What is Drupal ?

August 12th, 2014 by Digithales

Drupal is one of the world’s leading Content Management Systems (CMS) and allows users to easily customize website content and publish it quickly. Informative websites, blogs, social media websites, intranets and web applications all benefit from good content management.

Drupal isn’t a CMS in the strictest sense of the name, but it is a web platform that provides content management customized to your unique needs. Everyone has a different content management need and Drupal understands this need and has responded accordingly. There are multiple modules available to choose from for displaying content, retrieving content and storing content.

Drupal History and Background

Drupal’s roots began in 1999 as a message board for a group of college students to use to communicate. By 2000, more and more people were using it and contributing their own ideas to the design and function of the software. It was designed to be open source, which is a philosophy designed to make use of collaborative free software. Drupal.org, the official website, debuted in 2001 and has steadily increased its user base over the years, gaining momentum in 2005. Drupal’s mission has always been to develop a leading edge open source content management system that utilizes the newest ideas and best practices from software design engineers, knowledge management and community publishing.

Drupal’s user community values simplicity and innovation within the content management system. Flexibility is also very important, as well as modularity and teamwork among the open source community. Among the current companies that use Drupal today include The Economist, The Examiner, The White House, Stanford University, Ohio State University and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Over 1 million websites currently use this popular software.

If you want to understand how Drupal works, you need to understand the underlying structure of CMS and open source software.

Content Management Systems (CMS)

A content management system is a web application designed to make the job of managing a website easier for non-technical users. This job includes adding and editing web content. The Internet started out with technical departments being in charge of company websites, not only on the back end, but also designing and running the website. As technology improved and bandwidth increased, viewers demanded better content more in line with what marketing and advertising departments produced, rather than IT departments. Marketing and public relations personnel became more involved in the design of a website. A CMS can be accessed from a browser interface such as Chrome, Internet Explorer or Firefox.

Simply because a software solution is open source does not automatically mean it is a product that will instantly suit your needs. As with commercially available software, there are many choices available ranging from well-managed and popular software programs to programs that are created by an individual with hardly any support or documentation available.

When you are dealing with a open source software that is ready for use within a commercial enterprise, the software will be able to be kept up-to-date by a group with non-profit status and community offerings. The community of developers and technical knowledge will not only be knowledgeable about the software, but also active participate in the discussions that are necessary for open source software to thrive. A commercial open-source application will have proven use of their software by some medium-to-large sized companies.

CMS Program Differences

Drupal offers unlimited customization within its building block methodology. Modular in their approach, the creators wanted software users to have as much customization as possible within their content management systems.

Some CMS software programs are created on the premise that everything you need should be available in the program, but if someone wants it incorporated into other programs or projects, it is not easy to do. Most CMS software programs are created with this approach in mind.

Another approach to CMS is to create a group of components that can be combined together, used alone or in conjunction with other software. Drupal contains a wealth of modules and add-ons that give large corporations the ability to customize their web experiences easily with minimal issue.

Commercial software is not as flexible and companies understand that they have to adjust their needs to the commercial software, and not the other way around. Open source software, especially Drupal, allows companies to create customized software solutions tailored to their specific business needs.  Drupal has an extremely large and vocal community of developers and users who support the software.  It also has the the most flexible solutions. Companies can customize both external displays and internal administrator displays within the CMS, allowing for complete customization.  Because it is open source, the underlying code is can be modified and additional features added on to it when necessary.

Drupal and Your Organization

When choosing a technology platform for your company’s use, it is a difficult decision, one with careful consideration of financial cost and time involved in the set-up and implementation. Read more for why considering Drupal for your CMS platform may be one of the best decisions you can make for your company.

Flexibility

Currently, there are no other content management systems that are more flexible. Open source software is known for its ability to be customized. Companies can take Drupal and tailor it to fit their business systems and needs. Since there are no two companies alike, this is a key feature.

Scalability

One of the most important things to take into consideration when choosing a CMS is scalability. Open source software is created with scalability being one of the primary benefits. While Drupal has a lot of straight-from-the-shelf modules you can choose from, these modules can be added to other platforms easily. As your company changes and grows, so can your website.

Drupal Online Community

The Drupal open source community is active, with over 180,000 contributors doing their best to test the software, develop modules, fix bugs and add patches and security fixes, as well as add features to the program itself.

Software Updates and New Releases

As any top software company will do, Drupal stays on schedule with their major software releases and updates occurring consistently. The software’s major upgrades occur every two to three years, and the next major software release, Drupal 8, is scheduled to be released for mid to late 2014 with over 200 new features and improvements being touted for mobile devices and multilingual needs. Over 1900 contributors have been involved in this heavily anticipated new software release.  New capabilities for displaying data on mobile devices and adapting to multilingual needs capabilities are some of the many improvements that are included in the next release:

  • Better Markup with HTML 5
  • Built-In Web Services
  • Accessibility Integration
  • New Configuration Management
  • Field Power
  • Industry Standard Approach

Who Uses Drupal Today?

In addition to the companies listed at the beginning of this document in the background portion, additional companies include The Official Beatles Website, The Prince of Wales and Family, MIT List Visual Arts Center, McNally Jackson Books and the National New Play Network.

Important Differences Between Content Management Systems

First generation content management systems such as Escenic, Sitecore, SiteVision, Polopoly and EPiServer have to be programmed in Java or the .NET platform, which takes a lot of time and resources, including the hiring of specialists, to implement any sort of new module or change. Because it is more difficult, usually when going to make changes it is discovered there are not that many providers or specialists out there who can do work in these programs and it is often costly to hire these specialists.

Because Drupal is a second generation CMS, it gets the added benefit of requiring little or no programming needed to c. No need to hire specialized people because a lot of the changes can be done internally by staff members, no outsourcing needed. This freedom allows you to  change your site more often and it won’t cost you as much in labor because you can even do it yourself!

If you are looking to integrate additional systems into your network, because of its open source background, you can modify and use it to fit your needs. If you modify it, it’s your decision whether to allow distribution. If you do, it is expected that it be open source, as well.

Why Should You Choose Drupal?

There is a definite shorter time to market when you want to add new or improved features to your website. Once you know the changes you wish to make, it’s easy to quickly change your sites to reflect the changes. In today’s ever-changing world, it is important to have the ability to respond rapidly to market changes.

You can give the creativity and daily management of your website to your staff to customize and further improve your website without relying on an outside service provider. The learning curve is remarkably easy.

Remember when some of your projects took weeks to complete? A reduction of your total cost of ownership (TCO) will happen as a result of utilizing open source software, which offers shorter development lead time, less dependence on technology consultants and lower maintenance cost, which is what you should be striving toward in your IT organization.

With all of the support available for Drupal, including live text chat support, you will not be at a loss to get answers quickly if you need them. Open source communities are a wealth of information, and Drupal’s is second to none.