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Migrating legacy systems: considerations before choosing a headless CMS

Despite all that a headless CMS can offer, you need to consider a few things before you start your migration process. Let's explore the top considerations before choosing a headless CMS.
Jing Li

Jing Li

Mar 14, 2023
Migrating legacy systems: considerations before choosing a headless CMS

Increasing maintenance and security costs, a poor user experience for content teams and developers, and an inability to create the digital experiences you want for your customers are just a few signs that might have led you to see that your legacy CMS is no longer up to scratch.

With your legacy CMS at the end of its legs, you’ll need to migrate to a newer platform capable of handling your modern content management needs instead. Everything that a headless CMS has to offer can be tempting, but you need to consider a few things before you start your migration process.

#Migrating from a legacy CMS: what are the challenges?

When migrating legacy systems, you need to be aware of some of the challenges you might encounter as you move from an outdated architecture to a modern platform. They include the following:

Content silos across multiple tools

It’s likely that your business has grown accustomed to using your existing legacy systems and has been relying on them for almost a decade. However, a legacy CMS likely lacks full integration with the newer tools you might have added over the years, such as a CRM or CDP tool containing customer data.

Moreover, like many other content teams before them, the limited flexibility of legacy systems might have led content teams to create bandaids and workarounds using newer cloud-based tools. With multiple disconnected tools throughout the tech stack, there will be several content silos that will need to be accounted for during the migration process.

Familiarity with an all-in-one suite

Another challenge to be considered is the fact that your legacy system might be a monolithic or all-in-one suite that your marketing team relies on to handle a large chunk of their requirements outside of content management, such as analytics, marketing automation, and eCommerce.

Legacy systems also contain a large volume of custom code created to make everything work together and help patch issues that have grown over the years. When migrating legacy systems, however, you’ll need to think about new integrations and tools to help replace crucial functionality.

Data mapping & content restructuring

Moving from a legacy system to a modern platform like a headless CMS means you’ll need to develop new content models and structures. Legacy CMSs and headless CMSs tend to map data and structure content differently, so the migration process won’t always be as easy as simply moving data from one CMS to another.

#Migrating from a legacy CMS: what are the benefits?

Despite the challenges that you need to consider when migrating from a legacy CMS, there is also a wide range of benefits, which include:

Greater flexibility

Moving from a legacy CMS often rewards you with greater flexibility and autonomy over your tech stack. You no longer have to be locked into one vendor and can select best-of-breed tools to replace key functionality as leading modern systems tend to leverage MACH-based architecture. It makes integration easier and allows you to compose your tech stack as you see fit.

Better security and scalability

Migrating from a legacy CMS can provide better security and improved scalability. Headless architecture offers better protection since the frontend and backend are separated. This reduces the surface area for malicious attacks and allows you to scale and meet traffic demands without worrying about downtime like you might have done with a legacy system.

Easier customization

When you opt to move to a headless CMS, customization becomes easier. Unlike a monolithic system, you can slowly build the technology stack that replaces your all-in-one suite with incremental migration.

Different tools can be added one by one, and if the CMS you migrate to includes content federation, the migration process becomes easier. With content federation, data can be pulled from multiple sources via API into a single repository without needing to be migrated. So you can slowly shed your legacy system.

Lower costs

As you move away from a legacy CMS, you can lower overhead that might have been blowing up your budget, as there will be a need for less maintenance and fewer security patches.

#Evaluating the headless CMS landscape

Deciding to migrate to a headless CMS means that you’ll need to evaluate the CMS landscape to uncover the best platform for your business. Here are some of the things you’ll run into:

Developer-focused platforms

Headless was initially a developer-focused initiative, and many platforms are still built this way. These developed-focused headless CMSs often come with limited marketing tools, making things harder for your content teams and requiring them to call your dev and IT teams anytime they want to do something.

Marketer & small business focused solutions

Some CMSs prefer to focus on the needs of marketers and content teams and add headless functionality as an afterthought. These systems give marketers everything they need but might need more framework flexibility and workflows developers require to build digital experiences in the modern era. They might also lack the security and authentication features larger enterprises need.

The best platforms can blend marketer-friendliness with developer-focused functionality, enabling organizations to get the most out of the headless experience.

API costs and headless CMS cost traps

Even after finding another caveat, you must consider the cost traps you might fall into. When looking at the price of a headless CMS, you need to consider locale and API costs, as depending on the size of your organization, you might need to go over your limits which could see prices skyrocket.

Content entries and asset costs also need to be considered, resulting in the initial costs of the platform you choose not reflecting the actual cost over time, especially as you scale.

#Hygraph, the content federation platform to replace your legacy CMS

Migrating legacy systems and choosing a headless CMS can be rewarding for your business, increasing productivity, streamlining operations, and allowing you to generate more revenue. These benefits become more apparent once you pick the most suitable headless CMS.

Hygraph is a federated content platform that enables you to distribute content wherever you need and adapt to changing customer needs. It allows you to empower your enterprise team with improved content collaboration and governance.

Hygraph also provides content federation, allowing you to pull data from multiple sources via our API without having to migrate everything all at once, making your legacy migration process go smoother and allowing you more time to accomplish everything.

When BioCentury needed to migrate from Drupal 6 to increase content visibility, improve flexibility and provide a better experience for their customers, they turned to Hygraph. Read the case study to discover how they increased content engagement by 120%.

For more considerations about CMS migration, see our A-Z Guide.

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Blog Author

Jing Li

Jing Li

Jing is the Content Marketing Manager at Hygraph. Besides telling compelling stories, Jing enjoys dining out and catching occasional waves on the ocean.

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