Yep - and they really are free.
With the utmost respect to their developers, who truly have given the world an amazing product, you still can't avoid the fact that you usually get pretty much what you pay for. Especially since whoever installs and customises your free CMS can do good and bad things with it - so you really need to pay a professional to make sure your free CMS is set up right initially.
If you're confident it is, then examine these advantages and disadvantages:
Imagine receiving a free whiz-bang all-in-one hardware tool that is designed to be used for just about every possible handyman application known to man. Great value! But now you've got to learn how to use the thing... and all you really needed was a hammer and saw... or a screwdriver and pliers... or [just your custom requirements, get the picture?]
If you can't find help yourself on their documentation or forum, you usually have to pay! We train and support you for free. Fact is you probably won't need it anyway, because our systems are so easy to use, and only contain as much complexity as you need. And you don't have to pay extra from customisation because that's what you're getting - a customised CMS.
Think you can compete in the search engines against everybody else who's using the SAME free system you are? ...and has already been trying for years? Think again. Get a custom-built CMS and website, hand coded for SEO from the ground up, and you'll see just how quickly Google and the other search engines notice you.
That's why they are constantly being updated, and that places the burden of keeping up-to-date on you... or you could be hacked and used for spam or graffitied - which is the worst thing that could happen to your SEO campaign, let alone your reputation! Even the best free software isn't easy to update, and you can lose your customisations, let alone your content if you're not careful. As an example, Google has been warning people using out-of-date WordPress versions because of the risk and Google refuses to promote someone who is a potential danger.
In addition to the cost of constant security updates, each time you update a plugin, or when a plugin is abandoned by the developer (so it won't receive updates - happens frequently with free plugins) or when you just need to add a new plugin to enhance Wordpress, you keep bumping into plugin incompatibility issues. Some plugins are not compatible with the Wordpress core version you're using, or with each other. You hadn't updated some because they'd break your site, but you're forced to make large version updates and so you often have to change over to a different plugin. Selecting a good plugin that does what you want, testing it, transferring content to it and configuring it costs you in developer hours... and then next month you find another incompatibility. For this reason, even basic Wordpress websites attract a maintenance fee, or a hefty monthly fee for complex sites, but you don't pay that with a custom CMS.
This professional client creates their own OHS Documentation Systems and sells them online. They're very clever people. They came to us because they just couldn't get the hang of their Zen Cart installation.
Having already 'invested' in their design and contracted hosting with the 'free' Zen Cart provider, they stuck with the Zen Cart and paid us to use it for them. Hardly what you'd call 'Content Managed'.
The Zen Cart system tries to cater for every type of online sale, from posted products, to services, to downloads, to music industry licenses. It's just too complex for the average business.
Soon enough, the value of our customised CMS won them over and they’re now selling from it, with several additional features Zen Cart couldn’t dream of, and all self-managed!
This particular design house have got a great individual style, but their original web developer used a Joomla installation with the ugliest URLs (web page addresses) we'd seen in a while, and what they really need is rewritten URLs that look good for users and have the right keywords in them for search engines. What's more, the orders they receive put the wrong Trading Name at the top of the order email!
Most devastatingly, they simply were not in Google. Not one page indexed. Why not? The main file of their Joomla install was redirecting search engine robots from their home page to a 404 Page Not Found. That means search engines were told there was no such page - and so they left the site without indexing it!
One basic SEO consultation later and they were very quickly indexed in Google and finally ranking for their business name at least. Problem solved? Nope. We just put fuel back in their Datsun Sunny. Now they need a website with CMS and SEO that's more like a Rolls Royce.
This professional fashion designer and beautiful Sydney dress maker website was built on the free Joomla! platform. Of course, the website owner didn't know that - they paid for a website and indeed they got a customised site. But they didn't know about all the disadvantages, until they couldn't find their site in Google, that is. Why not? It had been silently hacked and hijacked.
An enterprising attacker had used a security hole in the platform to add a single line of code to a single file - the all-too-common 'rel=canonical' attack. This told Google that all their pages were copies of another page (the attackers website which sold something online), and therefore all the dress makers PageRank and SEO should go to the attackers site, removing the dress makers website from Google results.