Content Management Hits a New Low

Ektron Inc., maker of Empower, one of the best low-end content management systems, has created a very usable and affordable application: the even-lower-end CMS100 1.7, which takes content management to the commodity level.

Ektron Inc., maker of Empower, one of the best low-end content management systems, has created a very usable and affordable application: the even-lower-end CMS100 1.7, which takes content management to the commodity level.

CMS100 (formerly called Empower Express), which shipped earlier this month, lacks features such as workflow or check-in/check-out, but it does include core content management capabilities that make it possible for users at nearly any technical level to manage content on a company Web site. And eWeek Labs tests showed these features are well-implemented, both in functionality and in ease of use.

Solid features, combined with near-turnkey implementation, make it as easy and affordable to roll out content management as it is to offer office applications. Although CMS100 couldnt be used to run a large Web site, it is well-suited for use in informational or public relations sites, departmental intranet sites, satellite offices, or any site that doesnt need to perform e-commerce transactions or handle complex Web applications.

Of course, this ease of use and implementation wouldnt mean anything if it didnt make sense financially. But at $499 for five users, CMS100 1.7 is 10 to 100 times less costly than most low-end content management solutions. Given that few sites need more than five users adding content and that current financial conditions have pushed highly expensive content management implementations to the back burner, we think CMS100 will be a good option for businesses that need to bring pockets of Web content under better control.

CMS100 will run under pretty much any Windows operating system, and installation takes all of 10 minutes. By default, the application uses a Microsoft Corp. Access database, and it can quickly be configured to work with Microsofts SQL Server by adding a few scripts loaded during installation.

CMS100 can work with Macromedia Inc.s ColdFusion and Microsoft ASP (Active Server Pages) on Internet Information Services. Earlier Ektron systems were based solely on ColdFusion.

Administration and other uses of CMS100 are done through a browser: Version 1.7 supports both Netscape Communications Corp.s Netscape 6.x and Microsofts Internet Explorer. This is a welcome change in an increasingly IE-only climate, especially for organizations that have heterogeneous systems.

Probably one of the biggest strengths of CMS100 is its ease of use. Once site editors log in to the application, their browser will display icons on pages they are editing. These icons enable users to edit a page, view previous versions and access the main CMS100 work space.

From the work space, users can view and access all pages on a site, upload images and other content to the site libraries, or perform administrative tasks such as user editing.

CMS100 includes the latest version of eWebEditPro, Ektrons editor, although users need to download the product to use it. eWebEditPro lets novices add content to pages in a very familiar Word-like interface. However, this is available only to users on Windows systems. Users on Macs or Unix-based systems will be able to use the product but will have to instead add content as HTML to a form.

When pages are created or edited, users have the choice of saving changes or publishing them directly to the site. Saved content can be previewed in a virtual staging server. It is also easy to view previous versions and roll back to earlier versions.

As with all Ektron products, setting up the application to enforce a standard look and feel for a site is simply a matter of editing standard ASP or ColdFusion files. For businesses that use Macromedias Dreamweaver and UltraDev for page development, Ektron also provides extensions to these products that make it easier to build templates and add custom functions.

Version 1.7 also includes a nice feature that generates a small line of JavaScript that can be added to any Web site to syndicate portions of the site content to other Web sites.

Although CMS100 has most of the key features needed to add content to a site, it lacks many basic features found in low-end content management systems. User rights options are extremely limited—basically, we could define whether people could add and publish content and whether they could edit user rights.

In addition to the lack of check-in/check-out features, CMS100 has no approval model, meaning users of the system can either publish content or they cant. It is possible to work around this by letting some content creators save content, then have an approver publish the content, but this doesnt work as well as a traditional approval workflow.

Still, based on our recent Labs On-Site package (which can be found at, many large sites dont use some of these features, so many small sites can also probably live without them.

East Coast Technical Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at [email protected].