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Choosing a Content Management System

Monday 26 November 2007 12:00:00 pm

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Powerful, feature-rich CMS are not simple. The system you select should be worth the investment your organization makes in learning the CMS. Ongoing support from the vendor, from the initial setup all the way through to implementation and maintenance, can increase the value of the investment.

Documentation

The first thing you need to verify is the quality of the documentation. This is not only essential for developers, but also demonstrates the vendor's ability to support an evolving product.

The information provided should be well structured, up-to-date and useful. Look for changelogs, release notes, installation instructions, training materials and user manuals. A developer guide or other type of low-level technical documentation is important, because it will enable you to extend the software on your own, without having to rely on the vendor or external developers.

Documentation may be presented online, available as downloadable files or published in a printed book. The latter can be useful as a reference for those learning the system. Other types of useful materials include guided tours, tutorials, knowledge bases, FAQs and e-learning material.

Unlike other large Open Source Content Management Systems, eZ Publish has extensive developer and user documentation that is freely available at http://ez.no/doc. eZ Press, the publishing division of eZ, also publishes books on eZ Publish.

Community

Most of the mature and popular Open Source CMS have communities of developers and users. (Proprietary CMS are generally limited to communities of users.) Activity within these communities (such as high-volume forums, public bug trackers and community software contributions) indicates healthy involvement that results in constant progress of the CMS.

A lot of first-hand experience can be learned from forums and mailing lists. Look for threads with the most involvement to see which kinds of issues arise when using the CMS. Try posting a meaningful question and see how fast and thoroughly it is addressed by the community.

Many CMS are enriched by member-contributed materials such as articles, files and even software extensions. Offline user group meetings may also be available in your area. Sometimes a problem is most easily solved by speaking to a person who has experienced the same problem before; therefore, do not underestimate the importance of personal networking.

The eZ Publish community has tens of thousands of programmers, administrators and users. This community is almost always able to help you resolve your problems.

Evolution

Regular software releases over a span of years is a good indication of constant, ongoing development activity, including bug fixes and new and enhanced features. Actively developed CMS will provide a constant stream of improvements and enhancements for your project.

When you evaluate Open Source software, you may find that it has a public database of bugs and enhancement requests. This does not mean that the system is unstable or buggy. Instead, it means that the community of users contributes to the quality of the software by reporting problems. This makes the system more stable and secure. Often, the CMS developers mark the issues with the release where the bug is fixed. The bug database is useful to your research, as you can get a sense of how long critical bugs stay open before they are addressed.

eZ Publish has a high degree of development activity, resulting in a product that constantly evolves and improves. eZ hosts a public bug tracking database, allowing developers and users to track the status of each issue.

Services

With an enterprise solution that is mission critical, you might want a professional service package to back your operations. Ask the vendor if it can allocate consultants to provide commercial technical support and ongoing maintenance services (such as automatic updates and site monitoring).

Other services that should be available are training courses, custom workshops, project consulting and custom development. The bottom line is that the vendor should be able to provide product responsibility and other guarantees in the form of a service level agreement that fits your needs.

The creators of eZ Publish provide a complete portfolio of support and services available anywhere in the world.

Partners

Rather than dealing directly with the software vendor, there are often advantages to dealing with a competent local partner who is knowledgeable about the CMS. Dealing with a partner brings benefits such as: working with someone who has knowledge of your industry or project; the convenience of local / on-site service; and reduced expenses. Many CMS vendors have their own networks of certified partners who develop, implement and support solutions based on the vendor’s products.

If the vendor works with partners, the vendor should be able to help you find a partner who has the skills you need. If dealing directly with a partner, ask them about their partnership status along with proof of authorization (such as a printed certificate or listing on the vendor’s website).

eZ Publish has a global network of two hundred partners who serve thousands of customers.

36 542 Users on board!

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