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  • Content Management Systems Reviews - Alfresco

Content Management Systems Reviews - Alfresco

In my post about open source content management systems (CMS), I mentioned that Alfresco, Drupal, Joomla, Apache Jackrabbit, Liferay are just few of the open source CMS. In this post, I will describe Alfresco which is very popular CMS.
Alfresco is an enterprise content management system for Microsoft Windows and Unix like operating systems. There are two types of Alfresco: Alfresco Community Edition and Alfresco Enterprise Edition. Alfresco Community Edition is free software. Alfresco Enterprise Edition is commercially and proprietary licensed open source for an enterprise. Its design is geared towards users who require a high degree of modularity and scalable performance.
It includes a content repository, an out-of-the-box web portal framework for managing and using standard portal content, a CIFS interface that provides file system compatibility on Microsoft Windows and Unix like operating systems, a web content management system capable of virtualizing webapps and static sites via Apache Tomcat, Lucene indexing, and Activiti workflow. The Alfresco modular architecture is developed using Java technology.
Alfresco has been built on leading industry standards, including: REST, RSS, Atom publishing, JSON, OpenSearch, OpenSocial, OpenID, Web Servcies, JSR 168, JSR 170 level 2, MyFaces, CIFS, FTP, WebDAV, SQL, ODF and CMIS.
The system has been designed with high scalability. It can be architected to support a large community of users and to be able to manage the high volumes of content associated with enterprise wide deployments. Simple to configure clustering allows companies to scale their Alfresco deployment.
Simple administration, changing server settings, can be done via standard JMX tools without the need to stop the Alfresco server.
Content Platform
Content platform is used for the system modules and includes the following features: 
  • Rules and Aspects Services - create content rules on a folder, start a workflow, convert content into another format, move to another folder, notify a set of users via email, and extract the properties such as author, keywords, etc. from an office document.
  • Library services - check-in/out; minor and major version control.
  • Auditing services - who created, who updated, when created, when updated, when read, when logged in.
  • Search services - combined metadata, content, location, object type and tag search.
  • Transformation services – extensible engine with large number of in-built transformations including Office to PDF or Flash.
  • Thumbnailing services – content thumbnailing of first page.
  • Content modeling – create new content types without the overhead of inheritance.
  • Collaboration Services - REST based services - site, person, invite, activities, preferences, discussion, blogging and commenting.
  • Activity services – activity feed on the "who, what, when and where" of repository services – new or edited content, comments, new team members, critical calendar dates. 
Share interface
Share interface is used for the system modules and enables global teams to collaborate on content and projects. It includes social features such as status updates, content activity streams, tagging, and search. Team tools include a document library, blog, wiki, calendar, and simple workflow.
It includes the following features: 
  • RSS Feeds - proactive feeds automatically update team members of changes – who did what, where and when.
  • Create Virtual Teams with user invitations and easy control of permissions.
  • Personal dashboard - allow users to setup and view information in a variety of ways.
  • Project Dashboard - each project has a dashboard to provide access to all project information including activities, team members, project calendars, modified content and project links.
  • Project Calendars - team calendars capture and share critical project dates.
  • Discussion Forums - team members can use online discussion forums to raise issues, discuss topics and capture thoughts to be shared with other team members.
  • Project Blogs - team members can draft project blogs. These can be reviewed within the team before being published externally.
  • Wiki pages.
  • Project Data Lists - users can create and share lists of items.
  • Social Tagging - social content (documents, blogs, wiki pages, discussion posts, etc.) can be tagged by team members, providing easy navigation to content.
  • Image Light Box - used to browse images managed within each project.
  • Alfresco includes document management, records management, web management modules. 
Document Management
Document management module is architected to support a large number of users and to be able to manage very high volumes of content.
It includes full ECM functionality delivered through the modern, consumer-like Share interface. There is a single unified repository to manage any type of content – documents, images, video and audio. With support for CIFS and WebDav, IMAP & SharePoint protocol, you can drag and drop files right into Alfresco just like into a shared network drive. Alfresco can be mounted as an IMAP service in your email client, so that you can drag and drop content into Alfresco right from email.
