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Choosing a Content Management System

Monday 26 November 2007 12:00:00 pm

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Large enterprises have minimal tolerance for failure. Their Content Management System must be able to support changes in infrastructure, load and requirements.

Versatility

While websites are the most common application of CMS, the enterprise-level capabilities of sophisticated systems can be used to manage all types of organizational information, meeting a variety of business goals by moving processes online.

Wikipedia lists the following web content management (WCM) functions (among others):

  • Creation of new or editing of existing information in a controlled generation and publishing process
  • Delivery and administration of information for web presentation
  • Automatic conversion for various display formats, personalized display and versions
  • Secure separation of access to public and non-public information

When choosing a CMS, ensure that the system has the capability to match the project’s design and requirements. As a platform, the CMS should have a broad range of core functionality coupled with architecture that supports extension. In addition, the company should provide a variety of support and service options that help secure the success of the project. This is particularly important when extending a CMS to meet enterprise needs.

eZ's Business Solutions provide support, maintenance and guarantees tailored to any organization's operational requirements.

Abstraction

The CMS system should be cross-platform, database-independent and browser-neutral to enable separation between the application design and surrounding technology. Software abstraction principles provide flexibility in selecting suitable infrastructure or using an existing environment, while enabling later portability.

A content model with the ability to configure custom datatypes makes the system independent of pre-configured storage entities. This type of abstraction is needed to handle and communicate custom data, which is often the case in complex enterprise-wide systems.

Custom datatypes are also helpful when importing legacy content. Migration should be supported in various forms, including text parsing and the direct connection to an external data provider (with the content processed by the internal API for consistency with the rest of the objects). Data and information structure conversion should not only be possible, but cost effective and trouble free.

Other types of integration with third-party applications rely on open, services-based interfaces that make it easy to supply or aggregate information. For example, a CMS might support various pluggable data sources such as RSS feeds.

The architecture of eZ Publish is layered at all levels with data, control, objects, structure, features, technology and integration capabilities working together yet available for manipulation and customization without kernel modifications.

Extensibility

Extending a system by adding new features is a common requirement among enterprises. You should be able to extend functionality with minimal changes to existing code. Regardless of the number of modifications, your previous code should never becomes obsolete if developed properly. Only periodic maintenance to keep the modifications current with changes to the API should be required.

If your requirements are beyond the current system capabilities (for example, if you need to connect to an external application), the architecture should provide design principles to create extensions that plug in to the rest of the CMS. Such integration methods are vital to bring together heterogeneous systems in your organization.

eZ Publish is built with extensibility in mind and provides the necessary mechanisms for creating and using extensions. Many tested and certified extensions are immediately available via subscription services.

Scalability

One of the most important characteristics that differentiate enterprise Content Management Systems is the ability to accommodate large arrays of data. The volume and diversity of users and content should not unduly degrade system operation.

If you know there will be millions of records in the database, it is wise to plan for scalability (generally achieved by clustered servers) in advance. Since scalability is closely related to performance issues, ask your system architect to evaluate these issues together when designing your application and infrastructure.

The default eZ Publish engine can handle several hundred thousands objects without any specific tuning. Cluster support is embedded.

Performance

The system must be able to handle the projected peak number of simultaneous visitors while maintaining acceptable page response times (generally estimated at one second for a web interface).

The page generation rate depends on many factors, including server hardware and software; environment configuration; CMS design, load balance and tuning; amount of data and traffic; and, most importantly, the proper use of internal cache (where applicable). The performance optimization process is ongoing, so you should have specialists available for these tasks after initial launch.

While eZ Publish is resource-intensive, it demonstrates exceptional performance on redundant hardware when configured for optimized performance.

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