Adobe Experience Manager vs Drupal

Adobe Experience Manager vs Drupal


Welcome to our comprehensive comparison guide between Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and Drupal, two popular content management systems (CMS). As digital leaders and decision-makers conducting research to find the right CMS for your organization, it is essential to evaluate the features, capabilities, and suitability of each system. In this guide, we will delve into various aspects such as foundations of CMS, design and user experience, content management, collaboration and user management, performance and hosting, customization and extensions, SEO and marketing, security and compliance, as well as migration, support, and maintenance.

Foundations of CMS

Let's start by examining the foundations of a CMS and how both AEM and Drupal fare in this aspect. AEM is built on Java and runs on Apache Felix, while Drupal is primarily based on PHP and relies on the Symfony framework. The choice of foundation can have implications for the skill sets required, as well as performance and flexibility.

AEM's Java foundation provides robustness and scalability, making it an excellent choice for enterprise-level organizations with complex requirements and high traffic. Drupal's PHP foundation offers a vast developer community and a wide range of contributed modules, making it more accessible for smaller businesses or organizations with less complex needs.

Both CMS platforms offer extensive documentation and support resources, but the learning curve for AEM is often steeper due to its enterprise focus. Drupal, on the other hand, has a more user-friendly interface and can be easier to set up and manage for users with limited technical expertise.

Design & User Experience

When it comes to design and user experience, both AEM and Drupal provide powerful tools and flexibility. AEM offers a highly customizable and visually appealing interface that allows users to create responsive websites with ease. Its drag-and-drop feature, combined with customizable templates and components, simplifies the design process.

Drupal also provides a range of responsive design themes and templates, allowing users to create visually appealing websites. It offers a flexible and modular design system, enabling users to customize layouts and add functionality through various contributed modules. However, the level of design flexibility may require more technical expertise compared to AEM.

Both AEM and Drupal support multi-site management, allowing organizations to efficiently manage multiple websites from a single platform. AEM's Sites feature provides a centralized hub for managing and sharing assets, streamlining the design and publishing process. Drupal offers a similar capability through its multisite feature, enabling users to manage multiple websites with ease.

Content Management

Content management is a crucial aspect of any CMS, and both AEM and Drupal offer robust features in this area. AEM provides a comprehensive set of tools for content creation, editing, and publishing. Its intuitive interface makes it easy to manage content across different channels, including desktop and mobile devices. AEM also offers advanced workflow capabilities, allowing for efficient content review and approval processes.

Drupal offers a flexible content management system, empowering users to create and organize content according to their specific needs. The platform provides a structured content architecture, making it easy to categorize and manage content efficiently. With its customizable content types and fields, Drupal enables users to create complex content structures tailored to their requirements.

Both AEM and Drupal support multi-language content, enabling organizations with a global presence to deliver localized content to their audience. AEM's translation features simplify the process of managing multilingual content, while Drupal offers contributed modules such as the Internationalization (i18n) module for enhanced language support.

Collaboration & User Management

In terms of collaboration and user management, both AEM and Drupal offer robust features to facilitate team collaboration and user roles and permissions. AEM's user management system allows for granular control over user roles and permissions, ensuring that specific tasks and responsibilities are assigned appropriately. Its built-in collaboration tools, such as commenting and version control, promote efficient collaboration among content creators and stakeholders.

Drupal provides a flexible user management system that enables organizations to create custom user roles and assign permissions accordingly. It offers a range of contributed modules that extend these capabilities, such as the Workbench suite for content moderation and workflow management. Drupal's community-driven approach means that new modules and features are constantly being developed to enhance collaboration and user management.

Both AEM and Drupal offer integration with popular collaboration tools such as Slack and JIRA, allowing organizations to streamline their collaboration processes and improve efficiency.

Performance, Scalability, & Hosting

When it comes to performance, scalability, and hosting options, both AEM and Drupal offer different approaches and considerations.

