Web Presence Solutions

KMC Web Solutions

KMC Experience:

Our staff has created several sites using Open Source CMSs such as WordPress and Drupal among others.  We are willing to help you decided what you need on your new / improved site.  We have the knowledge of what’s out there, you know your business, a prospect for an excellent team.

Web Technology Primer:

There are many competing technologies out there to accomplish many tasks, of these many are open source (free) others proprietary (cost money). An example of a proprietary software is the somewhat famous Salesforce.com.  They bring a simplicity to the situation.  They take care of the servers, updating the software running on the site and offer customer support at the expense of ongoing fees. A site built on open source is free to acquire and often very low cost to maintain.  They do require in-house maintenance, for example, updates need to be applied etc.

KMC’s experience is predominately with the open source software.  There are customer relationship management (CRM), content management systems (CMS), groupware type technologies as well as many others.  The purpose of this discussion is to help give an overview of how to map out the future of the company web presence.

Your Companie’s Web Presence In General:

Any business should consider the use of web technologies in two ways. One, a public web site, that which most anyone in the world can see and use.  Second, an internal web site for group or collaborative work.  Note the later, while only for internal use could be accessed remotely.

Public Web Presence:

As you may know ,a public website can be used for many things, anywhere from sales / marketing to customer support.  While we often suggest any first iteration of a web site be kept simple, future needs of the web site should be consider so as to select the proper web site technology up front.  This will greatly ease future growth of the public web site.

For the public web site, I suggest using open source software such as WordPress or Drupal (others will be considered at the appropriate time).  The choice of open source software allows the most control internally.  Hosting of the web site can be done internally or remotely, either with company control still.  The real benefit will be that your company will have control over the web site files.

The following is a site one might read to learn about the varying options of pertinent public web sites or CMS:  Link

Private Web Presence:

This type of site is intended to have limited access.  That access could be for employees only while possible for them to access it remotely (i.e. not in the office). This type of site can have many uses, the two usually considered initially are CRM and workgroup organization.  For CRM, the aforementioned Salesforce.com is the latest craze for good reason.  One just needs to weight the pros and cons of open source vs proprietary options.  A detailed list for such analysis can be provided upon request. A few sites one might read to learn about the varying options of pertinent private web sites follows.

Groupware … CRM

Web technologies:

Things to consider here: First, security of your data.  This comprises essentially two concerns, persistence (backups) and confidentiality.  Back ups of data should consist of two parts.  One local (2nd copy) and one remote copy of data (consider it a 3rd copy).  The remote copy could be in “the cloud” or just a portable hard drive physically located elsewhere.  In the case of “the cloud” you are providing your data / files to a 3rd party.  While many 3rd parties offer encryption (i.e. Carbonite or Salesforce.com), one never knows if the 3rd party has a key to access your private data, you have to trust them!  This may not be a bad thing if your data is not sensitive.  One options is to encrypt the data yourself before delivering it to the cloud in the backup case, not an option for a proprietary CRM.  The crux of the situation is, how sensitive is your data being put out in the cloud?

There are many software options for web site creation.  If you were interested in a rather exhaustive list see LINK

Some of the leading technologies are: Drupal, Joomla, WordPress to name a very few.  All of these web site building technologies offer customizable (pick and choose) capabilities.  That is for a given web site you can install plugins to enhance the web site functionality.  While the list of technologies is lengthy, so to are the potential plug-ins for each.  There is an immense amount of flexibility for some of the web site technologies.  This is why we usually suggest starting with a simple web site while keeping in mind how you might want the web site to grow.  Knowing which direction(s) to grow your web site capabilities in the future requires you to know what is available at installation time.

Hence, theses efforts are usually an iterative process, think what you want on a fully developed web site, while in conjunction, learning what is available in terms of technologies.  This allows you to arrive at a mature easily upgraded web site.

Solution:

Hopefully you found the above informative.  The options available are numerous.  We have experience in this area and are interested in helping your company utilize modern web technologies.

Process:

By discussing the needs of your company we can identify some capabilities for each scenario, we can better select an appropriate content management system (CMS) to utilize for creation of a public site or other software for the private site. A bit of background on what a CMS is and what they can do in general might help. This is followed by a list capabilities.  Again, the evolution of the site will likely be iterative. Inform your company on what is available so you can decide what is needed on a web site.