There is inline preview. You can preview popular file types (like Microsoft Office documents, PDFs and images) directly within your browser, without having to download them.
Alfresco provides the ability to automatically create more than one document format for any content within the system. For example, Microsoft Word documents can have a PDF version automatically created at the end of an approval workflow for later publication on the website.
Alfresco looks just like SharePoint to Microsoft Office, allowing users to upload, check-in, check-out and modify content right from MS Office. It includes version control and allows users to track major and minor versions of documents with an audit trail.
Users can define unique Types and the associated metadata. More powerful than Types is the ability to create Aspects. Aspects can hold a set of custom metadata and be applied to any document, regardless of content type.
Alfresco provides workflows to help automate the processing of documents. Workflows can be built to support simple review and approval processes or can be configured to support more complex business processes. Users can create simple document workflows by themselves.
The system includes fine grained security levels, based on user, group and role management to control access to content.
Content can be replicated between Alfresco systems. Remote offices can have read-only access to content locally providing them with quick access and reducing wide area network traffic.
Lightweight scripting allows developers to create new reusable components using Javascript, PHP, and freemarker.
It is compliant with open standards like CMIS & JSR 168.
Records Management
Alfresco is used to manage the lifecycle of the content before it becomes a record. This allows the managing of the review and approval process of a company report as it goes through multiple revisions before the final, approved, version is filed as a record.
Records management module is built on top of Alfresco's Document Management repository, including the Share interface. You can upload records using drag and drop from the desktop or email client, or any web browser. It can be added as an IMAP service in any standard email browser, allowing users to drag and drop emails into Alfresco for uploading.
It includes multiple interfaces. End users can use the most appropriate interface to allow them to add new records.
Using Microsoft SharePoint protocol, users can upload and file records from within standard Office tools. Users can use the same web interface that they use to manage other content to upload, manage, and declare records.
Alfresco supports a multi-stage process for filing and declaring records. This allows users to file and then, at a later date, add the required information to enable them to declare the record. Users use the same Alfresco system to store and manage all of their content.
Users can create record series, record categories and record folders. Simple point-and-click configuration allows users to create unique record retention schedules for each of the record categories. Users can identify records that need to be reviewed, automatically prompting the user at the end of the review period. There is transfer support which support the ability to transfer records at the end of the disposition cycle. Full audit logs enable users to track who did what and when for each record.
The system provides support for a range of record types including electronic records (standard documents, scanned records, PDF records, and web records) and physical records. It also provides support for a wide range of relationships (e.g. Supersedes, Versions, References, etc.) Administrators can add their own relationships to support unique business requirements.
There is full support for holding records in the case of litigation, ensuring that records are not destroyed as part of the normal retention schedule when legal discovery is involved.
Multiple roles enable users to control which activities are available to each user. Role definitions can easily be extended to support each company's requirements.
This module is 5015.2 certified.
Web Content Management
This module provides an integrated collaboration environment to allow web teams to work together. Advanced social collaboration capabilities of Share interface can be used to work with globally distributed virtual teams.
Content can be created and modified directly within the web application. Transformation tools automatically convert office files into web-ready formats for publishing – removing manual conversion processes. Office-to-web automatically publishes enterprise content. Users can choose from a range of different interfaces for creating and updating web content.
This module acts as shared network drive. Users can continue to use existing desktop tools and simply use drag-and-drop to upload new content without the need for downloads or plugins. Using Microsoft SharePoint protocol, users can seamlessly upload and modify web content from within standard Office tools. Users have an ability to quickly create new sites, or micro-sites.
There is support for business processes that control how new content is managed through a review and approval process. Transformation services can repurpose content for delivery through multiple channels – web, smart phone, tablets, etc. Content can be published between multiple environments.
The module provides a scalable development platform that can be quickly downloaded and easily extended to meet business needs.
You can add more features as your requirements change. Using repository clustering, flexible deployment and transfer services, architects can define and build web infrastructures that they can scale to meet future business needs. The system provides repository interoperability, reduces vendor lock-in, and simplifies content migration.
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