Why we decided to switch to Open Source

For over five years the IofC web team has been trying to develop an integrated content management system to meet the varied web and internet needs of this global network.

The first iteration (achieved in 2003) was a standalone Extranet (member) website, and several public standalone sites.

The second iteration (achieved in 2005) was the integration of all the public websites into one database infrastructure – with major benefits in content sharing and in speed of new site development.

The third iteration (on which we were working since 2005) involved a migration to a new, more solid architecture to carry the weight of an integrated Extranet (with its more specialised functionality) as well as the public sites, all in one system.

In mid 2007, however, it became apparent that our little team was too small, and not skilled enough by itself, to complete the third iteration in the way we had envisaged. A major factor was the retirement of our brilliant programmer, Vitalie, who had done most of the programming for four years.

After initial dismay at this reality check, we came to see it not as a failure, but as an opportunity to embrace a new vision of how IofC’s web needs are to be met.

After some weeks of research we reached the preliminary recommendation that we should change our approach completely. Having been attempting to build a proprietary system, using our own dedicated personnel, we decided that the way forward involved engaging with an Open Source CMS project and community. Advantages of this approach include:

  1. Access to much completed programming which would save us time.
  2. Access to a worldwide network of technicians who share learning.
  3. Future sustainability more assured.
  4. An opportunity to contribute to this online community, offering to others the benefits of our own experience of the past five years.
  5. A faster way to network with other NGOs which are creating similar systems to meet their needs.
  6. ‘Open Source’ fits well with IofC’s ethos of sharing and community-building.

Drupal was recommended to us as one of the best CMS projects available. Our initial look at it confirmed that it might have most of what we needed. But there were other CMS fameworks to consider....