AEM is often favored by large enterprises due to its robust performance and scalability capabilities. Built on Java, AEM can handle high traffic volumes and can efficiently manage large amounts of content. It offers features like caching and load balancing that optimize performance. Additionally, AEM provides out-of-the-box integration with Adobe Analytics, enabling organizations to gain valuable insights into website performance and user behavior.

On the other hand, Drupal is known for its flexibility and ability to scale. While it may require more optimization efforts compared to AEM, Drupal can handle medium to high levels of traffic when properly configured. It offers various caching mechanisms, such as page caching and block caching, to improve performance. Drupal's scalability can be further enhanced by leveraging content delivery networks (CDNs) to distribute content globally.

In terms of hosting, AEM provides both on-premises and cloud-based hosting options. It offers robust cloud hosting through Adobe Managed Services, ensuring high availability and reliability. AEM's cloud-based hosting also provides the advantage of seamless updates and maintenance without disrupting the website's performance.

Drupal, on the other hand, provides flexibility in terms of hosting options. Organizations can choose from a range of hosting providers and configurations, including shared hosting, virtual private servers (VPS), dedicated servers, or cloud-based hosting. This flexibility allows businesses to select a hosting solution that aligns with their specific needs and budget.

When considering performance, scalability, and hosting, it is crucial to assess your organization's requirements, traffic volume, and budget to determine which CMS would be the best fit.

Customization, Extensions, & Ecosystem

Customization options, availability of extensions, and the strength of the CMS ecosystem are important factors to consider when choosing a CMS. Both AEM and Drupal offer extensive opportunities for customization and a vibrant ecosystem of extensions and add-ons.

AEM provides a highly customizable architecture, allowing organizations to create tailored experiences and unique digital platforms. It offers a wide range of built-in components and templates that can be customized to match specific branding and design requirements. AEM's flexible architecture also allows for the development of custom components and extensions to meet unique business needs.

Drupal, known for its flexibility, provides an extensive library of contributed modules that enhance the CMS's functionalities. These modules cover various aspects, such as e-commerce, SEO, social media integration, and more. Drupal's modular architecture allows users to easily add, remove, or modify features according to their requirements. Additionally, the Drupal community actively contributes to the development of new modules and ensures ongoing support and updates.

Both AEM and Drupal offer a strong ecosystem of developers, designers, and agencies who specialize in these CMS platforms. This means that organizations can readily access resources and expertise to support their CMS implementation and ongoing maintenance.

It is essential to evaluate your organization's customization needs and desired extensions before deciding between AEM and Drupal. Assessing the availability of suitable extensions and the size and activity of the CMS ecosystem can help ensure long-term support and compatibility with your evolving needs.

SEO, Marketing, & Monetization

SEO, marketing, and monetization capabilities are crucial for organizations looking to enhance their online visibility, drive traffic, and generate revenue. Let's explore how AEM and Drupal cater to these important aspects.

AEM offers a range of built-in SEO features that can help improve search engine rankings. It allows users to define metadata, URLs, and tags for better optimization. AEM also integrates seamlessly with Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target, enabling organizations to gather data, analyze user behavior, and personalize content to drive better marketing outcomes.

Furthermore, AEM provides robust marketing automation capabilities through its integration with Adobe Campaign. This integration allows for targeted email marketing, lead management, and customer segmentation. AEM's built-in personalization features enable organizations to create personalized experiences for their website visitors, which can boost engagement and conversion rates.

Drupal also offers strong SEO capabilities through contributed modules such as the XML Sitemap module and the MetaTag module. These modules enable users to optimize their websites for search engines effectively. Additionally, Drupal's clean and optimized code structure contributes to better SEO performance.

In terms of marketing, Drupal provides a range of contributed modules for various marketing activities. The Drupal community actively develops and maintains modules for email marketing, social media integration, analytics, and more. Drupal's flexibility allows for seamless integration with popular marketing automation tools and third-party services.

