics of the open source software movement believe that by handing over your source code, you make your weaknesses publicly known. It is in that regard that Drupal actually makes itself more secure. On a regular basis tens of thousands of professionals are actively contributing to making Drupal better, more secure and easier to use. Because their reputations are on the line, these contributions are thoroughly screened and scrutinized. 

Drupal has a team of security experts who have volunteered to evaluate these contributions. Their evaluations adhere to strict development, configuration and inclusion protocols. Only a handful will actually be included in the system as it moves to the next iteration.

Top Benefits of Open Source Software

Lower cost
When taking a look at the overall cost for the development, support and maintenance of an application like Drupal, clear cost benefits are shown. There are no licensing fees for Drupal. The application is actively maintained by volunteers that ensure your system will function properly out of the box, is secure and requires minimal upkeep to update the software. 

No Vendor Lock-in Problems
With proprietary CMS software, healthcare systems and hospitals often incur a large amount of technical debt. In a general sense, technical debt means that over time, costs will increase as the system is added onto. Those additions may not always be thoroughly tested and a company’s business process will be largely married to a single provider who owns the engine that is at the heart of your website. If you are using a proprietary CMS and want to switch, you will quickly discover that the third-party vendor who is renting you their software owns your website, for all intensive purposes. To move your website to another less buggy, more user-friendly CMS for your marketing team will require a data migration plan and a substantial investment. Drupal alleviates this burden. With thousands of companies and individuals who use the same platform, there are plenty of options if a company decides to switch service providers.

Increased Security
According to Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab Sustainable Computing Consortium, commercial software typically has 20 to 30 bugs for every 1,000 lines of code. That’s a problem for healthcare systems and hospital marketing teams managing websites under an enormous privacy burden driven by HIPAA requirements. Drupal security experts are tirelessly evaluating the system to ensure that its CMS is secure. The team of contributors ensures that no matter how discreet a bug may be, there are enormous amounts of community knowledge to debug and patch the offending source.

Increased Quality
Studies have concluded that when comparing proprietary closed-source systems against open source systems, the open source systems are of a far higher quality. Drupal is built on a community of experts who truly understand the product they are developing for. Their contributions are thoroughly screened and tested before inclusion and the number of overall bugs per lines of code is far less than any other platform.

Phil Smith

Senior Digital Solutions Engineer.
That’s just fancy talk for really awesome web developer and web development innovator. With nearly a decade of Drupal Development experience, nothing is out of grasp. A connoisseur of front-end technologies with an appetite for the latest back-end automation tools. Efficiency is his name. Not really, but you know what we mean.

Analog at birth, now a digital, caffeine-based, lifeform.
A convivial marketing companion and self-made thousandaire.
A lover of electronics. If it beeps, it has his attention. Sadly, he will never be a Ghostbuster when he grows up.
Coffee drinker, marathon failer, web marketing logisticator.
Legend has it, he once unscrambled eggs.
He’s afraid of heights, large crowds, and folding paper.

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