The biggest asset of an organization is its information, which is why content management software can prove invaluable. But how much content management does your organization really need?
Implementing a content management system (CMS) delivers many benefits to an organization: lower operating costs, shorter publishing deadlines, greater efficiency and a wider range of features for your Web site. However, with nearly 1,000 CMS solutions to choose from, identifying and implementing the right content management solution can seem mind-boggling.
Before selecting a CMS solution, get to know your content, authors, processes and business systems. Organizations that overlook this step are likely to choose the wrong solution.
An organization must identify the nature of content to be published; the number of individuals who will need the ability to update information; and any advanced features that can be added to the Web site to increase overall efficiency, profitability and the quality of the Web site experience.
Once an organization knows what it needs, the next step is to identify the right type of CMS solution and, ultimately, the right software for the job.
There are five types of content management systems to consider:
- Static—These solutions allow organizations to publish content online without a database. Static solutions can be easy and inexpensive to implement because they require limited, if any, server-side installation. Contribute from Macromedia (www.macromedia.com), for example, allows companies to provide employees with easy-to-use templates for publishing information. It manages permissions so users can only edit content in specified folders. Employees don't need to know the specifics of HTML programming since CMS solutions typically provide simple word-processor-like interfaces, or Web-based forms that don't require HTML knowledge. Static solutions are well suited for small companies with modest publishing needs.
- Hosted— With hosted solutions, you're replacing software with a service. This means your up-front implementation costs may be lower—but that you'll be obligated to pay an ongoing subscription fee. Hosted solutions are easy to implement and can provide a wide range of advanced features. The setup cost and monthly cost of hosted solutions varies widely. It's possible to subscribe to simple, blog-oriented CM solutions for less than $10 per month. Or, you can go all out. Clickability offers a full-featured, hosted CM solution called cmPublish with a wide range of features beginning at about $750 per month. Hosted solutions can be a good choice for tiny organizations that don't want to deal with the headaches of installing a CMS on their website, or for organizations that require advanced functionality but don't want to dedicate their own IT resources toward system set-up and maintenance.
- Open Source— These solutions are free and customizable. Open-source CMS systems are free to download and include all of the programming source code used to create the program. Typo3 is a full-featured CM solution that can be extended with a wide range of plug-ins adding advanced functionality such as image galleries, visitor tracking and ad management when you need them. By having access to the source code, companies with IT resources can change the program to suit their needs. Companies without IT resources can find themselves limited by open-source solutions that become unsupported and unscalable as their needs grow.
- Commercial— Like their open-source counterparts, commercial CM solutions provide a wide range of features and functions, offered as "ready to use" and extendible "turn-key" solutions. They provide better documentation and support than open-source solutions and are less expensive than enterprise solutions. Companies that have a clear understanding of their immediate and long-term CM needs can be well served by choosing the right commercial solution.
- Enterprise—Enterprise CM solutions are extendible CM platforms. Since these solutions target large departments and corporations, they are designed to integrate with custom internal databases and IT systems. Implementing an enterprise system typically requires dedicated IT resources and a sizable budget. However, the business efficiency obtained from a CM system that integrates with existing organizational databases and technology typically overshadows the sizable investment.