Open Source CMS vs. SharePoint

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  • 1. Open Source CMS vs. SharePoint Many websites today are built on a content management system to facilitate site and content management. A CMS allows for periodic updates of a website’s content without requiring a whole redesign of specific pages. Additionally, a CMS can provide a content or document approval process to be used with any changes. When developing a CMS solution, consider the following: - Ease of use - Ease of deployment - Look and feel - Traceability - Cost - Performance - Compatibility with .NET - Maintainability Areas Defined/Discussed • Ease of use – The CMS has to be easy to use and require minimal training. Anyone with experience using a word processor or text editor should have no problem using the CMS. • Ease of deployment – The new website has to be deployed quickly. This means that custom development to support a CMS has to be as small as possible. Also, dependencies with the existing IT infrastructure should be minimized to avoid release conflicts in the future. • Look and feel – When adding content to a web page, there is the desire to visualize the new information within the page. So a CMS that allows for in-line editing of content and a “what you see is what you get” approach would be best. • Traceability – Any CMS has to have an audit trail that shows who updated what when. It must be possible to “trace” a change to its source. • Cost – Any CMS deployed with the website should be as low cost as possible to minimize the impact of its deployment. • Performance – Any CMS should impact public website functionality as little as possible. B E U N I QU E Wax Custom Communications | 100 N. Biscayne Boulevard | Suite 1300 | Miami, Florida 33132 Ph. 305 350-5700 | Fx. 305.371-5414 | www.waxcom.com
  • 2. • Maintainability – The CMS should be as low maintenance as possible. The complex software release and licensing cycles with some available solutions could delay website delivery and in the future cause changes to be stalled until updates were completed. • If you use the above set of requirements for CMS selection you could be tempted to use SharePoint for the solution. However, there are some undesirable complexities and limitations with SharePoint when compared to an open source CMS. SharePoint and OS CMS Dependencies Before we get into the details, we must assume a standard SharePoint and CMS configuration that can support the creation of websites. Below is a list of installed components used to support SharePoint 2007: • Windows Sever 2003 or later • Internet Information Services (IIS) version 6 or 7 • .NET Framework Version 3.0 • SQL Server • Windows SharePoint Server 2007 • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 for Search Enterprise Edition • MOSS 2007 for Internet Sites Below is a list of installed components used to support an open source CMS (we will stay with a Windows environment for this comparison, though Linux is a possibility): • Windows Sever 2003 or later • Internet Information Services (IIS) version 6 or 7 • .NET Framework Version 3.0 • SQL Server (most likely mySQL) • CMS software As you can see there is a significant difference in the baseline package requirements. B E U N I QU E Wax Custom Communications | 100 N. Biscayne Boulevard | Suite 1300 | Miami, Florida 33132 Ph. 305 350-5700 | Fx. 305.371-5414 | www.waxcom.com
  • 3. Ease of Use One key element is the website content space and how easy a non-technical person can update information on the site. Content management systems provide simple editors for content changes. SharePoint requires the user to first retrieve the information (file, text, picture, etc.) from the portal and then use an external editor to make changes. Another way to update content on a page is to use SharePoint’s website creation engine by navigating to the appropriate page and making the updates with the built-in editor. This requires that all content providers be trained in SharePoint’s web creation environment. They would not be required to know how to produce a website, but they would need to navigate within the tool. Within certain content management systems, a user simply navigates to the web page they are interested in updating and changes the content with the included editor. Ease of Deployment To become operational SharePoint has a greater number of dependencies than open source CMS. But that is not the biggest issue faced when deploying the solution. With a CMS solution, the level of attachment to existing infrastructure is controllable by the designer. In SharePoint, the site is integrated with the general computing environment of the company. SharePoint’s focus is not the creation of a website, but a repository and manager of information, files, lists, etc. Once SharePoint is in place, a website can be built from the information contained within the system. The website will use the file and data management capabilities of SharePoint to populate its pages. That creates a series of dependencies that require constant connection with the core SharePoint servers. A SharePoint solution would then change the architecture of the website and require that all servers be co-located. The public website would be hosted within the company’s domain, which creates a potential security issue. Look and Feel A basic SharePoint implementation of a website requires a content owner to manage information in an “off-line” fashion. That is to say, the user must access the file B E U N I QU E Wax Custom Communications | 100 N. Biscayne Boulevard | Suite 1300 | Miami, Florida 33132 Ph. 305 350-5700 | Fx. 305.371-5414 | www.waxcom.com
