A CMS is a tool that allows the contributors of a site to tell the story that the site is representing. It needs to be on-time and always ready to deliver. It needs to allow the contributors and the readers of the site to do their job and keep the technology out of the way. When considering a CMS, thousands of variables come into play that can be dropped casually into a few categories such as security, accessibility, usability, maintainability, flexibility and scalability. Each of these factors plays a critical role in the successful development, implementation and operation of any website. These categories become even more critical when the sites are cornerstones of a university as large and complex as Penn State. Specifically, the cornerstone sites being addressed by the Polaris project are www.psu.edu and live.psu.edu.
Since February, the Polaris Technology & Integration (T&I) Team has been tackling the following question: What content management system, if any, should be used for Penn State web sites that will be built with the Polaris stack from this point forward? This is no small question.
The CMS in this evaluation process carried significant merit. In fact, T&I's first problem was to narrow the field from dozens to a few CMSs that could be legitimately considered in a reasonable timeframe. Several were marked for unique content storage mechanisms. Some were noted for unique approaches to scalability. Still, others were differentiated by strong track records in simplicity and ease of use.
As we considered each CMS, we found that Drupal offered two key attributes that placed it at the head of the pack in the eyes of the T&I team. The first key attribute is the adoption rate of Drupal within large enterprises with high scalability demands. Utilizing Drupal at the heart of cornerstone sites in the Penn State web universe places us in good company. Scores of sites throughout many industries successfully provide content to their communities while facing staggering numbers of simultaneous visitors. The second key attribute is the flexibility to adjust to the shifting needs of the institution. Penn State must be able to adjust to ever-changing needs of delivering information to constituent communities--from prospective students and their families to faculty and staff, from local and national visitors to international guests and scholars.
Each CMS seemed to address these aspects in different ways that could be hotly debated ad nauseum. However, numerous flexible approaches to content development and management, coupled with several demonstrated and well-documented approaches to scalability, have allowed Drupal to shine as a solution ready for the extreme and variable demands of an enterprise such as The Pennsylvania State University.
We believe this is a major step in the right direction in the process of building a sustainable architecture that can serve the needs of the cornerstones of the web landscape at Penn State. It is truly an exciting time to be a member of a fantastic team making amazing strides for this great university.
Looking forward to solving more technical dilemmas,