Using WordPress as an Enterprise CMS: 9 Things You Should Know

Using WordPress as an Enterprise CMS: 9 Things You Should Know

WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS) in the world, powering roughly 29 percent of all active websites. Yikes.

With numbers like those, it’s no surprise that WordPress crosses the minds of those who are choosing a CMS.

But, is WordPress robust enough for enterprise-scale projects? Sure, it’s highly versatile and can be used to build a range of digital experiences — but is that enough?

Using Wordpress as an enterprise CMS? Here’s what you need to know:

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What is WordPress?

WordPress is, among other things, the most popular blogging software in the world. According to a 2018 survey, WordPress is the engine that drives more than 60% of the online sites that use any form of CMS.

Millions of sites from personal blogs to corporate online stores to major government resources, use WordPress as their primary content management tool. The software is open source with a plugin and templating architecture that’s fostered a large community of developers and designers to extend the functionality of the platform.

While WordPress powers the majority of websites, many don’t consider it a CMS, and it’s certainly not an enterprise-grade CMS.


Is WordPress (even) a CMS?

Ever since WordPress became such a popular blogging tool, arguments on both sides have sprung up as to whether or not it should be categorized as a CMS.

Those that believe WordPress is a CMS argue that the software fulfils the primary function of a content management system, in that it allows users to work with their online content, without the requirement for extensive (or any) coding skills.

The opposition argument stems largely from the software’s origins as a platform for personal blogging. Although WordPress has gone through several upgrades and revisions (currently Version 5 is the most widely used version), and despite its use by groups ranging from NASA to BBC America to TechCrunch, the naysayers argue that WordPress lacks many of the capabilities need as a “true” CMS, in whatever terms they choose to define it.

Is Wordpress a CMS?

(Redditors LOVE to argue whether WordPress is even a CMS)


...So, I need an enterprise CMS?

While businesses of all sizes need a system by which they can create, post, and update their online content, those needs for a small or medium-sized business (SMBs) are often much different than those for an enterprise-sized entity, both in terms of capabilities and in terms of sheer scale.

For instance, a small business that operates in a single location may not have the need for a multi-site, multi-language CMS that a major international enterprise would.

Not only do entities of different sizes have different needs for their content authors, but they also must meet different demands from their current and prospective customers.

A small business can use their CMS to target customers in their specific market or location, while an enterprise CMS must have the power to reach customers across the globe, at any time, on any device. This requires more advanced capabilities like extensibility, interoperability, and scalability that enterprise-grade software generally has.


What features are an enterprise CMS must have?

If you’re not sure what a step up from WordPress looks like, here are some key features, functions, and hallmarks of an enterprise CMS.

1. Headless content management

Enterprises are facing increasing pressure to support omnichannel digital experiences on a vast array of devices. A traditional CMS, even one that tacks on APIs and calls itself headless, won't cut it.

Enterprises need a true headless CMS that can store frontend agnostic content and enable marketing teams to optimize and deliver the content on whichever devices or channels their audience demands.

Can WP support headless?

While you could use the REST APIs WordPress provides as a headless solution, you’ll lose out on the themes and other presentation features that are a core competency of the platform. WordPress isn’t built from the ground up to provide a headless or hybrid CMS solution like many other platforms.

2. Multi-site management

Many enterprises have dozens or even hundreds of websites for different brands, global regions, or product lines.

Large companies need to manage all of these sites at a corporate level to maintain compliance standards and create a consistent overall message. Multi-site management lets marketers build, view, and edit every website from a single interface.

This makes quality control simpler to control and enables marketers to reuse content across sites for more efficient content creation.

Can WP support multi-site?

WordPress has a multi-site feature, but it’s not that simple to get started using because you’ll need to edit WordPress system files written in PHP. Multi-site also adds complexity to your WP installation, and many plugins may no longer be compatible.

3. Multi-tenancy

Maintenance and support are crucial to large enterprises that need guaranteed uptime and prompt security patches.

With multi-tenancy, the software for multiple clients is managed in one place by system administrators, so it streamlines ongoing maintenance and upgrades happen at the same time for everyone. Since updates are simultaneous, there's only one version of the software for tech teams to support, leading to shorter response times and better service.

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Can WP support multi-tenancy?

