Open source software (OSS) is increasingly popular with businesses of all sizes throughout the nation because: the license cost is typically zero; the existence of a robust developer community constantly delivers add-on solutions; OSS solutions offer feature-rich functionality out-of-the-box. Businesses are learning that these OSS solutions can be used to build very professional websites with features rivaling the most popular websites online (because they are too built on OSS). Should your business consider relocating to an OSS-driven website? Here are 5 pro tips to consider when making an OSS decision:
Should We Deploy Our Website on an OSS Solution?
The question of whether you should deploy an OSS solution depends on your requirements for solving a particular problem and to what degree any OSS, off-the-shelf, or custom software package solves that problem. Begin by creating (or having someone create) a list of requirements you demand for an OSS and then compare each OSS against your requirements. The top OSS 'that satisfies the most requirements should be investigated further. For instance, if you demand professional user membership and profile features MovableType is probably not a good solution, whereas Joomla is.
CMS vs Blog
OSS often comes in the form of a Content Management Systems (CMS) or a blog. CMS are document management tools that can publish documents, webpages, Adobe PDF's, scanned images, etc. to your network, intranet, website or a growing list of other distribution channels. If your company deploys a CMS the website would be a sub-component. This configuration provides a greater level of feature and functionality and crosses many boundaries for distribution. They are also typically more difficult to setup, learn and maintain.
A blog is a website containing type-written, video, audio, image or linked document content typically maintained by one or a few persons. Blogs are usually presented in a columnar fashion with separate entries listed in reverse-chronological order, all though newer sites running blog platforms have become quite complex and more visually appealing. A blog tool provides an easy-to-use administration panel to update and add entries but lacks the full feature set of a CMS such as adding new sections, organizing volumes of documents, or distributing content via different methods.
The type of functionality you demand will determine whether or not you select a CMS or blog solution.
Support and Setup
CMS solutions are more difficult to setup requiring planning and analysis to determine the best organization method while blog tools are typically setup within a very short period of time (sometimes in less than 5 minutes). Also, because these solutions are free they typically do not include technical assistance or support unless you pay an additional (but still relatively small) fee. Consider whether your company has the time to determine the best approach for deploying a new CMS or if time is of the essence and you need something up and running by this afternoon using a blog. Also, do you need support to solve glitches that may arise or can someone on your staff troubleshoot the issue?
Most OSS applications require freely and widely available infrastructure tools such as PHP, Microsoft's .Net, and MySQL. If your internet site is hosted externally (eg GoDaddy.com) your host will typically provide the necessary tools to install your CMS or blog tool. Configuring these tools with your host may require time and / or a technically oriented person for more complex setups. Many blog tools can be hosted online by providers such as Blogger.com, but hosting the blog solution yourself will allow you to control the appearance of the blog with your company logo, color scheme, etc.
While it is true that OSS license structures rarely charge a license fee, some are moving towards a pay-for-play model to recoup investments made in their software. If you decide to deploy an OSS investigate what license options exist and whether you will be required to pay a license fee now or in the future.
Popular OSS and Blog Solutions:
Content Management Systems (CMS):