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We are looking at Cascade Server as one of three on our short list.

Would love to hear any input on their system, positive or negative, either from the developer or user standpoint.

It doesn't have the newest architecture behind it, but would certainly do a lot of what we need out of the box.

Thanks.
-Jon

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Replies to This Discussion

Well I started to write my response in here and it was getting quite long. So instead I posted it on my blog here.

View on Hannon Hill’s Cascade Server CMS

This breaks down all the problems in general with the system and ones that were more specific to us.

But to give a quick summary, watch out. What you may think will work for you out of the box may be a bigger pain. The system has many flaws that aren't obvious when you are in the sales phase that become quite annoying in the later phases. It's overall sluggish and performs poorly.

I'd really say give Wordpress Mu a look. Most people think of it as jsut a blogging platform but it is so much more. On top of being free up front and simple to get up and running, you also have much more resources available to you. With HH you basically have them for support and documentation on the product. As for Wordpress you have a million places with tutorials for the users and developers already that can help. As well when hiring new people you have a better chance of a person who has worked with WP at some point then someone who's even heard of Cascade. And if you need to hire an outside consultant for something again this is an issue. For the one project that we hired someone on that they said they had someone who had experience with it, and all they did was upload all their files into cascade like it was a FTP site, not actually using any of it's features.

But if you go to the blog post you will get the full dirty scoop. If you have any questions please let me know as I will be happy to talk about it more.
I'd like to give you another opinion on Cascade Server.

Cascade Server is the content management system we use at UNB (www.unb.ca). And it's been fantastic.

The Quick Summary:

Cascade Server has proven to be a robust, stable and fast enterprise-wide solution for a bi-campus university (approx student pop 11,400).

It continues to improve in both speed and new features.

You can read my full thoughts here:

http://blogs.unb.ca/shipley/2010/01/in_defence_of_cascade_server.html
Posted a comment and will clarify it in my post. We don't put video into the system, we manually put it on the server. This isn't something that we would want as the Content Management System is then not Managing the content.

Also we aren't uploading 5 meg Tiff's into the system, we use a separate system for image management.
To be clear, do you expect your WCMS to manage video as well?

I guess my expectations differ significantly. I expect my WCMS to do a great job allowing users to easily create and maintain sites. I expect it to do a great job creating good looking pages that include text and images. I expect it to be easy for me to embed additional multimedia elements (video, audio, etc).

I don't expect our CMS to be a digital asset repository or a media server.

I still can't get over how big your db is without video. Ironically, when we first started playing with video and Cascade we allowed people to upload it in. We have a few dozen short videos in the system as legacy and our DB is still only a fraction of the 8-9 gigs yours is. (I think ours is somewhere just over a gig - that's with 1,600 pages from 38 some sites).
First are you on the HighEdCascade Mailing List? If so then you have missed the discussion with others about this very subject on size. If not sign up. The go to the archives and look at

http://lists.hiedcascade.org/mailman/private/listserv/2009-Septembe...

That thread lists a bunch of different peoples sizes which there are much bigger and a few the same size as us.

8.5 Gigs used
Around 150 sites

Pages - 13581
Pages (including revisions) - 49580

Files - 36434
Files (including revisions) - 42099

And from the list here is another person at the same level as us.

http://lists.hiedcascade.org/mailman/private/listserv/2009-Septembe...

From Earl Fogel - University of Saskatchewan
Our database is 8.5 GB and contains:
10,000 Pages
18,000 Files

As you said you aren't on the tech side so knowing what actually should be expected on the DB isn't your thing. You haven't been on the system as long as many of us and haven't generated the amount of revisions and such that we have. I mean when you were just starting we had atleast 100 sites in the system and people are always updating them. So you might want to hold off before taking shots at others setups without knowing what the norm is.
Correction to my earlier post re: DB size. We have:

2,900 pages (1,600 are live, the other 1,300 in development). 38 live sites with another 33 in active development (and likely at least another 50 before full conversion). With a one year period we'll have 75 some live sites (May 09 to May 10).

We also have north of 4,000 files. The database is just over 2 gigs, not the one I noted earlier.