Wikipedia defines a web CMS as: A web content management system (WCMS) is a software system that provides website authoring, collaboration, and administration tools designed to al- low users with little knowledge of web programming languages or markup languages to create and manage website content with relative ease.

Generally speaking, a CMS is a software package that lets you build a website that can be quickly and easily updated by your non-technical staff members. Such open source systems are often created and supported by a community of developers, and can be utilized with little to no cost.

Wikipedia lists approximately 150 CMSs and the website CMSMatrix.org lists approximately 300 different pieces of CMS software. On top of that, each CMS often has an extensive library of plug-ins which enhance / add capabilities, all of which is often bewildering. We can help!

So how should someone choose a CMS? Not in any specific order:

  • Capabilities built-in or via plug-ins
  • Cost to acquire (I suggest open source. some following points are based on the choice be- ing open source)
  • Evolution / Pedigree – where did the software come from? How long has it been around?
  • Widely developed – does it have a large following for development and hence a diverse se- lection of plug-ins, is it likely to be updated / supported for a while?
  • Where is the software version wise – because of the potential for lack of important plug-ins using a CMS that is version *.0 or *.1 maybe less preferable than one which is *.7 or *.8. i.e. a version that has been out for a while will likely have a larger selection of “current” plug-ins
  • Is the software widely used and supported – open source software often does not have “for- mal” support. Is there a large community indirectly / informally supporting the software. This can be as simple as a very populated bulletin board.
  • Appearance flexibility – is “theme-ing” a choice and how many themes are available? How easy is it to edit the themes?
  • Security – does the software take advantage of exiting security measures? It is updated as needed to fix security wholes?
  • Flexibility vs Complexity – if the need for capabilities is small, likely a choice of a simpler CMSs would be in order. However, I do not suggest removing a given CMS as a choice just because it offers capabilities not needed.

Arguably the top 4 CMSs in alphabetical order would be:

Drupal … Joomla … Plone … Word Press

There are likely many pieces of open source software which could provide the identified needed capabilities.  We often suggest selecting one of the more established from the list above even though there may be a little used CMS which is tailored just for what is needed. There are many reason for this but let us pass along one of my past experiences. We were tasked with creating a prototype users group site for a software company. This would be a place for users to share files, share model of devices, share macros and have discussions via a bulletin board. There was a CMS called PostNuke which seemed to be written just for such a task. The prototype website was created in a reasonable amount of time, however, just before deployment, development of the PostNuke was halted. No new versions would be available. While this software worked just fine at the time, we all know how technology evolves. Suffice it to say backward compatibility is not alway built in.

Requirements – Lets talk in general what requirements are needed for most any CMS to work.

  • A database (often MySQL)
  • A web server (often Apache)
  • A language installed (i.e. PHP, Perl, Python etc)
  • Disk space (usually not an issue now days)

To highlight, one of the issues with the PostNuke example above was that, at the time, Post- Nuke was already using an outdated version of PHP. With no new updates / version in the works for PostNuke, never being able upgrade and using an outdated version of PHP was not acceptable.

Using CMSmatrix.org to compare the four CMSs in the list above. See the linked spread sheet for the comparison (called CMS_Comparison.xls).

Of the four CMSs listed, Drupal is arguably the most power but at a cost of user friendliness.

Hosting – hosting is essentially the computer from which the web site files are served. For hosting there are two main choices, a locally hosted web server or the cloud. Unless the files on the site are sensitive, we often suggest continuing to use a hosting company. The cost is minimal and the hosting company takes care of many tedious tasks such as upgrading software.

By accomplishing the above recommendations, the result is your company has complete control over the web site.  At this point, some of the hard part is done, that being selecting the appropriate software. Installing and setting up the site can be less technically challenging but will still take some time. Choices will still have to be made:

  • Picking a theme
  • Arranging the layout of the side
  • Adding content so there is useful information on the site. Placing graphics to customize the site.

Subsequent editions to the site could be done by anyone with an account and the proper permissions, it need not be someone from KMC.

We are your solution architect!