  • 4. containing the content away from the website and make changes there. Once complete, the changes can then be imported into the website and viewed “in context.” This method of content management can cause some confusion and result in misaligned content and a lower quality of “look and feel.” There are other methods within SharePoint that allow “in context” updates, but they require training on SharePoint’s web creation environment. An Open Source CMS’s basic implementation allows the user to update content directly on the web page. This gives the user the advantage of seeing the content within the context of its use. Font type and size can be seen as they will appear in the final version. Traceability Both products provide an administrator with information on user activity associated with a specific file or content. Where SharePoint excels is in its ability to provide a very rich document management environment. More information is stored about the content in question than in a CMS. However, most CMS’s can be augmented with software modules that provide much of that functionality. Cost SharePoint is a Microsoft Application that requires licensing based on either number of users or processors that will run the application. A CMS can be an open source product (there are many good CMS’s that require fee based Licensing.) that has an “open source” license. This is the basic view of cost, but there is another, custom development. It is possible to develop a website using SharePoint. However, to allow for the ease of use that is desired for a company’s site, a great deal of custom software would need to be provided in addition to the website design. This software would then need to be maintained and updated as content changes occurred. Add that to the additional training necessary with SharePoint and the overall cost grows significantly. B E U N I QU E Wax Custom Communications | 100 N. Biscayne Boulevard | Suite 1300 | Miami, Florida 33132 Ph. 305 350-5700 | Fx. 305.371-5414 | www.waxcom.com
  • 5. Performance Most CMS’s uses an SQL database to manage the content on the website. The final version of the content is stored as whole entries that can be retrieved by the website when dynamically creating an HTML page. The website architecture provides for two SQL database servers. One that manages the changes to the database and the other that provides the final content to the web servers. SharePoint can be configured to use SQL as its database. However, the final view of any document is not stored in the database in a format that can easily be extracted by the web servers when dynamically creating an HTML page. To function properly, SharePoint must retrieve the page information from the database and then make that available to the web site. This additional step impacts website performance and would require a larger server infrastructure. Maintainability Both products require minor and major upgrades. However, when considering a SharePoint upgrade, more systems will be impacted and greater care must be taken to verify website integrity. If any custom software is required for the site, that software maintenance must be considered. Web Development Community Views The information above describes how Open Sources CMS’s and SharePoint match up from a small set of criteria developed early on in the site development process. However, there are many websites with far more complex functionality out in the general community than typical information only websites. So, it is important to consider how the general Web Development community views both Open Source CMS’s and SharePoint. The short answer is that developers view Open Source CMS’s as a good solution for the Extranet and SharePoint for the Intranet. B E U N I QU E Wax Custom Communications | 100 N. Biscayne Boulevard | Suite 1300 | Miami, Florida 33132 Ph. 305 350-5700 | Fx. 305.371-5414 | www.waxcom.com
  • 6. Can SharePoint and Open Source CMS’s coexist? The simple answer is yes. Both systems can be deployed and operate within a company’s domain. Can SharePoint and Open Source CMS’s interoperate? The key to answering this question is in knowing what kind of information will reside in both systems. Replacing SharePoint with Open Source CMS’s in a corporate environment is considered by some as unwise. SharePoint’s scalability and integration with Microsoft Systems, like Exchange, offer the enterprise a great deal of flexibility. Likewise, using SharePoint for the Extranet is not considered the best solution. To be clear on that last point, you can use Open Source CMS’s to create your Intranet, but it is not a document management solution. SharePoint also adds internal communication and process management capabilities not available in Open Source CMS’s. The most basic architecture allowing interoperability would have SharePoint maintain the master copy of the content within the company’s Domain. Open Source CMS’s would then extract the final/approved version of the content from SharePoint to populate the website outside the company’s Domain. The process of extraction would require customer software to allow the interaction with the SharePoint file portal. This solution would allow for a separate Website that does not open the company’s domain to the public internet. It would also allow for “fine tuning” of the content once in an Open Source CMS to meet the requirements of the website’s “look and feel.” Conclusion Both Open Source CMS’s and SharePoint are strong products, but they each have their core competencies. When considering a company’s public website, the benefits of Open Source CMS’s make them a better solution. SharePoint can be used for the site, but its additional maintenance and custom development requirements make it a less attractive alternative. Need more info? Contact our Director of Information Services, Rick Gramatges r.gramatges@waxcom.com | (305) 350-5730 B E U N I QU E Wax Custom Communications | 100 N. Biscayne Boulevard | Suite 1300 | Miami, Florida 33132 Ph. 305 350-5700 | Fx. 305.371-5414 | www.waxcom.com