Similar to multi-site, Wordpress can support multi-tenancy, but it’s not straightforward to set up and adds complexity to your WP architecture. Many SaaS solutions, on the other hand, provide multi-tenancy advantages out of the box.

4. Multi-tiered access privileges

An enterprise-level organization often requires multiple tiers of access privileges for specific tasks or types of content.

The enterprise CMS must not only allow administrators to specify which tasks each user is permitted to carry out within the system, but also which types of content and in which areas those users can work. These features are crucial for compliance, especially in industries that have strict regulations like healthcare and finance.

Can WP support multi-tiered access?

While WordPress has default roles for administrators, editors, authors, and other similar jobs, the platform doesn’t have out of the box functionality for permissions down to a granular level. Permission are only based on tasks or functions, not specific content.

5. Detailed analytics tools

A powerful enterprise CMS should also be capable of integrating with analytics tools like Google Analytics.

These tools can help content creators track which content generates the most traffic by location, time, or subject matter, as well as which devices the viewer uses to consume the content. Marketers can then see the data from these tools in their CMS dashboard and determine which types of content deliver the best results. Data-driven insights are critical in driving ROI for enterprise businesses.

Can WP support analytics tools?

There are WordPress plugins to add integrations for many analytics tools, but these vary in quality because they’re developed by the community. Third-party plugins can pose a security risk and lead to a buggy experience, and may not be a good idea for enterprise companies.

6. Security

While WordPress is the most popular CMS on the planet, it isn’t without its flaws.

A major drawback is its dependence on plug-ins, which can lead to security issues if they’re not carefully vetted. For enterprise-level entities, the consequences of a security breach are often magnified.

Businesses considering an enterprise CMS must examine the security features the platform offers, as well as the hours that will go into providing both internal users and external customers with the confidence that their critical data is protected.

Enterprise-grade software is generally built with security at the forefront and patch new vulnerabilities quickly as they arise.

Does WP support strong security?

It’s likely that you’ll need additional community-developed plugins to meet your business requirements. There’s no question that relying on a variety of third-party plugins can open you up to security vulnerabilities, so it may require more in-house development to ensure strong security.

7. High-level technical support

An essential component of any enterprise CMS isn’t exactly a feature; it’s a robust technical support system which users can rely on when things go wrong.

Open-source CMS platforms like WordPress have extensive online support forums and resources. While these resources can help users resolve issues for routine problems, they don’t offer immediate answers when mission-critical errors occur.

Does WP have high-level technical support?

There’s a large WP community that can answer questions you may have related to the core platform, but support for many plugins could be poor or non-existent. Enterprise companies can’t afford any downtime or a buggy user experience, so it’s essential that professional support is available beyond community-driven forums.


Using WordPress as an enterprise Content Management System (CMS): 9 limitations you need to know

Make no mistake, WordPress may be a beginner’s playground, but some of the biggest brands on earth trust WordPress with their online presence.

CNN, Forbes, TechCrunch, UPS, Sony, BBC America, and Mashable are among the names on that list.

Yet, there are a few limitations and concerns you need to know about before you adopt WordPress as an enterprise CMS.


[WordPress limitation #1] Security is an issue

With companies like Equifax and Weebly struggling with security breaches in recent years, website security is a growing concern, and unfortunately, WordPress’ security record is far from reassuring.

It’s classed as the most-attacked CMS on the market, and although there are regular security patches and a range of security plugins out there, if security is your priority, then you might want to spend some time to find a better protected CMS.

Using Wordpress as an enterprise CMS: WordPress is the most attacked CMS


[WordPress limitation #2] There’s a plugin problem

At its core WordPress is equipped with fairly basic site features. You can blog, create site pages, apply templates and make some design customizations. If you want to get more detailed, you’ll be installing plugins.

Plugins make WordPress great by adding all sorts of functionalities. Some plugins let you build forms, other turn your WordPress website into a social network. But at the same time, plugins make life a whole lot more difficult.

The more plugins you install the more bloated your site becomes, and that makes it slower and makes the backend UI look messy. But more worryingly, you’ll run into issues where certain plugins clash and break each other, or the plugin developer disappears and never fixes the plugin that you rely on. Basically, with each plugin, you’re adding another movable — and therefore breakable — part of your web presence.


