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What is the difference between decoupled CMS and headless CMS?

There's more than one approach to content management systems. Expert Geoffrey Bock outlines how a decoupled CMS differs from a headless CMS architecture.

A decoupled content management system architecture and headless CMS define different approaches for content delivery....

But, like comparisons between apples and oranges, they solve different problems based on different assumptions and produce different business results.

Decoupled CMS assumes that content is going to be delivered to a single channel, a web browser. It separates (or decouples) content production from content delivery and deploys each set of capabilities on separate servers. Decoupling is designed to improve performance and enhance security.

A single CMS product makes the interconnections between content production and content delivery servers through a proprietary protocol. Typically, the two servers are hosted on separate computer hardware running within an enterprise infrastructure.

With decoupled CMS, an organization can increase the responsiveness of webpage requests by tuning the performance of the content delivery server and adding additional resources as needed. Furthermore, an organization can enhance the security for its content development activities by running the content production server inside its firewall.

A headless CMS architecture assumes that content is going to be delivered across multiple channels, beyond web browsers to include mobile and social apps, kiosks, marketing automation platforms, customer relationship management and environments that have yet to be invented. It seeks to ensure flexibility and extensibility when producing omnichannel digital experiences.

Headless CMS separates content production from content delivery with an innovative twist: It supports sourcing, curating and managing content across these multiple channels, without specifying the delivery environment. For instance, a marketing team can produce the content for a promotional campaign once, and then have it easily appear on branded websites, within a series of email messages for a drip campaign and within in-store kiosks -- all correctly formatted and tuned to the devices and environment.

Headless CMS focuses on content production activities and stores the results in a content hub, accessible to many different delivery environments through standardized protocols that are based on RESTful services.

Headless CMS is usually deployed as a cloud-based platform or as a set of cloud-native services. Security, extensibility and scalability are maintained through the cloud-based infrastructure.

Next Steps

Some benefits of moving to headless customer relationship management

How enterprise content management tools can address content management issues

A look at the effects of a cloud-based CMS

This was last published in June 2017

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