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The terms content management software (CMS) and document management software (DMS) are sometimes used interchangeably. However, as we will outline in this article, they are totally different entities with intrinsic differences in functionality. What is important to note is that these are not competing technologies, but rather they serve complimentary needs and can both be beneficial to your business when used appropriately.

In this article we will discuss the ExpressionEngine CMS, compare it with the current most popular CMS (WordPress) and also make comparisons to our own eFileCabinet Document Management Software (DMS).


What is Content Management Software?

It’s worthwhile to take the time to explain the purpose of Content Management Software before we begin to make comparisons.

CMS can be defined as an application that deals with organizing, editing, modifying, and publishing content. In this context, content refers mainly to unstructured electronic files such as graphics, emails, images, webpage content, video, and other tangible assets. This system also allows for the automation and management of workflow in a collaborative environment.

Because of their specialized functionality, CMS is mainly used to manage and operate corporate and commercial website content.

Some of the key features of CMS are:

  • Powerful publishing capabilities
  • Processes that enable content to be delivered to a predefined audience
  • Functionality that automatically generates navigation elements
  • And much more

While there are many CMS systems available, some of the most popular CMS in use today are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Concrete5, DotNetNuke and ModX.

You may visit our previous article for a more in-depth explanation of CMS and its benefits.


A Little Background on ExpressionEngine CMS

ExpressionEngine is the flagship product of EllisLab Inc. It’s general-purpose Content Management Software written in object-oriented PHP and uses MySQL for data storage. According to their website, ExpressionEngine provides open-source content management with a 100% open, transparent, and extensible code base.


ExpressionEngine vs. WordPress: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Considering they’re both Content Management Software, it’s difficult not to compare ExpressionEngine to the most popular CMS currently available—WordPress. Both are powerful platforms and have been used to build everything from blogs to large enterprise publishing operations; however, each has its particular strengths and is therefore better suited to specific applications.

WordPress originally began as a simple blogging engine, but in the years following its inception WordPress has developed into full-fledged Content Management Software that has been used to develop thousands of websites.

WordPress trumps ExpressionEngine in the area of community development. It boasts an active community of developers that create thousands of plugins and themes daily, and integrating new functionality into WordPress is as simple as installing a plugin.

WordPress is also well suited for the creation of simple to moderately complex websites. The backend interface is relatively simple to use, which makes it a great option for web design professionals seeking to provide their clients with a site that they can manage by themselves. The simplicity of the WordPress platform also makes it an excellent choice for individuals seeking an out-of-the-box solution for quickly building a blog or simple website with little technical background. For these reasons WordPress is most appropriate for simple business brochure sites, small ecommerce sites, blog or magazine sites, or portfolio sites.

WordPress unfortunately becomes less effective for websites that require complex content management. The platform makes assumptions about content management that are sometimes not well suited to those in need of complex website functions and features. This is where ExpressionEngine is more effective.

ExpressionEngine was built from the ground up as a way to manage complex content scenarios. In contrast to WordPress, it makes no assumptions about the content model a site will have. With ExpressionEngine, creating tailored content models with multiple content channels, relationships and custom fields is made easier. This fundamental functional difference makes ExpressionEngine almost indefinitely flexible.

As Alnisa Allgood of Quora puts it: “I can create an event calendar, that’s tied to event registration, that’s related to headline news, research, publications, videos, or more, tie that to a venue database, that’s tied to Google Maps, Bing Maps, or my own mapping system. Develop an interface. Decide that only facility managers can add or edit the venue system, any member designated as a fan can upload video, and headline news items, and designated staff or volunteers can write articles, post other material types, etc.”

While these functions can be executed in WordPress, ExpressionEngine will make this process more straightforward, allowing it to be accomplished with less effort. In the end it is up to the user to assess their needs to determine which CMS is better suited to achieve their goals.


eFileCabinet vs. ExpressionEngine

As mentioned above, ExpressionEngine is CMS whereas eFileCabinet is DMS. They both possess similarities with overlapping functionality. Both provide fully centralized storage and administration, both help to streamline the information creation process from end to end, and both offer enhanced collaboration and information-sharing capabilities. However, in spite of these similarities, they serve specific functions that make them vastly different.

DMS is an application that handles the processes and procedures concerned with how electronic documents in an organization are stored, manage and tracked. According to the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), DMS incorporates document capture, workflow, documents repositories, COLD/ERM, output systems and information retrieval systems.  This allows the system to track, store, and control documents. Documents management software is often seen as one of the precursor technologies to content management.

One of the attributes that distinguishes DMS from CMS is the type of files that each system specializes in handling. DMS is most effective for structured file formats such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, PDF, and other popular file formats. CMS on the other hand is better suited for unstructured file formats such as multimedia files, images, graphical content, etc.

The other main area that the two systems differ is in their suitability of use. As previously discussed, DMS is most effective in organizing and managing documents. DMS primarily focuses on tracking documents throughout their life cycle, from creation to archiving. CMS mainly places emphasis on delivering content to designated audiences. While CMS may also store documents, it lacks specific functions and features that make it efficient at document management.


Why Choose eFileCabinet Over ExpressionEngine

Should you require a total DMS solution to manage your paperless environment, eFileCabinet provides functionality that delivers a host of benefits unavailable in ExpressionEngine CMS. Our DMS solutions and tools cater specifically to the organization of electronic assets.

First, eFileCabinet has built-in compliance with regulatory bodies and standards such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), among others. CMS does not typically possess inherent HIPAA and FINRA compliance functionality, and as such they usually requires additional time, effort, and money to ensure that these regulatory standards are met.

In addition, documents in eFileCabinet are tracked throughout their lifetime, ensuring that all alterations, additions, and deletions are recorded. Another essential feature of eFileCabinet that is not available in ExpressionEngine is the powerful Workflow Module, which allows users to control who has access to specific documents thereby preventing unauthorized changes resulting in possible duplicate files and folders.

The most powerful feature that distinguishes eFileCabinet from ExpressionEngine and other CMS is the vigorous security systems in place to ensure that documents remain private and confidential. eFileCabinet’s heavy encryption, secure SAS 70 Type II data centers, and sophisticated intrusion detection systems are features you won’t find on any CMS.

As you can see, eFileCabinet offers a host of advantages over ExpressionEngine and other CMS. To find out more on how you or your company can take advantage of eFileCabinet’s complete DMS solution, fill out our form for a 15-minute demo.