The Web and Open Source Software: Doing More for Less
Traditionally, updating the content of your website involved hiring an outside vendor to do the necessary coding and content placement. This not only slowed the process of getting information out to the Web, but also subjected companies to ongoing cost. To eliminate this, content management systems (CMS) were developed, allowing website owners to manage their website in-house with features such as page creation, content placement and security.
In the early years, CMS solutions were an expensive endeavor, often involving pricey licensing fees, yearly maintenance agreements and even per-user fees.
To make CMS available to everyone, DotNetNuke (www.dotnetnuke.com), or DNN, was introduced in 2002. Developed using Microsoft’s .net architecture, DNN is a free, open source CMS that has grown exponentially over the years and today has an extremely active community with over 600,000 users worldwide.
DNN allows organizations to manage their entire website from a standard browser for creating pages, placing text, images, documents, forms, threaded discussion forums, surveys and more—as well as setting page and content security, such as members-only pages and so on. All of it can be done without programming or the need to outsource.
As DNN is also open source, the system can be endlessly modified as needed to meet specific needs such as integrating with an existing member or client database, or creating new “module” functionality such as job application submission or event registration.
A real benefit of DNN is that an entire industry has been created around DNN. Snowcovered.com (www.snowcovered.com) is like an Amazon.com for DNN, providing third-party module add-ons that can be purchased and placed within a DNN website. For instance, need to place videos on your site with features similar to YouTube? On Snowcovered’s website, a module is available for $84.95. In the past, custom developing such a solution would have taken hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars in cost. At last count there are over 3,500 such modules available on Snowcovered’s website, and it continues to grow.
An in-house wiki
At some time or another, we’ve all used the online resource Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) to find information. Wikipedia allows users to contribute information about specific subjects, or create entirely new subjects.
This functionality can be extremely useful in-house in order to collaborate and disseminate internal information that is specific to your organization.
Mindtouch Deki Standard (www.mindtouch.com) is an open source wiki solution that functions similar to Wikipedia, allowing users to easily and securely submit content using a standard browser.
For over a year we have utilized this solution for in-house documentation and collaboration and it’s proven an invaluable resource for items such as:
Client documentation: a separate, secure wiki page for each client with relevant documents, notes
Network documentation: information such as common tasks, network charts, equipment inventory
Future plans: collaborative section allowing employees to submit ideas and suggestions for future internal projects such as processes, network upgrades, new technology research
Knowledgebase: documentation, notes and links that address solutions to past issues
An internal wiki is an extremely powerful tool and, perhaps most of all, dramatically reduces the chance of having critical information locked away in the minds of your most valuable employees—something many organizations do not discover until it’s too late.
The number of open source applications is growing rapidly as even large, Fortune 500 companies begin to implement these low-cost (or no-cost) solutions. The real beauty of open source is that it provides these high-quality solutions to everyone, whether you have 6,000 employees or are an individual consultant.
As budgets continue to shrink and competition grows fiercer, there is little doubt that the future of open source is bright.
| ||John Forsberg is CEO of i2 Integration/Forsberg Multimedia, dedicated to creating Internet, intranet and extranet Web applications, and interactive multimedia productions.|