Table of contents
Table of contents
- Managing content in the cloud
- Cloud services: IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS
- Cloud CMS and Content as a Service
- Cloud content management benefits
- Total cost of ownership
- Choosing the right deployment option
A cloud-based content management system’s functionalities can provide many benefits, including scalability, accessibility, and cost savings.
Managing content in the cloud
Businesses are increasingly looking to the cloud to cover not only their infrastructure needs but, increasingly, to run their Software as a Service (SaaS). In this context, marketers, business owners, and strategists can benefit from the various services, definitions, and offerings available on today’s cloud.
In this article, we consider cloud-based content management in terms of today’s expanding cloud offerings, define this useful technology, outline its benefits, and highlight important questions for determining the total cost of ownership (TCO) of cloud technology — specifically in the context of marketing technology.
Cloud services: IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS
Let’s begin with the most basic form of cloud computing: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). In an IaaS model, providers offer IT infrastructure — such as processing, storage, networking, and other hardware — as a subscription service. Users can then deploy and run operating systems, applications, and other software on this cloud infrastructure and access them remotely.
The cost of IaaS subscriptions varies depending on the allocation and consumption of resources. The biggest benefit? No need to invest in, maintain, and secure physical infrastructure.
The next step in cloud computing is Platform as a Service (PaaS). While IaaS provides servers, storage systems, and networks, PaaS provides all of these along with operating systems and databases.
In short, PaaS vendors provide a framework — which developers can use to create and deploy applications. In a PaaS model, a third-party cloud provider manages all infrastructure aspects, while the organization’s developers manage the applications.
Software as a Service (SaaS) is the next level of cloud computing: software that exists in the cloud and is accessed remotely, usually via the Internet, but sometimes through virtual private networks (VPNs).
SaaS vendors maintain the software, handle the hosting, and deal with support queries, all for a monthly or yearly fee. One of the original innovators of the SaaS model is our partner Salesforce. But even if you’re unfamiliar with Salesforce, chances are you’re familiar with SaaS-based products or brand services.
Consider your subscription to Spotify. You pay a fee, and Spotify provides access to whatever music or podcast your ears desire — no matter where you are. Of course, if you want to be nitpicky, Spotify isn’t really SaaS, since it’s not a B2B model, but for all intents and purposes, it’s the same thing. Some other examples of SaaS include Slack, Dropbox, Grammarly, and Gmail.
Cloud CMS and Content as a Service
A cloud-based content management system (CMS) can be referred to as Content as a Service (CaaS), which is a specific version of SaaS. Cloud content management solutions have evolved out of the traditional enterprise content management (ECM) space. At its simplest, a cloud CMS (or CaaS) system refers to a headless content management system that stores raw content on the cloud.
By raw we mean content in its most basic format, without HTML or template, designed as content building blocks — modular content that can be pieced together in different layouts and consumed by numerous endpoints. The platform uses application program interfaces (APIs) to feed this raw content out to (or deliver content when called by) various consumers (devices or channels, in marketing speak), where it can be rendered and then accessed by end users.
To classify as a cloud CMS, a platform needs to have several key features:
- The cloud
This probably goes without saying, but a cloud CMS requires the cloud. And it delivers all of the attendant benefits — scalability, price savings, security, and bandwidth increase, along with stress reduction for internal IT teams, etc.
- Object-based content structure
In a CMS, content can be stored as either blocks or objects (raw content above). An example of block storage would be a CMS that stores webpages in whole, like Drupal. In contrast, an object-based CMS, such as Sitecore, stores that same webpage as objects. One object would be the header image, another the H2 copy, another the body copy, etc. This is critical in today’s omnichannel world — object-based storage smooths cross-channel delivery considerably.
- Headless architecture
In general, CMS architecture can be divided into the back-end and the front-end (for specifics, see here). The back-end manages content. The front-end presents it. For many traditional CMSs, these two layers are bound together. Sitecore has always separated them, and our foresight paid off — as the various devices used to access the internet proliferated, developers and content producers increasingly favored a decoupled approach.
- Agnostic presentation
The decoupled approach is favored for one main reason: freedom. Teams are free to store and deliver content on the back-end, while allowing the various devices the content is accessed on to determine how it gets presented. What this means in practice is the same content can go to a webpage and an Amazon Alexa device.
