Advantage CMS Content Management Services typically focus on ease of use and implementationtheir main benefits over software-based content managementrather than the workflow, rights management and revision controls that are found in high-end software-based applications. However, the CrownPeak Advantage CMS service not only includes these high-end features but does so in a way that equals or surpasses many high-end content management systems that can cost seven figures to implement. This earns it eWeek Labs Analysts Choice award.The first thing one notices when logging in to Advantage CMS is its excellent browser-based interface. It is easily one of the best browser interfaces weve ever usedbe it software or servicewith intuitive drop-downs and right-click mouse support. Like the browser interfaces of the other services we tested, however, Advantage CMS requires Microsofts Internet Explorer. Template creation in Advantage CMS is a little more complex than with the other products we tested but still doable by any Web developer. Templates in this system generally consist of two files: an input.asp, which controls how content is added to the page, and an output.asp, which defines the look and feel of pages created with the template. Once a template is created, editing it is very simple from within the Advantage CMS interface, which includes a surprisingly good integrated development tool, complete with design and source code modes and a preview pane. In Advantage CMS, groups are essentially roles, and the product let us create any groups we required. When defining a group, we were given a huge number of options for defining not only the rights and permissions for members of the group but also how they would use the content management system. Everything from access and asset creation rights to administration capabilities to what features are in the integrated source editor could be defined when creating a group. Users could then be added to any number of groups to define permissions and access rights. Even more impressive were the workflow creation options. We have no hesitation in stating that the workflow capabilities in Advantage CMS are the best weve seen. When creating a workflow, we could create as many steps as necessary, and within each step any number of things could take place, from routings based on actions to alerts to scheduled activities to application launching. Advantage CMS cleverly separates defining approvals from the workflow. This allowed us to create different approval scenarios and then call them from within our workflows. While the content contribution features in Advantage CMS dont outshine those of other content management systems, they are at least as good as most and better than some. Depending on the templates and models chosen, novice contributors can enter directly into a form with full rich-text options or simply cut and paste from another application. A nice task-based interface lets users see what they are working on, and the right-click support made it easy for us to choose options for carrying out actions on content. In addition to standard check-in/ check-out, the service provides a clone option that lets users check out a copy of locked content, useful when working on prototypes or drafts. Also included is an excellent integrated search option that made it easy in tests to find content within the system, something many content management applications lack. Administrators of an Advantage CMS-enabled site wont be able to use the excuse that they didnt know what was going on. The service provides a wide assortment of reports, audits and matrixes that let us quickly see everything that had happened within the system and identify configuration settings. When it comes to publishing content, Advantage CMS provides a wide array of options. We could define several sites to publish tofor example, staging sites and live sites. For those wanting a secure transfer option, the service can be configured to use Secure FTP. Advantage CMS can also export content via Simple Object Access Protocol, e-mail or databases. This makes it possible to integrate the system with Web services and internal applications. The pricing model for Advantage CMS is based on the number of users and number of assets in the system. According to CrownPeak officials, a typical implementation costs about $60,000 the first year, dropping to $30,000 the second year. This pricing is fairly reasonable for an enterprise-class service offering and compares favorably with high-end content management software applications such as Vignette Corp.s Vignette and Interwoven Inc.s TeamSite.
In tests, we found Advantage CMS to be an extremely capable systemand probably the only content management service able to handle very complex and large sites that must accommodate many users and developers. Given its price and complexity, it would probably be overkill for mainly informational corporate Web sites, however.