21 06, 2018

CMS: Proprietary or Not?

By | 2018-06-25T08:57:11+00:00 June 21st, 2018|Categories: Cascade CMS, Higher Education, Web Development|Tags: , , , |

What’s Best for Higher Ed CMS?

If you’re considering upgrading your school’s website, selecting the wrong CMS can have lasting ramifications. And, with so many options out there, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed.

Google “proprietary vs open source CMS,” and you’ll receive over 50 hits to your search query. Some even come with catchy headlines, like: “Battle Royale: Open-Source vs. Closed-Source CMS” and “The Battle of Open Source vs. Proprietary Systems.” Clearly, the debate regarding the best type of content management system is still ongoing… and, apparently, fight-level intense.

There are a lot of content management systems out there, that’s for sure. So, how do you choose the one that best fits your higher learning institution? Understanding the difference between the two main CMS types is a good start.

Let’s start with the definitions. Open source systems, like WordPress and Drupal, are built with source code that’s freely shared with everyone. This means that anyone can apply that source code in any manner they want. The advantages of open source applications is that they can be improved by literally anyone. If there’s a problem, a solution can be crowdsourced from the user community — often quicker than an in-house team with limited man hours.

Proprietary software, on the other hand, is kept secret by the developers. The applications are maintained and updated in-house by dedicated personnel. The advantage with proprietary CMS is that it is often designed for a specific market. There are CMSs out there tailored for the transportation, travel, hospitality, and yes, higher education sectors. Also, whereas open source CMS leaves customization to the end user, proprietary CMS can be set up on the front end for the unique needs of an individual client.

Let’s explore each type further.

Proprietary vs Open-Source: Let the debate rage

If you value portability, ongoing improvement/optimization, and adaptation, odds are good that you’ll be satisfied with a popular open-source platform like WordPress or Drupal.

If your website is built in WordPress or a similar CMS, it’s fairly easy to move into another CMS when and if you so choose. You may also feel secure in knowing that a large developer base is constantly working on improving the features and functionality of the platform. Such improvements are implemented through code updates, requiring very little effort from you and your staff.

However, there are also drawbacks. The code updates can create some technical issues with third-party plug-ins or websites running on older versions of the software. Because the code is available to everyone, it can be an easier target for exploitation and cyber attacks. And, chances are good that your site will require at least some customization, which carries added cost and the potential need for personnel skilled in HTML.

Closed-source programs offer some advantages over their open-source counterparts, chief among them is ease of use.

With proprietary software, there’s never a need for you or your staff to make changes in the code, because the CMS is already fully customized to your site’s unique needs. Any additional development is handled by the vendor. The software also allows for a robust user permission setup, allowing you to easily delegate tasks to appropriate team members.

Additionally, closed-source code has a reputation for being more secure. This makes sense, since potential bad actors don’t have the luxury of parsing the source code for vulnerabilities.

The only drawback with proprietary CMS is portability. While some programs make it fairly easy to transfer website content to another platform, there’s typically no such flexibility for the graphic and structural elements of the site.

The Ruling

So, what type of CMS makes the most sense for higher education? Because it’s better suited for specialized and customized content, we, at Beacon, view proprietary CMS as the better option. Cascade and OmniUpdate, in particular, are two platforms that we work with routinely.

OmniUpdate is specifically dedicated to the higher ed sector. It’s OU Campus platform was designed with features and modules intended for use by universities and colleges.

Cascade is another trusted and reliable CMS application. One of the cooler attributes of this platform is the ability to create flexible templates, which we focused on in an earlier post.

No HTML experience is necessary to work with either one of these content management systems.

Beacon Knows Websites

Want to see how your higher ed website stacks up? Request a free audit by our knowledgeable team and see how you’re doing.

29 08, 2017

CMS Super Powers: Top 5 Underused Features in Cascade

By | 2017-08-28T09:30:55+00:00 August 29th, 2017|Categories: Cascade CMS|Tags: , |

Superheroes possess super powers that enable them to do the unimaginable with speed and precision. Similarly, the Cascade Server CMS enables it’s users to do things that other content management systems cannot. In both cases, these unique, underused or underappreciated features warrant further examination.

Accordingly, I’ve created a list of Cascade Server “super powers”. These features that are often overlooked but can give unworldly abilities to the Cascade users who possess them.

Personalized Dashboards

Judge performance at a glance thanks to a dashboard with widgets that can be re-arranged and/or removed to suit your informational needs. Your dashboard can include Google Analytics performance metrics, too. Within this dashboard, you can view Pageviews and Unique Visitors without having to enter a GA account. There are widgets for History and a Link Checker, New and Stale Content, just to name a few. Many of the features below can be reviewed through Cascade’s personalized dashboard.

Superhero equivalent: Arm Fall Off Boy (DC Comics). A superhero from the 30th century, Arm Fall Off Boy can rearrange and/or remove his arms. He can even use them as weapons. Never has there been a more malleable superhero. Kinda like our dashboard.

Stale Content

Within hundreds of website pages, it is so easy to lose track of old content that requires updating. Located under the dashboard, the stale content feature enables one to find stale content and change it so as to ensure a better user experience. The administrator can set defaults that specify folder, time lapse, etc.

Superhero equivalent: Diaper Man (Terrytoons). An animated superhero conceived by legendary animator Ralph Bakshi, this superhero uses his bottle to bludgeon bad guys into submission. He’ll never grow old, much like your website content if you’re in Cascade.

Content Review

With the Content Review feature, one can send new content to a colleague for review in advance of the scheduled publish date. An email goes out to the specified party while the article is still in draft. The recipient just clicks the link, reads, reviews and responds. Catastrophe avoided.

Superhero equivalent: Doorman. (Marvel Comics). Doorman is a living portal. However, he can only travel to adjacent rooms. If you need to reach your colleague in the office next door, then he’s your man.

Remove Formatting

This feature is part of the Cascade WYSIWYG. MS Word doesn’t translate well into HTML, yet many people prefer to do their drafts in this format. Remove Formatting to the rescue! With a click of a button, it translates any out of date or inaccurate code into the correct HTML code.

Superhero equivalent: Type Face (Marvel Comics). With his sidekick SpellCheck, Type Face defeats the bad guys by hurling letters a them. He’s a living, breathing WYSIWYG.

Saved History

Your entire session history is saved so you can easily navigate from one page to another, edit and migrate content. History is saved between logins so you can easily pick up where you left off before you were so rudely interrupted by whatever super-villains lurk within your office space.

Superhero equivalent: Martian Manhunter (DC Comics). An original member of the Justice League of America, Martian Manhunter had an eidetic memory.

As a long standing partner of Hannon Hill, we’ve got more experience with the Cascade CMS than just about anyone. If you’re searching for a content management solution and want to talk about what Beacon and Cascade Server can do for you and your organization, feel free to contact me with your questions or comments. If it’s urgent, pick up the phone and call one of our Cascade experts at 855.447.8276.

And remember. With great power comes even greater responsibility.