So perhaps we're not so far apart. Also, to be clear, I'm not taking shots - I know everyone can come off a smart $33 on the net, but that wasn't the intent.

But what I do find interesting is what seems to be the big difference in experience in terms of speed. Did you find your implementation of Cascade fast in the beginning and then it got slow or was it always slow?
Man I was having the hardest time trying to figure out your $33 reference. Finally hit me you ment something more along the lines of @55. At first I was like did a persons 2 cents become $33 because of inflation. :)

Sorry I took it as a shot, the saying I missed and then using a presumed bad setup to justify it kind of got me going.

It did get slower over time and with the number of people using it. When I first started using the system it was smoking, but I was the only person using it and was mainly working on 1 site (athletics) now with so many sites and people using it the things can be quite slow at times to almost unusable. I've been off restart duty for about a year as the systems team took over the responsibility for that aspect here but it was at least once a week that I had to restart the system at the end (after delete issue fixed, which made it multiple time daily) and I can only image it hasn't gotten much better with the increased sites and users.

Are there changes we could make that may help (beefing up the hardware, going back to monitoring sql queries and trying to create new index) but we haven't really had time to put towards exploring that. Though at that point I'd rather spend the time looking at something else (mainly doing it in WP-MU.) :)
Okay onto the video side of things.

Do I expect the CMS to manage video?

Directly, No. We prefer videos to be posted to our Youtube channel or in other cases we run things off a local Windows streaming server for larger things (in the past we have had sporting events and I believe concerts on there that weren't for public consumption.)

But indirectly yes I do. I expect the CMS to be able to handle managing any files that are on that webserver. If they want to send out say a holiday greeting e-card with a video from a Dean or the President that is going to be hosted off our webserver I would like to have the user have the ability to see it through the tree in the CMS so that later it can be removed by them when it is no longer needed. In most cases they will forget about this and then it just sits on the webserver when it should have been removed. To them there is nothing to remind them to take it off by seeing it in the CMS.

As well later when they ask us to completely delete a directory so they can republish it make sure all the old files are gone (which happens with this CMS because people forget to do an unpublish, or it doesn't actually unpublish like we had issues with in version 4) we may remove a file they forgot was there that we then have to go recover off backups for them.

But again, video was just an example of a large file. There are people with large PDFs, Flash files, and other documents that also take up space. One person on the DB size discussion mentioned setting the limit at 16 megs but this now makes it where you must manage those larger files elsewhere.

I'd much prefer that anything that falls inside the Root directory of the web server be managed by the CMS. And with other solutions this isn't an issue.
I am just way to long winded :)

And lastly on to the expectations. Or expectations don't differ significantly, I just have a higher standard for what I would call great because I have a lot of experience with other solutions.

Does Cascade do a good job at making it easy for a user to maintain a simple site, heck yeah. But does it do a good job of allowing you to make a complex site easy to handle for the user, No. Again, your definition of complex or making that easy are going to be way different, as I'm a developer and probably 80% of my job is to write apps behind the scenes to make things easier for people. While Data Defs are very nice, I'd love to have way more ability to customize and add functionality to some of the pages so users could do things easier.

An example of what I couldn't do was in the creation of news on our athletics website. Our 2 writers put out a ton of stories every day and any new feature we added had to be as smooth as possible as to not cause them to much extra work or hold them up. What feature we wanted to add was the ability in a news story for them to link the players in the story easily so that we could have an on hover where you could get the pic, bio, stats and links to other stories with that player. What would have been ideal would have been either that they could highlight the players name, either through a right click option or button in the TinyMCE editor and when they do it would search on that name and bring up a thing for them to pick which player and profile to use (since people have same names, and some people play multiple sports.) Basically neither of those ended up being a possibility because any change the the editor would then show on everyones editor. As well couldn't easily do the other part after that anyways.

Now is it possible to work around this in other ways to get it done, yes. The only way to get this to work would have been to have them go through and do a normal link to the persons page and either then in the XSLT or through JS manipulate (this would have been the method I used since I would have been doing other stuff to it as well) that section to function the proper way. The issue then was now the time had increased that it was taking the person entering the story because they had to slowly click through just to link and for most stories there are a bunch of names they have to link. This just wasn't feasible and had to be dropped. This is a trivial add on to write in other systems.

