Open source content management

The hardest part of choosing a CMS solution is narrowing down the choices

With the Web becoming the backbone for most enterprise communications, you'll find there's no shortage of Web CMSes (content management systems) available, including a wide range of open source options. Naturally, there's far more at stake than licensing costs when betting your intranet or public Web site on these products, so it's important to look for not just functionality but also frequent updates, a healthy user community, and the availability of professional support.

OpenCms runs on Apache Tomcat under most operating systems and is licensed under the LGPL (Lesser General Public License). Implementation support and other professional services are available from various registered solution providers. In addition, Alkacon Software of Germany provides paid support agreements, end-user and development training courses in English and German, and custom project development.

Forms and a WYSIWYG editor make it easy to edit content items in OpenCms, and the software's convenient administration UI permits hassle-free customization. OpenCms misses in a few high-end areas, however. It lacks SSL encryption and LDAP authentication and provides limited template management. Although it's cost-effective, consider other products if you need to build out multiple sites or if you expect enterprise performance management capabilities such as caching and load balancing.

The PHP- and MySQL-based CMS Mambo is used around the world for both simple sites and complex corporate applications. Truly multinational, Mambo's development community offers strong support forums, quality third-party professional services, and user conferences. Mambo is licensed under the GPL, but Australia-based Miro, the software's originator, offers a commercial derivative called Jango.

Mambo offers decent page caching, RSS syndication, and the ability to display content on schedules. A number of solid, free add-ons are available from the Mambo community, including document management features, discussion forums, and a basic e-commerce shopping cart. Similar to OpenCms, however, Mambo lacks the multitenancy needed for large-scale implementations.

Perhaps the most complete open source CMS application is eZ publish, which offers content staging, workflow approval, and all the datacenter functions that IT staffs need -- including load balancing. Plus, content reuse makes eZ publish applicable for multiple international sites that are hosted using a single instance of the CMS.

A GPL version of eZ publish is available; Norway-based eZ systems -- the software's creator -- also offers it under a commercial license. Those license fees go toward the salaries of some 40 employees, who produce the product under a stringent QA cycle that rivals those of pure commercial vendors. Support, training, and consulting services are also available.