Portals Vs CMS


Portal & Content Management target different set of enterprise requirements however at times making this choice become a bit difficult because of the nature of the requirement – in such cases where you can customise one to simulate the offerings of the other. I’ve seen a lot of organizations having similar requirements and some of them have made the wrong choices. So I’m trying to highlight some of the key points one needs to keep in mind while taking such decisions.

Before we get into the core issue, let’s have a quick overview of both these products

Portal: Literally a portal means an entrance, door for a structure; in science fictions it means an entrance / access door to a whole new world. But then in the world that we are – portal means a single point access to consolidated & personalised information. And the easiest way to put a portal in place is leveraging the portal products offerings from IBM, BEA, Oracle, ATG, JBoss, etc. These products provide a host of features & services that help in the rapid development of a robust, secure & an intuitive portal.

All these services though come at a price – in terms of system overheads – so one had to keep in mind the trade off between resources and the extent to which these services can & will be leveraged.

Content Management System (CMS): As the term itself suggests, its is all about managing the Content which primarily means information, be it structured or unstructured. A CMS helps managing the content through its lifecycle; this content can exist in various forms like email, documents, records, faxes, media, scanned documents, web images, HTMLs etc.

So what are these requirements?

When you have a web portal requirement and you have a CMS already available to you

CMS provides you with Web Content Management (WCM) capabilities to deliver the content to the user - content that's dynamic or that changes frequently.

What you need to consider is :

  • Is the portal just delivery static content to the users?
    • If the answer is yes, you’d just be better off with your CMS tool. You can use it to direclty sever the content to the user or have it publish the static content on you web server which intern serves it to the users.
  • Is the content delivered to the user is dynamic – if so then is it for the fact that the content being served is unique to the individual accessing the portal or the nature of organisation business is such that the content keeps changing ?
    • If the content is dynamic because the data is customized for the users, then you need to look at the Portal solution as it provides out of the box personalisation & customisation features. If the users can groups and the content server based on the user group, CMS tools can be made to server content based on individual group. However if the # of groups/users is very large, it will require a quite a bit of effort. In that case you'd better off with a Portal.
    • If the org business is such that the content changes frequently (eg: NEWS portals), you may consider a CMS for the fact that the same content is server to almost all users. In this case portal services will not be utilised and may just add to system overheads.
  • Do you want the user to be able to customise the portal to individual preference
    • If the individual user to able to mange his personalised experience on the website - what information he sees; where on the page and how he sees it; Portal services will help. If you intend achieving similar features with a CMS, you would end up reinventing the wheel.
  • What is the source of the data that needs to be presented to the customer
    • Portal is inherently for aggregating information (primarily structured data) from various sources while CMS is for unstructured content from different repositories.
  • Is content delivery the only objective of the portal?
    • If the answer is yes, look at a CMS
    • If not, then you may look at Portal and if need be integrate it with a CMS