Your comment about looking great has little to do with the CMS and mostly to do with the templates put on the pages. If you are talking about what the person puts in the middle of the template that mostly just has to do with whatever you allow them to do or not. That's usually a given with any CMS and not something that cascade does any better then the rest that I think of.

And embedding is pretty much a given as well, I can't think of a system where copying the embed code is not possible. But what would be nice is if the user can be given the option to be able to get information from those other places (like your youtube channel, another media server, or file share) and just click and embed like they can in other systems. This isn't an out of the box feature I expect but I expect to be able to add something like this if I please. I've not looked into version 6 to see if this has changed but wasn't possible when I previously looked into it.

I also expect that features that are added and touted are actually of significant value. When I heard that version 5 was adding the ability to publish to a DB I was super stoked, I thought it was going to make it possible to actually do a lot of things that were limited before because I could just take and take those data defs and use them for a kind of data entry into the DB. I thought of how this would have been great to get a round a LOT of the issues we had with content for the athletics site. When we went to 5 after all the bugs were worked out I looked at the feature to find it was basically pointless and no better then the XML dumps that we were already doing. I couldn't specify a schema that the data would go into the DB or any other kind of useful thing. You basically just had a blob of XML in another place. I can see some use of having the file structure (especially if using the web services so don't have to generate from that) but overall this is just a bullet point feature to advertise more then really help.

Alright, last thing till I get a reply :)

One other thing you mention is how great the WP connector is, what you don't know (and probably by time you were getting the sales pitch they stopped saying it) is that they use to tell you that you didn't need to run your blogs through Wordpress because you could do it all through the CMS. They even had example code that showed you how to use the Web Services to get comments and put it into the system. It was a horrible concept but I guess they now have had to admit defeat on that one by creating the connector.

Is cascade a decent "enterprise" CMS, yeah. But there are much better options that give way more actual flexibility and allow the user experience to be customized even better. I know I probably have a higher standard then most when it comes to this but people also need to better understand the system before they are committed to it. Things sound a lot better then the reality of what they are. I'm glad the system works for you and your users, it's not been that way over here. People need to know these details so they can make a better informed purchase and they won't get that from the sales pitch they get, we for sure didn't get what we expected.
I haven't had this much fun discussing something on the web in years. :)

I guess it comes down to expectations. So far, Cascade has met and surpassed my expectations and has met every need my institution has thrown at it.

And I'm sorry to hear Cascade hasn't been the right fit for your users. But that doesn't mean it's the wrong fit for Jon or for others. (And yes, it doesn't mean its the right fit either).

To date, I've found Cascade to be fast to work with, stable, easy to train users on overall a positive experience. Each new version brings additional capabilities and features that are useful for our university.

As mentioned, I'm not a tech guy, so getting into the ins and out of one implementation is not my forte. But I do find it interesting how we seem to have vastly difference experiences when it comes to Cascade's speed, ease of upgrades, etc.

All that being said, I've thoroughly enjoyed this discussion. And I have cribbed some ideas for the future.
Well it's nice to have these conversations in a more civilized place then what happens in the comments of most sites. It feels like it happens less and less all the time.

The expectations thing is exactly the point. And things may have changed on Hannon Hill's side on what they are saying it will do so yours were not as high as mine. Though in their defense I have rather high standards when it comes to these kinds of things. For me it was just the number of things that turned out to be half truths and just doing enough on something to give yourself a checkmark on your features table.

I just want to make sure that he's got the full scope of what things mean before they get locked in. I know when they pitched us it seemed like the best thing in the world. There was no real way for me to know any of it till after months of playing in the system and seeing what could/couldn't/shouldn't be done in the system that I had my bubble popped. As well I know part of our user issue has been that they were basically told by the higher ups that this was going to be the silver bullet to make everything better.

And really I hope others list the flaws with other systems they use. Because we are normally given tons of positive fake press from the company itself that hearing the issues is usually more important.
Actually just saw this come across my news feed and thought I would share since I mentioned WP already once.

http://publisherblog.automattic.com/2010/01/19/wordpress-cms-wnet-org/
http://tierra-innovation.com/wordpress-cms/

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