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What Is Umbraco?

A completely free and open-source content management system (CMS) written in C#, Umbraco is a robust and flexible solution for your web publishing needs.

Umbraco is a content management system (CMS): a software application designed for publishing, editing, and otherwise managing the content of a website or intranet.

You may have heard of other well-known CMSs such as WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla, which access website information in MySQL databases using PHP.

How Is Umbraco Different?

Unlike those content management systems, Umbraco is written in C# and uses a Microsoft-based infrastructure. It can store data in various databases, but usually uses Microsoft SQL Server. And while the name may be unfamiliar to many, you've probably seen it in action before: Umbraco is used by tens of thousands of websites including Heinz.com, Wired.co.uk, and Vogue.co.uk.

And though the mention of Microsoft might lead you to believe otherwise, Umbraco is actually open-source software. It's licensed under the Open Source Initiative (OSI) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) free software license, and is completely free to download and use.

While the actual Umbraco software is free, however, you can also purchase premium features such as tech support, upgrade service notifications, and a bug fix warranty.

Umbraco Features

Umbraco is robust enough for very large websites, but easy to use. Built on Microsoft's .NET Framework, it uses industry-standard languages, such as Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

Umbraco allows designers, developers, and content creators to build modern, rich websites, using code or even in Microsoft Word or LiveWriter. You can have as much control over the details as you want, and shop an enormous library of packages, add-ons, and extensions. This CMS goes far beyond simple blogging.

Features of Umbraco include:

  • Microsoft Word and LiveWriter support
  • Edit your website in Visual Studio, Notepad++, DreamWeaver, etc.
  • Customizable content creation tools
  • Full templating control
  • CSS control
  • Built-in caching for faster loading times
  • Application programming interface (API)
  • Built-in search function
  • Multi-language support out of the box

Umbraco vs WordPress

Though WordPress has become the most popular CMS on the web, that doesn't mean it's the best tool for every website. WordPress was originally created as a blogging platform, and when it's used for blog-based websites it really shines. Out of the box, WordPress also works well if you need a simple website up quickly.

But when it comes to creating a large-scale website with more structured information, or if you're just looking for more flexibility when it comes to managing your website, you may want to take a look at Umbraco.

Umbraco may be a more complex solution for your website, but with that complexity comes greater freedom and flexibility to create a website that fits your needs. Instead of relying on third-party plugins to extend the functionality of your CMS, you can shape Umbraco into a CMS that is uniquely tailored to manage the kind of data you need it to, in the exact way you need it to.

Choosing Umbraco Hosting

Many hosting providers offer Umbraco hosting plans, while some hosts feature free Umbraco installation or include setup.

If your Web host doesn't have Umbraco plans, you'll likely still be able to install the free software yourself, if your web hosting plan meets the minimum requirements. Contact your provider before installing any software to ensure your service plan meets the requirements for Umbraco to function.

Umbraco Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Umbraco?

    Umbraco is a .NET-based, open-source content management system (CMS).

  • What is a CMS?

    A CMS is an application designed to facilitate the creation and management of web content. CMS platforms excel at separating the content from the design, making it relatively simple for non-technical users to contribute content. At the same time, the appearance can be easily changed via templates, themes, or skins. Examples of popular CMS applications are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, along with dozens of others.

  • How is Umbraco different from other CMS applications?

    The primary difference between Umbraco and other systems is the platform it runs on and the technology used to create it. The vast majority of CMS applications run on some variation of the LAMP stack. A stack is a combination of software that works together to form a complete solution. LAMP is an acronym that stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP — the individual components that make up the stack. The majority of CMS applications run on PHP, while a number of additional ones rely on Perl or Python. Umbraco is differentiated as one of the few based on Microsoft’s .NET framework and deployed on Microsoft’s IIS web server.

  • What features does Umbraco have?

    Umbraco's editing features are designed to offer a refreshing level of simplicity of use, while providing powerful capabilities. Complete with version control, Umbraco's editor gives you the freedom to edit and make changes without worrying about losing data.

    Umbraco supports the use of the external editor of your choice.

    Umbraco features content caching and dynamic macro caching to maximize site performance for visitors. It also includes integration of .NET controls, powerful search abilities, APIs that give you complete control of the CMS, as well as thorough documentation. There are a number of packages, both free and commercial, that can enhance the application even more.

  • What are the system requirements for Umbraco?

    Umbraco Version 7 requires at least:

    • Operating System: Windows Server 2003 or higher
    • Web Server: IIS 7+
    • Database:
      • SQL CE
      • SQL Server 2008 and higher
      • MySQL (must support case insensitive queries)
    • Development Libraries: ASP.NET 4.5 Full-Trust.

    You must also have the ability to set file permissions for the user who owns the Application Pool for your site.

  • What alternatives to Umbraco are there?

    There are dozens of alternatives to Umbraco. The most obvious competitor is WordPress, the current market leader among CMS platforms.

    For .NET CMSs, there are a number:

    • BetterCMS
    • DotNetNuke
    • Kentico CMS
    • mojoPortal
    • Orchard
    • Orckestra CMS.
  • How does Umbraco compare to WordPress?

    A direct comparison between these two systems is difficult since they target completely different audiences.

    WordPress is, by far, the most popular CMS on the market. It has gained a following among a variety of websites of all sizes and is almost universally supported by web hosting companies around the world. As an open-source product, WordPress has countless themes, plugins, and add-ons to modify and customize your website.

    In spite of these advantages, however, WordPress does have some limitations. Quite a bit of available functionality requires the use of plugins. Installing too many plugins may have a negative impact on your website's performance. As a result, this can be an issue when scaling to meet demand. It's not that WordPress can't scale, and scale effectively, but steps should be taken to ensure that performance does not deteriorate.

    In contrast, Umbraco includes, by default, several features that WordPress requires plugins for. Umbraco's user-friendliness is a significant advantage, as it requires less tinkering than WordPress.

    One large disadvantage Umbraco has been its reliance on .NET and Microsoft technologies. While there are ample web hosting companies that provide Microsoft IIS-based hosting, VPS, and dedicated servers, such plans are usually more expensive than competing LAMP-based hosting services. This is due in large part to the licensing fees hosting companies must pay for the use of Microsoft software.

  • What kind of companies use Umbraco?

    Umbraco is used by a wide range of companies, including Wired.co.uk, Heinz.com, Tesco, and SanDisk.com.

  • How do I know if Umbraco is the right CMS for me?

    The answer to that question depends largely on your goals and level of expertise, as well as your preferred hosting platform.

    If you want access to the largest number of themes and plugins, as well as access to the largest community of CMS users, WordPress is the obvious choice. WordPress has a proven track record of powering websites of all sizes, earning its spot as the top CMS on the market. WordPress also has the advantage of being the most widely supported CMS platform, with virtually every major hosting company supporting it on basic, VPS, and dedicated hosting plans.

    If, on the other hand, you are in the market for a CMS that prioritizes performance and includes the majority of available functions out-of-the-box, Umbraco could be a better option. These factors give Umbraco an edge for organizations whose websites will need to heavily scale in response to growth. This is especially true if your organization already relies on a Microsoft-centric workflow, including reliance on Microsoft IIS web hosting.

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