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Content Management Options

Content management products run the gamut from simple and inexpensive (or even free) to complex, powerful, and expensive. So it is within the Microsoft product pantheon, which provides three choices for content management.

First, you can continue in the tradition of custom content management and create your own system by building .NET controls along with a database repository to store the underlying content. This is the best choice if you are being paid by the hour and have an unlimited budget and schedule. You can tailor the system to fit your unique requirements.

The downside to the custom CMS is the same as for any other custom solution. It requires a significant amount of resources to design, build, and maintain compared to an off-the-shelf solution. The blank slate offered by custom development may encourage users to be more creative in their requirements than the business case may warrant, or to ask for functionality that in the long run would be unnecessary or counterproductive. Custom software is only as good as the quality assurance process applied to it, and a surprising amount of work is required to bring software defects down to an acceptable level.

In short, building a custom CMS made sense only until commercial products were available to fill this niche. Now that the price of a CMS is dropping, the functionality of a custom system built with the same investment as a product purchase is dropping correspondingly, making only the simplest custom CMS worth building. For instance, Microsoft announced a small business edition of Microsoft Content Management Server that is only one-fourth the price of the full product (already competitively priced).

A second product option for content management has emerged. SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) has limited content management functionality built in, and with some creativity you can build an enterprise portal with a broad range of content and functionality without a full-bore CMS. For instance, SPS contains prebuilt pages with content management capability for such items as news, contact (name and address) listing, calendars, document libraries, threaded discussions, and others.

For most enterprise portals, you will need an industrial-strength content management solution. Fortunately for .NET portal developers, Microsoft has an off-the-shelf content management product built on .NET that is tightly integrated with .NET security, Visual Studio, ASP.NET, and web services. It is rather unimaginatively named Microsoft Content Management Server (MCMS).

This chapter provides an overview of how to plan content management for your portal, ways to implement that plan on the Microsoft platform, and the integration points for content management with other elements of the portal and .NET. I start by describing the planning and development process. The bulk of the chapter is devoted to implementation in MCMS, Microsoft's enterprise content management system. I also describe the content management features of SharePoint Portal Server 2003, as these are quite interesting for building internal portals. I discuss the option of a custom .NET content management solution. In every case, the place to begin is with a site framework.

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