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  • By Paul Thomas
Paul Thomas
A host of different Content Management Systems use the .NET framework, and each of them have different advantages depending on your business requirements. If, like most, you've boiled your choices down to either Sitecore or Umbraco, this post should provide some helpful insight into which of those platforms will best serve your organisation in it's current form. 

Similarities between Umbraco and Sitecore: 


Suppose your website is littered with one particular promotional banner which contains outdated information. With data-sourced content you’ll only need to change that information in one place –a big time saver over systems where content is tied to the page layout. 


Since the .NET framework is a Microsoft technology, it’s easy to understand why hooking into other Microsoft technologies such as Microsoft office is so easy compared with PHP based frameworks. Other .NET technologies such as Microsoft Dynamics (a world leading CRM system) also integrate well with both Umbraco and Sitecore. 


Both systems can be expanded using off-the-shelf add-ons. Sitecore call these add-ons “Modules” and Umbraco call them “Packages”, both of which can be used to add additional functionality to an existing website with relative ease. Both systems can also be expanded with customised code. 


Umbraco and Sitecore both offer a user friendly interface for the web-administrator to use behind the scenes. Interestingly, with the introduction of Sitecore 8, the platform has seen dramatic improvements in the user interface design on what was already a well-designed system. Having said that, Sitecore has a lot more functionality, and is therefore naturally more complex to navigate than Umbraco. 


Umbraco is an open-source platform with a large community of developers who constantly work to improve the platform. Sitecore is also constantly being improved with its in-house expert developers releasing version updates on a regular basis. 

Differences between Umbraco and Sitecore: 


Sitecore is a licenced product, meaning that a yearly license fee is payable should you wish to continue using the platform. Umbraco is an open-source platform, meaning it’s free to use. This is often the most common tipping-point for organisations on a fairly restrictive budget, but it is important to consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) before making a concrete decision, since the licence fee often represents a small fraction of the total build costs. 


Sitecore is often referred to as enterprise level software where Umbraco is thought to be software for mid-sized businesses. Strictly speaking this isn’t true, and both systems already stand as legitimate contenders for some very large household brands. However, according to web tracking tools and, Sitecore holds a larger proportion of the internet’s top websites. In November 2015, across all websites scanned, Umbraco had almost 30,000 websites to its name, compared to Sitecore’s ~10,000. However, amongst the top 10k websites 3 times more websites are hosted on Sitecore compared to Umbraco.


There is a clear winner here. Sitecore’s DMS (Digital Marketing System) offers an unrivalled suite of marketing tools which allow web administrator to set up A/B tests, marketing automation, website personalisation, engagement analytics, and much more besides. Sitecore also offers one whole view of the customer, illustrating every interaction each visitor has with your website. 

Umbraco’s marketing functionality can be extended somewhat with certain 3rd party packages, but it is very limited comparatively, and relies on external companies to keep their software up to date. 


As previously mentioned, Sitecore offers personalisation out of the box. The built-in rules engine offers a high level of control over personalised content, and the experience database ensures that the personalisation is relevant through it's ability to learn from every customer interaction. 

Umbraco does offer personalisation, but it isn’t out of the box. You’ll be required to purchase a 3rd party software package from a company such as SpinDoctor, and needless to say, their offering isn’t nearly as comprehensive as Sitecore’s integrated personalisation engine. 


Workflow is a quality control management system. Before new content is published to the live site, it will have to pass through various predefined workflow states. For example, a website editor might write a blog post and submit it for publishing. The item then automatically enters the next workflow state, which requires management to assess the quality of the work before allowing the content to be published to the live site. 

Once again both Umbraco and Sitecore both offer this functionality. However Umbraco’s offering doesn’t come out of the box, where Sitecore’s does. Furthermore, the 3rd party offering available for Umbraco will modify the underlying code, which is never ideal from a maintenance perspective. 


Whilst Umbraco is more fiddly to configure, it is perfectly possible to set security on a per item basis for any given user. Having said that, if you need to restrict access to large chunks of functionality, it's going to take a lot more work to achieve that in Umbraco. On the other hand, Sitecore offers advanced security permissions on a granular level, which is important for many large organisations who need to maintain control of their website whilst it is being used by multiple content editors. 


Sitecore has “web forms for marketers” – an out of the box form designer for marketers. It hooks in well with Sitecore Analytics, and stores all form submissions (even drop-offs which can be useful for business purposes). 

Umbraco offers Umbraco forms (formerly Contour) as an additional add-on. The package is fairly inexpensive and offers a nice level of functionality for marketers.


Umbraco has just one database. On the other hand Sitecore has 3 separate databases out of the box: “Core”, “Master” and “Web”. The web and master databases offer important functionality for marketing professionals and webs administrators. When editing website content, your changes are made to the Master database and changes are only reflected on your live website when you choose to publish them to the web database. This is beneficial for a number of technical reasons, the main ones being: 

1. Draft content isn’t stored on the live website, and therefore does not affect the speed of your site. 
2. A more secure architecture as the web database could be hosted in a separate environment to offer additional protection for potentially sensitive data. 
3. Reduces the risk of human error such as developers hooking into the wrong content. 


Whilst both systems have in-line editing capabilities (after a bit of tweaking in Umbraco), Sitecore offers fewer glitches and a much more seamless experience for the content editor. So if you prefer to edit in design mode, Sitecore wins hands down. 


Sitecore is a powerful system, and could easily be considered a sledgehammer if it’s being used for a small brochure website. Umbraco would be much better suited for such a site. However, the more complex the site becomes in terms of bespoke functionality, the more heavily we would lean towards recommending Sitecore. Sitecore offers a lot of functionality out of the box which is built and maintained by Sitecore. If you choose Umbraco, but wish to achieve similar functionality, a lot of complex code would be required and the on-going maintenance costs are likely to outweigh the costs of the Sitecore license. 

To find out more about each system we recommend that you sign up for a one-to-one demonstration with our Sitecore and Umbraco experts. Our demos are free of charge, and the will give you the insights needed to make the right decision for your organisation. Contact us today to organise your free demo.
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