Both AEM and Drupal offer opportunities for monetization. AEM provides integration with Adobe Commerce (formerly Magento Commerce), enabling organizations to create and manage e-commerce websites. Organizations can leverage AEM's powerful content management capabilities alongside Adobe Commerce's robust e-commerce features to create seamless shopping experiences.

Similarly, Drupal offers several e-commerce solutions, including contributed modules like Drupal Commerce and Ubercart. These modules allow organizations to build and customize their online stores, manage product catalogs, and process transactions securely.

When considering SEO, marketing, and monetization capabilities, it's important to assess your organization's specific needs and goals. Whether it's improving search rankings, running targeted marketing campaigns, or launching an online store, both AEM and Drupal offer features and integrations to support these objectives.

Security & Compliance

Security and compliance are critical considerations when choosing a CMS, especially for organizations that handle sensitive user data and need to meet regulatory requirements. Let's examine how AEM and Drupal address these aspects.

AEM, developed by Adobe, places a strong emphasis on security. It incorporates robust security features and follows industry best practices to protect websites and data. AEM provides granular access control, allowing administrators to assign specific permissions to users and restrict access to sensitive areas. The platform undergoes regular security audits and receives frequent updates to address vulnerabilities and ensure the latest security measures are in place.

Additionally, AEM offers advanced security integration with other Adobe solutions, such as Adobe Sign for secure digital signatures and Adobe Experience Platform Identity Service for user authentication and authorization. These integrations enhance the overall security posture of the CMS.

Drupal is also committed to security and has a dedicated security team that actively monitors vulnerabilities and releases security updates promptly. Drupal's modular architecture and code review process contribute to its security robustness. The Drupal community follows established coding standards and practices to ensure secure development.

Drupal provides a range of contributed modules designed to enhance security, such as the Security Kit module, which helps protect against common security threats. Additionally, Drupal offers GDPR compliance tools and modules to assist organizations in adhering to data protection regulations.

Both AEM and Drupal have a track record of maintaining the security of their platforms. However, organizations must also consider their own security practices and processes to ensure the overall security of their websites and data.

It is important to evaluate your organization's specific security requirements and compliance needs, such as GDPR or HIPAA, and assess how well AEM or Drupal align with those requirements.

Migration, Support & Maintenance

Migration, support, and maintenance are critical factors to consider when selecting a CMS. Let's explore the migration process and the level of support and maintenance offered by both AEM and Drupal.

AEM provides several tools and resources to facilitate the migration process. Adobe offers a migration utility tool that assists in moving content from legacy systems to AEM. The tool automates part of the migration process, saving time and effort. Additionally, AEM provides support for various import/export formats, making it easier to migrate content from different sources.

When it comes to support and maintenance, AEM offers a robust support system for its enterprise customers. Adobe provides comprehensive documentation, including user guides, developer guides, and API documentation. Organizations with an active subscription have access to technical support for troubleshooting and assistance. Additionally, AEM receives regular updates and patches to address bugs and introduce new features.

Drupal also offers a range of migration tools to help facilitate the transition from other CMS platforms. Modules like Migrate, Migrate Plus, and Migrate Tools provide functionality to import content, users, and configurations from various sources into Drupal. The Drupal community actively maintains and improves these migration tools.

Support and maintenance for Drupal are primarily community-driven. Drupal.org provides extensive documentation, forum support, and user-contributed resources. The Drupal community is known for its active participation and assistance, ensuring that users can find guidance and help when needed.

However, organizations may also opt for commercial support from Drupal agencies and service providers. These providers offer dedicated support services, including assistance with troubleshooting, customization, and ongoing maintenance.

When considering migration, support, and maintenance, organizations should assess their current CMS environment, the complexity of the migration process, and the level of support required. AEM's enterprise focus often brings more comprehensive support options, while Drupal's community-driven model offers a wealth of user-contributed resources and support channels to tap into.

