Using the Community for Support
One way to overcome the problems cited by Goodwin and Gilbane is to use the open source community as a support base. These communities have the potential at least to help soften the lack of more conventional types of support you may expect from a proprietary vendor. If you have a problem, you can always go to the community. Goodwin says it's the quality of that community that is going to move a project forward or not.
"The community surrounding an open source CMS can make or break the project," according to Goodwin. "There is generally no free formal support mechanism for open source CMSs so the community is the only place to get free support. Also, the programmers who become a part of community, that also actively code and provide their modules to the community, are an essential ingredient for the success of any open source CMS. If a good, active community fails to coalesce around the project, it will never get a foothold and will eventually die. The community is everything when dealing with open source content management systems," Goodwin says.
One problem that Bob Doyle, editor of CMS Review, sees with relying on the open source community for support is that it is not always a nurturing resource. "There's some question whether there is help in the community." The test, he says, is to see how community members respond to relatively easy questions. Sometimes, according to Doyle, "a newbie comes in and asks something and they say it's too basic. It doesn't always work well as a supportive, nourishing technical support system." He points out, however, that it only takes a few dedicated individuals to make a difference. "For a developer community to be successful with a CMS," Doyle says, "you need to have an active listserv, with at least a few people willing to play a role of what a commercial tech support would be and that's the hallmark of the open source community."
Whether your organization chooses to take the open source route to developing a content management solution may ultimately have less to do with cost than whether it is comfortable with (and capable of) employing a solution for which it will be largely responsible for support and updates. On the plus side, the open source community of developers will often be there to help. And, depending on your open source solution, a choice of consulting firms is available to contribute expertise for a fee. In the end, it really comes down to your company's enthusiasm for and comfort level with the pros and cons of the independence open source provides. For some companies fed up with high costs and tired of waiting for the features they need to be developed at vendor's discretion, this may be a reasonable trade-off. For others, it may be unthinkable. Either way, many, including Goodwin, think the market is going to grow, starting on the low end and percolating up to the enterprise. "In the 4-plus years I've been dealing with open source CMSs," Goodwin says, "I've seen a recent marked increase in interest regarding these systems." This means that for many organizations considering CMS alternatives, open source may be a choice worth considering.
Companies Featured in This Article
Bluebill Advisors www.bluebilladvisors. com
CMS Review www.cmsreview.com
eZ publish www.ez.no
Shore Communications, Inc. www.shore.com