Portal or CMS – Which product do you choose?

So should you use a content management system with delivery capabilities or a portal server with content management features or should you use a totally different products for delivery and content management? This is a question that I’ve faced many times.

According to some counts, there are more than 2000 products that call themselves “Content Management Systems”. I’m sure there would be a similar huge number for products that could be categorized as “Portal Servers”. Hence, it is usually not a trivial exercise to select products. Although, the exact answer obviously depends on specific requirements, in order to arrive at a shortlist of products, one can start by dividing the whole area into three distinct functionalities as follows:

  • Content Creation – Web based forms for content entry, integration with content creation software like MS-Office
  • Content Management – Repository Management, Workflows, version management etc
  • Content Delivery – Some kind of templating that separates content from presentation and a mechanism to publish content

This is rather simplistic but it provides a good start. It at least helps one start with a sub-set of products. The following figure is a sample of products according to these categories.

CMS Areas
So, for example, if requirement is to build a personalized intranet with portlets etc, one would go for IBM, ATG, BEA or Liferay. If on the other hand, if the requirement consists of both content management and portal based delivery, one could either go for a product that does end to end (like Vignette or Fatwire) or go for a combination of two products (like Alfresco and BEA). If however, the requirement is to have a strong content management system with limited delivery capabilities (but no portal, portlets and so on), OpenCMS would be a good choice.

After a shortlist is created, one can go for a more rigorous product evaluation using a more detailed comparison with weights and scores.

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