Future Development & Roadmap

Considering the future development and roadmap of a CMS is vital to ensure that the chosen platform aligns with your organization's long-term goals and keeps up with evolving industry trends. Let's explore the future development plans for both AEM and Drupal.

AEM is continually evolving and expanding its capabilities under Adobe's guidance. Adobe invests heavily in research and development to enhance AEM's features and performance. They regularly release updates and new versions that address emerging needs and incorporate the latest technologies.

AEM's roadmap includes plans to further strengthen its cloud-based offerings and ensure seamless integration with other Adobe Experience Cloud solutions. The focus is on enhancing personalization capabilities, optimizing performance, and expanding support for headless CMS architectures.

Furthermore, AEM's roadmap emphasizes improving the user experience and simplifying content creation and management processes. This includes enhancements to the authoring interface, better content sharing and collaboration features, and improved APIs for seamless integrations with third-party systems.

Drupal, known for its active community, has a robust roadmap driven by community contributions and collaboration. The Drupal community follows a regular release cycle, with major updates occurring every few years. Each release brings new features, improved performance, and security enhancements.

Drupal's roadmap aims to address emerging trends and challenges in the digital landscape. It focuses on providing better support for decoupled and headless architectures, improving the user experience through enhanced administrative interfaces, and simplifying the content creation and management process.

The community-driven nature of Drupal means that the roadmap is influenced by the needs and contributions of its users. As the community identifies new requirements or trends, initiatives are launched to address them, ensuring that Drupal remains relevant and up-to-date.

When considering the future development of a CMS, organizations should evaluate their own future needs and goals. Assess the alignment of the CMS roadmap with your organization's strategies, such as plans for expanding into new channels, adopting emerging technologies, or embracing evolving design and development trends.

It is also beneficial to participate in the respective CMS communities, attend conferences, and stay informed about the latest updates and trends. This ensures that your organization can leverage the new features and enhancements as they are developed and released.

By considering the future development and roadmap of AEM and Drupal, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your organization's long-term vision and growth strategies.

Cost & Licensing

Cost and licensing considerations play a crucial role in the decision-making process when selecting a content management system. Let's explore the cost models and licensing options for both Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and Drupal.

AEM is a commercial CMS that follows a subscription-based model. The cost of AEM can vary depending on factors such as the edition you choose, the number of users, and the level of support required. Adobe offers different AEM editions tailored to meet the needs of different organizations, including AEM Sites (formerly known as Adobe Experience Manager), AEM Assets, and AEM Forms.

With the subscription-based model, organizations pay regular fees to access the features and support provided by Adobe. The cost can be significant, especially for large enterprises or organizations with complex requirements, as AEM's enterprise focus often comes with higher pricing.

On the other hand, Drupal is an open-source CMS, which means it is freely available to download, use, and modify. As an open-source platform, Drupal offers a cost-effective solution for organizations. However, it's important to note that while the software itself is free, there are still costs associated with hosting, development, customization, and ongoing maintenance.

With Drupal, organizations have more flexibility in terms of hosting options and associated costs. Depending on your needs and budget, you can choose from shared hosting, virtual private servers (VPS), dedicated servers, or cloud-based hosting. The cost of hosting will depend on factors such as server specifications, traffic volume, and support requirements.

In addition to hosting costs, organizations may also need to consider the cost of hiring Drupal developers or agencies for customization, theme development, and ongoing support. These costs vary depending on the complexity of your website, the level of customization required, and the expertise of the developers or agency you choose to work with.

When evaluating cost and licensing, it's important to consider your organization's budget, long-term sustainability, and return on investment. AEM's commercial model may suit larger organizations with substantial budgets and complex requirements, while Drupal's open-source nature provides cost advantages particularly for organizations that have the technical expertise to manage and customize the platform.

Ultimately, the cost and licensing considerations should be weighed against the specific needs and goals of your organization to determine the most suitable option.