Content structure enters back into the picture here. Alexa doesn’t want your banner image. It just wants your headline, subheads, and body copy. If your content is stored as a whole page (versus as objects), you’ll need to make an entirely new Alexa-friendly version.
You can likely already see why both developers and marketers are fans of cloud-based content management. But let’s dig into the benefits a bit more.
Cloud content management benefits
For starters, back-end developers can work concurrently with the front-end. On the front-end, user interface (UI) developers get their preferred APIs, and mobile app developers get easy-to-use content. And, finally, marketers get to deliver content across channels, without recreating it anew for each one.
Another huge benefit of decoupling the back-end and front-end is future-proofing — no matter what channels appear in the future, marketers will be ready to deliver content to them.
A cloud-based content management system’s functionalities can provide many benefits, including:
- Scalability: A cloud-based CMS can easily scale to meet your organization's needs. You can add or remove resources as required without having to worry about hardware limitations.
- Accessibility: A cloud-based CMS can be accessed from anywhere in the world, helping teams to collaborate in real-time, as long as they have an internet connection. This allows for remote document management and content creation that can improve productivity.
- Automation: Automated digital workflows that streamline business processes and simplify compliance.
- Cost savings: A cloud-based CMS eliminates the need for expensive hardware, software licenses, and IT staff to maintain the system. You only pay for the resources you need, when you need them.
- Security: Cloud-based CMS providers typically have extensive security measures in place to protect your data. This includes permissions, encryption, data backups, and multi-factor authentication. Furthermore, the security of a cloud content management system is continuously being updated in real-time, with upgrades and patches being implemented as soon as they become available
- Easy updates and maintenance: Cloud-based CMS providers handle software updates and maintenance, which means you don't have to worry about keeping your system up-to-date.
- Integration ecosystem: A cloud-based CMS can easily integrate with other cloud-based business applications such as ERP or CRM, email marketing, and social media platforms.
- Flexibility: A cloud-based CMS can be customized to meet your organization's specific needs. You can easily add or remove features as required, and scale the system to meet changing demands.
- Enhanced customer experiences: CMS empowers businesses to deliver relevant, personalized, and consistent content across multiple channels, leading to a more satisfying and engaging customer experience.
These benefits translate to increased speed to market, on-demand scaling, worry-free infrastructure management, reduced risk, simplified innovation, and efficient and effective omnichannel delivery and data capture.
Sitecore XM Cloud, Sitecore’s cloud-native CMS, lets brands take advantage of these benefits of cloud digital transformation while still offering simplicity for marketers with its easy-to-use, visual tools. Brands can stay relevant and create personalized digital experiences.
Total cost of ownership
When it comes to total cost of ownership (TCO), it’s important to consider several factors.
First, you’ll want clarity on upfront costs and subscription fees, including what the fees include. Ask your provider about the costs of hosting, scaling, security, and deployment.
For example, does the provider offer an SSL certificate? How many page views are included per month? What are the charges for times of heavy traffic, such as Black Friday for a commerce business?
You'll also want to talk with your solution provider, their enablement partners, and even current customers (assuming you can find them), about another upfront cost: The training your team will need to get up and running.
Second, you’ll want to consider updates. Many cloud-based solutions, such as Sitecore XM Cloud and Sitecore Content Hub ONE, update automatically. While this convenience, offering you the latest version with minimal updates from your team is ideal for many solutions, it’s not always the best option for your brand. That will depend on your business’s digital maturity, the size of your IT team, and their preferences. Whatever option is best for your needs, it’s worth clarifying what is needed on your end for implementing new versions.
Data protection legislation, such as GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have made it all the more necessary for organizations to maintain security and compliance with customer data. Cloud CMSs enable the localization of content and data policies, which streamlines these needs. Be sure to explore the security and data options of the cloud content management platform you’re considering.
Choosing the right deployment option
Different organizations have different needs. This is as true for deployment options as it is for software. Sitecore offers cloud-based content management tools, and we continue to support on-premises and managed cloud options to optimize business processes.
Learn more about Sitecore’s deployment options.