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Drupal

Drupal is an open source content management system. The core system can be extended with a huge range of 'modules'. Modules can also be created to meet specific needs - so it provides endless possibilities for customisation.

The system is maintained and developed by a community of 630,000+ users. It is distributed under the GNU Genenal Public License (GPL) which means it is free to download and share. This means the system and its modules are being constantly developed. Development is guided by a set of principles to encourage common standards.

Costs and Benefits

Whilst the system itself is freely available and it is possible to put together a website with little or no programming the system is complex. The core package provides the essentials for a basic website but additional (contributed) modules are needed in most cases. Working out which modules to use - sometimes there are several to choose from, so that can mean evaluating each one - can be time-consuming. Modules also need to be configured to meet the particular needs of a project. For a simple content managed site Drupal may be a bit of a 'sledge-hammer to crack a nut'.

As an open source system Drupal code is also avaliable to potential hackers. For this reason there are frequent updates to address security issues as and when they arise. Therefore, Drupal is not maintenance free - it is important to keep the system up to date and to back sites up regularly.

Ongoing updates to the core system and modules for security or other reasons can also mean some loss of control of the development cycle. There is potential for conflicts to arise between modules or for updates to become out of sync - for example, if a module is no longer maintained. For this reason it can be useful to have a mirror site where updates can be tested before deploying on a production site.

However, on balance Drupal provides a robust platform. The wide range of modules means that there will be at least one option for most purposes. I would recommended Drupal for medium to large websites.

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