Final Thoughts

In this comparison guide, we have explored various aspects of both Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and Drupal. We discussed the foundations of the CMS, design and user experience, content management capabilities, collaboration and user management features, performance and scalability, customization and extensions, SEO and marketing functionalities, security and compliance measures, migration and support options, future development and roadmaps, as well as cost and licensing considerations.

Choosing the right CMS for your organization requires thoughtful evaluation and consideration of your specific needs, goals, and preferences. AEM offers robust enterprise capabilities, scalability, and seamless integration with Adobe's suite of tools, making it an ideal choice for large organizations with complex requirements. On the other hand, Drupal's flexibility, vibrant community, and cost advantages make it a strong contender for organizations of varying sizes.

It is essential to conduct thorough research, consult with stakeholders, and even consider trial periods or demos to assess the suitability of each CMS for your organization. Additionally, staying engaged with the respective communities and keeping up-to-date with the latest trends and updates will ensure you can make informed decisions and leverage the full potential of your chosen CMS.

By carefully evaluating the features, capabilities, and considerations discussed in this guide, you can make a decision that aligns with your organization's digital strategy, budget, and long-term growth objectives.

Additional Considerations

While we have covered the main aspects of Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and Drupal in the previous sections, there are additional considerations that may influence your decision-making process. Let's explore some of these factors that could have an impact on your choice of CMS.

Vendor Lock-in

One important consideration is the potential for vendor lock-in. Vendor lock-in refers to the reliance on a particular vendor for ongoing support, upgrades, and compatibility. With AEM being a commercial CMS, organizations may have a higher level of dependence on Adobe for support and future developments.

Drupal, being an open-source CMS, provides more flexibility and freedom from vendor lock-in. The active community drives the development and support of Drupal, reducing reliance on a single vendor. This allows organizations to switch between service providers or pursue self-maintenance with minimal disruption.

Consider your organization's tolerance for vendor lock-in and the impact it could have on your ability to adapt, scale, or migrate to another CMS in the future.

Integration Capabilities

Integration capabilities are crucial for organizations that rely on third-party systems or require seamless connections between their CMS and other software applications. Both AEM and Drupal have integration capabilities, but the extent and ease of integration may vary.

AEM has strong integration capabilities, particularly within the Adobe Experience Cloud ecosystem. It seamlessly integrates with other Adobe products like Adobe Analytics, Adobe Target, and Adobe Campaign, allowing organizations to create end-to-end digital experiences. AEM also provides RESTful APIs and web services for integration with external systems.

Drupal, being open-source, has a robust ecosystem of contributed modules that offer integration with various third-party systems and APIs. Contributed modules like the RESTful Web Services module facilitate the integration of Drupal with external systems. Additionally, Drupal's flexible codebase and extensive developer community make it easier to customize and adapt for specific integration needs.

Evaluate your organization's integration requirements and consider the availability and compatibility of integration options with your chosen CMS.

Training and Skill Sets

Consider the training and skill sets required to work with each CMS. AEM, being an enterprise-level CMS, may require a higher level of technical expertise. The Java foundation and architectural complexities may warrant specialized training for developers and administrators.

Drupal, with its ease of use and user-friendly interface, can be more accessible for users without extensive technical expertise. It offers a gentle learning curve and comprehensive documentation, making it easier to onboard new team members and reduce training costs.

Evaluate your organization's existing skill sets and resources to determine whether you have the necessary expertise to work effectively with AEM or Drupal.

Community Support

Consider the level of community support available for each CMS. AEM, being a commercially licensed product, may have a more limited community support base compared to Drupal, which benefits from a vibrant and enthusiastic open-source community.

The Drupal community actively contributes to development, support, and documentation efforts. Drupal.org serves as a valuable resource for finding solutions, accessing modules and themes, and engaging with experts. The community support can provide timely assistance, inspire innovation, and foster collaboration.

Evaluate your organization's reliance on community support and weigh it against the level of support available from the vendor or commercial support providers.

Case Studies and Success Stories

Look for case studies and success stories of organizations that have implemented AEM and Drupal. These real-world examples can provide insights into how each CMS performs in different scenarios and industries.

