The content management services we evaluate this week (see story, Content Services) offer companies a simpler and less costly route to publishing materials on the Web than software systems. However, these virtues come in part at the expense of some of the flexibility that more expensive, self-hosted solutions can deliver.
Open-source CMSes (content management systems)—such as PHP-Nuke (www.phpnuke.org), eZ Publish (www.ez.no) and Bricolage (www.bricolage.cc)—provide a compelling third option, one that can be flexible and relatively inexpensive without requiring companies to build their own CMS from the ground up.
Of course, an open-source CMS solution can present its own challenges. As weve seen before with open-source software, the flip side of great flexibility is often challenging complexity. While its true that open source enables companies to cross off licensing-fee line items from their project budgets, a portion of these savings must be redirected to development expertise, be it outsourced or in-house.
The good news is that open-source CMS products are composed of freely accessible and widely used components, such as PHP and MySQL, giving companies a deep pool of developer talent from which to draw.
In addition, this means that community-developed add-ons to these systems are often available online, sometimes making modification efforts easier.
Whats more, the makeup of open-source CMS products leaves companies with a lot of options for outsourcing hosting, handling it themselves or opting for a combination of the two. Open-source CMSes offer perhaps the widest selection of hosting platforms, and they tend not to favor Internet Explorer over other Web browsers for administering sites, posting content or consuming content.
eWeek Labs has used PHP-Nuke, which is now at Version 6.0, for various intranet-type applications, and we appreciate its quick setup time and flexible platform requirements. However, in our experience, customizing the look and operation of PHP-Nuke has been challenging at times, and it can be a chore to keep up with the rapid release schedule of PHP-Nuke. In addition, PHP-Nuke lacks features such as version control and a sophisticated permissions system.
eZ Publish, another open-source content management system with which weve had experience, is fuller featured than PHP-Nuke but nearly as easy to install.
eZ Publish was developed as proprietary software before its maker, eZ Systems A/S, opted to release it as open source. This heritage reveals itself in the orderliness of the PHP code that makes up the product—a big plus when editing templates to customize site appearance and function.
eZ Publish also includes nice facilities for creating workflows and managing permissions through roles.
Weve been impressed as well by Bricolage, an open-source CMS written primarily in Perl that was initially developed to run www.salon.com.
In addition to being easily customizable through its Web interface, Bricolage does a good job of managing workflows through group- and role-based permissions facilities.