If your business is looking to use a content management system (CMS), you need to choose between numerous service provider options. Deciding between offerings will often mean deciding between:

  • an on-premises model;
  • a software as a service (SaaS) model; and
  • a platform as a service (PaaS) model.

You should understand the difference between these models, as well as the legal agreement your business will need to enter into with the provider of the services. This article explains the difference between on premises CMS, SaaS CMS and PaaS CMS, the agreements you need for each and what CMS you should choose for your business.

What is a CMS?

As a first step, it is important to know what a CMS is and what it will offer your business. A CMS is a software or platform that will help you upload, customise and control content. The way your business is most likely to use a CMS is to set up and run a website. Examples of popular CMSs are WordPress, Squarespace, Joomla and Drupal.

On-Premises – Software Licence

On-premises means that the software for your CMS and all of the content you enter into and create with the CMS is stored on your business’ servers. This will require you to sign a software licence with the provider.

A software licence is likely to have a set term which you need to commit to as well as a fee attached to that set term. If you have sensitive content, using an on-premise CMS can mean keeping that content in-house and therefore protecting it. However, it also means your business needs to have good security producers and a comprehensive recovery plan in place in case anything goes wrong. This means spending more money.

SaaS and PaaS – SaaS Agreements and PaaS Agreements

A SaaS CMS gives your business access to a software that delivers your content management functions. However, that software and any information you enter into the software, or content you create with the software, is stored off your business’ premises.

Regarding signup, SaaS CMSs can be more flexible as they often offer a subscription model. Here, you can choose your preferred billing cycle such as monthly or annually and leave the agreement at any time.

A PaaS CMS is typically very similar to a SaaS in that the platform is hosted on a third-party server and your data is stored outside of your business. It also generally offers more flexibility with a similar subscription model to the SaaS.

Choosing Between a SaaS and a PaaS

Choosing between a SaaS and a PaaS usually comes down to the:

  • size of your business; and
  • extent and sophistication of your IT department.

A SaaS offers a simple and streamlined process for content management. For example, if you use Squarespace, the code is already in place in the back-end. You only see the front-end. This means you will need to select some options, but you will not have to enter any code. Accordingly, a SaaS CMS is a good solution for a small business because you are unlikely to have extensive technology support within the business.

However, a larger business may choose a PaaS over a SaaS. This is because a platform allows for more control and customisation. It does this by providing the essential infrastructure, but then giving you the tools to build and design features yourself. Often, this will require some coding skills and thus it is best for businesses that have a developer employed or are willing to outsource this assistance. It is far less strenuous than building your own CMS from scratch.

What to Look For in Your SaaS or PaaS Agreement

If it is an off-the-shelf SaaS or PaaS like WordPress, you may simply be asked to agree to terms and conditions when signing up. There will not be much room to negotiate.

However, if you are signing a software licence or a SaaS or PaaS agreement with a CMS provider, you should ensure the agreement has a warranty that the services will work to a set standard. There should also be a warranty that the provider will offer set service levels if errors in the SaaS or PaaS arise.

If security is a concern for your business, it is important to look for confidentiality clauses and warranties from the provider about the steps they will take to secure your business’ information. You should also check:

  • which data centre they will be using to store your data; and

whether the data centre is reputable and likely to provide a reliable service. Most data centres have good security systems and comprehensive security and recovery plans in place. However, if you are unsure, it is always best to do your due diligence and check.

Key Takeaways

When you are looking to engage a CMS service provider, you will have the option of using:

  • an on-premises solution;
  • a SaaS; or
  • a PaaS.

Your decision will depend on the size and resources of your business and what features you want from the CMS. The key issue is to make sure the legal agreement you sign will adequately protect your interests. If you have any questions, contact LegalVision’s IT lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Jacqueline Gibson
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