In a nutshell a CMS differs from a “classic website” in that the latter is a collection of html files on a web server, whereas a CMS is a program that runs on the server that creates web pages on the fly by looking up what it needs to make in a database. The CMS, thus, revolves around two key components: an application and a database. The application is what you’ll download. The database is what you’ll be filling as you add pages through the application’s management interface. Most modern websites are now based on one CMS or another. There are hundreds of CMSs out there, both commercial and free. By far the most popular of these is Wordpress. DNN is the most popular on the Microsoft Stack. What that is will be explained below.
The application’s “management interface” was mentioned briefly above. This brings us to another major difference. With a classic file-based website, the management requires you to change files on the server, meaning administrators need a login on the server. With a CMS, the application manages access and offers an interface through the web to administrators. This means that the CMS is responsible for account management and this is no longer necessary on the server. As you can imagine this greatly simplifies matters. In fact, the only person needing access rights on the server is the one installing the DNN platform at the very beginning. After that it is completely managed through the application.