[WordPress limitation #3] It needs ongoing maintenance

This one is linked to the plugin problem. Whenever WordPress rolls out an update, you’re at risk of breaking your template or plugin set.

If a WordPress core update conflicts with existing plugins and themes, they won’t work until the third-party developer updates the plugin or theme — or until you revert back to an older version of WordPress. And guess what? That leads to security vulnerabilities, not to mention headaches.

Plus, there’s no tech support number you can call when your site breaks. Sure, there is an active community and a range of third-party support agencies, but they won’t always react quickly when your website is down.


[WordPress limitation #4] You’re on your own

You’re not just on your own when it comes to support, you’re on your own totally.

The only way to leverage the support of Automattic, the company behind WordPress, is by paying a hefty $5,000 per month (at least!). Outside of that, you’ll have to hunt for an agency if you want outside help. Either that or your in-house development team will be super busy.

WordPress as an enterprise CMS: Wordpress VIP cost
(Imagine how many tacos you could buy with $5,000…..)


[WordPress limitation #5] Forget about multi-layered content relationships

WordPress works great as a standard blogging tool for either single or multi-author blogs. You can easily and quickly publish high-quality and visually enticing blog posts. However, with standard blog posts, your content requirements are still quite simple.

If you have pages that draw upon several different content types with complex interactions, this will stress the overall functionality of WordPress, and your site performance will suffer. Having a single blog post that contains photos, video, and text is one thing, but if you want to display multiple portals and instances of text or imagery — like the iGoogle Portal website does, for example — then WordPress isn’t the best option.


[WordPress limitation #6] Workflows can get tricky

If you have a smaller website, the editing workflows and user permissions you’ll need to manage are quite simple. If you only have a few users, then uploading content, and making edits is something you can easily accomplish.

But, if you have a larger site that requires frequent updates, and changes to the content, it’ll be much more difficult to accomplish these tasks. This is doubly true if you have a team of contributors that each have roles that will evolve over time.

If you have complex and regular content edits, and user permissions, then you’re better off using a different platform.


[WordPress limitation #7] Migration is painful

Migrating your site to different servers is never a fun experience. However, the complexity of WordPress will make this process even more challenging and time-consuming, especially if you’re migrating a custom WordPress website.

Where a custom website built with other could be moved in minutes, and equivalent WordPress website could take far longer.


[WordPress limitation #8] Spam, spam, spam

Security is one thing, but spam? That’s a whole new kettle of fish.

The average WordPress instance gets inundated with spam comments, and you’ll need to regularly clean them from the backend of your WordPress instance.

WordPress as an enterprise CMS: Wordpress is bombarded with spam comments

And sometimes, they even slip through to the comments section on your website, which can get embarrassing.

The solution is either a whole lot of time or a premium spam-busting plugin.

[WordPress limitation #9] Do you really want to manage the technology?

One of the biggest questions you need to consider is your business really interested in managing technology. Do you really need to understand and manage the complexities of hosting, security, and upgrades? Is there a better way? Can the platform be a commodity that is managed for you that then allows you to engage in higher value activities that actually drive revenue, reduce costs or increase market share? Not to mention the complexity of managing multiple sites.

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But, WordPress is free?

WordPress is indeed free. But Hosting WordPress isn’t free, and neither is maintaining it.

Whatever you save in currency, WordPress will slowly sap from you in the form of plugin and theme maintenance, security issues, spam management and those generalized minor-but-kinda-major issues that stop your site from launching or looking as good as it should.

Believe it or not, WordPress typically ends up being the expensive option in the long run compared to SaaS content management systems.


Proceed with caution

Overall, WordPress is a solid choice for bloggers, freelancers or organizations that can get by with a simple website that’s not feature-heavy. Or, an organization that doesn’t mind allocating time, money and employees for the maintenance of their WordPress instance.

If that sounds like you, then give WordPress a go. If not, you should be considering SaaS solutions where the vendor carried the burden of maintenance, updates and back-end issues.

Got any good reasons to use WordPress as an enterprise CMS, or is SaaS the way to go? Talk to us in the comments below!

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Sam Saltis
Sam Saltis

An entrepreneur at heart with over 20+ years of experience in building internet software, growing online companies and managing product development.

Loves all things SaaS, technology, and startups.

You can find him feeding his beloved fish when he's back in Australia.

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