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Choosing a Content Management System

Monday 26 November 2007 12:00:00 pm

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The history of technology projects shows that they often tend to be more complex, expensive and time-consuming than expected. One way to manage risk is to select the right Content Management System.

Development

The quality of development services can be measured by five factors:

  • completing the scope
  • providing quality assurance
  • delivering on time
  • staying within budget
  • meeting requirements

A developer’s ability to fulfill these factors is strongly influenced by the platform. Therefore, choosing the right CMS helps to avoid surprises.

Sophisticated CMS offer: rapid application development tools; pre-built content elements and functional modules; extensibility mechanisms; and embedded security and performance tuning tools.

The eZ Publish development framework consists of a collection of general, flexible engines and libraries that help in building powerful web applications.

Deployment

One of the common pitfalls when rolling out a CMS is that organizations often do not think beyond the core system functionality. Organizational behavior, such as policies and procedures, training and communication, document creation and publishing are also important.

The process of introducing new content publishing technology is simplified when there is: an easy-to-use interface and user manuals to ease the learning curve; adjustable granular permissions and an approval workflow to model actual roles; a flexible information structure; and fool-proof editing for adding material efficiently.

Our experience shows that eZ Publish looks challenging for novices, but usually can be adopted by organizations within one to two weeks.

Operation

Once the system is launched, it should be reliable at all times and be stable, accessible, available, fast and secure.

For ongoing maintenance and future growth, it is a good idea to either form an ongoing relationship with your original contractors or form your own independent team. Some CMS products have a network of certified companies that can provide services. Check that certified partners are available to you, and can provide service on- or off-site, even if technical support is included in the original contract.

eZ Publish has an extensive worldwide partner network, so you can always get the assistance you need.

Security

The overall security of a content management project depends on many factors: physical infrastructure, the operating system, underlying software, the CMS product, application access control, the data transmission mechanism and human issues.

Your system administration team or site host is responsible for the first three aspects of security. If the server environment is not secure, security in other aspects is of limited value.

There is no such thing as perfect software; all software has bugs of varying severity. The most important thing is that the vendor is able to quickly patch bugs as they are found. Discuss update procedures with your CMS vendor as part of the evaluation process. Ask for a list of critical bugs for the last several years – they should be few in number and quickly patched.

Proper CMS configuration is also essential and should be performed by professionals who are knowledgeable about the system. The platform itself should address common security issues such as cross-site scripting and request forgery, SQL injections, file execution, direct object reference, information leakage, error handling, authentication and session management, cryptographic storage and encrypted communication.

Strict development guidelines and quality assurance are also important in preventing security breaches. Proper user access configuration should make it possible to set specific permissions for every object in the system. Make sure that security tests are included in your project plan.

The security system in eZ Publish is highly advanced. No critical security bugs have been found in the system for the last several years.

Usability

While many CMS products might satisfy your functionality requirements, usability and simplicity are key risk reduction factors. Consider this in relation to the time spent on various project phases, especially those phases that occur late in the project (such as training and content authoring).

Initially, during installation, the software should perform environment testing and configuration and provide informative troubleshooting messages. After installation, the user interface must be both powerful and easy to use, with easily accessible tips and help. Interfaces should be identical in any browser, and should be available in the language(s) of your choice. Full localization should also be available for all the embedded text on the front end of the system.

The authoring tools available for editors will have a major impact on day-to-day content management efficiency. A WYSIWYG editor with a standard editing interface is important for creating content. In addition, the system should allow you to save unfinished work, publish content in different locations, build and re-use object repositories, import documents and preview the layout of the content to be published. Other possible features are spell checking, verification against simultaneous editing by different users, and fool-proof formatting capabilities to allow for professional markup prior to content publication.

eZ Publish fully meets the requirements listed above, and features intuitive interfaces that reduce the learning curve.

Evidence

Risk can affect real-life negative outcomes, so it is best tested on actual results.

Even with the suggestions given above, it can still be difficult to determine risks or potential problems merely by evaluating the front end of online systems. However, by looking at the companies who have performed due diligence and chosen the CMS, you can take advantage of their research. World-class companies have broad and exacting standards.

Look for the following industries for specific qualities: financial (for security); newspapers and media (for performance); non-profit (for cost of ownership); and online business (for flexibility).

There many well-known names among eZ Publish references, such as French Ministry of Defense, MIT, NASA, National Geographic, Hitachi, KPMG, Norwegian Telecom, Elle, Vogue, Estée Lauder and BNP Paribas.

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