Case studies and success stories can reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each CMS in practical applications. They can highlight specific use cases, customization capabilities, integration success, performance improvements, or challenges faced during implementation.

Research case studies and success stories relevant to your industry to gain a better understanding of how AEM and Drupal have been used in similar contexts.

Pilot Project or Proof of Concept

Consider conducting a pilot project or a proof of concept to assess the suitability of AEM or Drupal for your specific needs. A pilot project can provide hands-on experience with each CMS, allowing you to evaluate its features, performance, and compatibility with your business requirements.

A pilot project can be a scaled-down version of your actual implementation, focusing on key functionality or a subset of your content. It will enable your team to gain practical knowledge and better understand the strengths and limitations of each CMS.

Alternatively, a proof of concept can involve developing a small project that mirrors your desired implementation. It can help validate your choice of CMS and serve as a tangible demonstration of its capabilities.

Consider engaging with consultants or experts who specialize in AEM or Drupal implementations to guide you through the pilot project or proof of concept phase.

Incorporating these additional considerations can provide a more comprehensive evaluation of AEM and Drupal. By carefully weighing these factors, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your organization's unique requirements and goals.

Conclusion and Recommendation

In this comprehensive comparison guide, we have delved into the various aspects of Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and Drupal, two popular content management systems (CMS). We explored their foundations, design and user experience, content management capabilities, collaboration and user management features, performance and scalability, customization and extensions, SEO and marketing functionalities, security and compliance measures, migration and support options, future development and roadmaps, cost and licensing considerations, as well as other important factors.

After considering all the aspects and features discussed, it is important to assess which CMS aligns better with your organization's specific needs, goals, and resources. Both AEM and Drupal have their strengths and cater to different use cases, organizational sizes, and technical requirements.

AEM excels in providing robust enterprise capabilities, scalability, and seamless integration within the Adobe Experience Cloud ecosystem. It is a compelling choice for large organizations with complex requirements, especially those in need of advanced marketing automation, personalization, and integration with other Adobe products.

Drupal, on the other hand, offers flexibility, a vibrant community, and cost advantages associated with being an open-source CMS. Drupal is suitable for organizations of various sizes, including small businesses, and provides extensive customization options, a strong ecosystem of contributed modules, and ease of use for users with limited technical expertise.

Considering the outlined factors, it is recommended that you carefully evaluate your organization's specific requirements, budget, internal capabilities, and long-term objectives. This evaluation should include a thorough consideration of scalability needs, desired levels of customization, integration requirements with existing systems, future development plans, and the level of community support required.

It is also valuable to engage with consultants or agencies that specialize in AEM or Drupal to gain deeper insights and guidance. They can help assess your organization's needs, provide informed recommendations, and offer hands-on expertise throughout the implementation process.

Furthermore, consider conducting pilot projects or proof of concepts to gain practical experience with each CMS and better understand their suitability for your organization. This can help validate your choice and provide real-world insights into performance, usability, and customization options.

Lastly, don't underestimate the importance of ongoing training, support, and maintenance. Evaluate the availability of training resources, documentation, and the size and activity of the community. Assess the level of support provided by the vendor or commercial support providers and compare it against your organization's support needs.

In conclusion, the decision between AEM and Drupal should be based on a comprehensive evaluation of your organization's specific requirements, goals, technical expertise, budget, integration needs, and future development plans. By considering all these factors and employing a thoughtful and informed approach, you will be able to select the CMS that best fits your organization's needs and paves the way for successful digital experiences.


Martin Dejnicki
Martin Dejnicki

Martin is a digital product innovator and pioneer who built and optimized his first website back in 1996 when he was 16 years old. Since then, he has helped many companies win in the digital space, including Walmart, IBM, Rogers, Canada Post, TMX Group and TD Securities. Recently, he worked with the Deploi team to build an elegant publishing platform for creative writers and a novel algorithmic trading platform.