The newest trend in enterprise content management (ECM) is an open source alternative. Alfresco, founded by Documentum Co-Founder John Newton, is the current leader of the open source alternative ECM. The system merges innovative open source capabilities with the classic enterprise-class platform.
The benefit of an open source ECM platform is its ability to use the highest quality open source technologies, as well as take advantage of contributions from the open source community. This allows users to access the most quality software at the lowest cost. Alfresco claims to be five times faster than traditional closed systems and ten times cheaper. Alfresco’s speed and cost efficiency is accomplished by using the latest open source infrastructure components including: Spring, Hibernate, Lucene, MyFaces and based on Aspect-Oriented-Programming.
Benefits of using an open source ECM solution include the low upfront investment cost offered through the subscription model; the time effective simplicity of the rapid deployment and application development gained through utilizing pre-built components and lightweight scripting; and the flexibility of being able to choose and have no obligation to one single vendor. Through engaging customers, Alfresco gains mass contributions from internal and external users, enabling reusable Web Scripts and low cost massive scalability using commodity software and hardware. Alfresco’s latest release, Labs 3.0, allows users to build websites using familiar programs with drag and drop ease through its new Web Studio functionality.
Open source platforms tend to offer more easily customized functionality. With minimal subscription cost, the revenue saved can be spent on services that most identically match the business needs at a lower cost. With open source, organizations have the flexibility to tweak a program to their needs without making a large investment on a very complex, heavily customized solution that takes a large team to run and maintain. Also, with larger, licensed ECM solutions, companies often utilize only a small portion of the out-of-the-box functionality the system provides. Open source components allow users to assemble solutions based on their exact need without investing in up-front licenses.
As opposed to wasting time reinventing the wheel, open source solutions are often based on established standards, or built on top of other open source projects. It is much more efficient for an open source community to build upon a previously established standard than to develop a proprietary solution from scratch. This is one of the key benefits of mass collaboration provided by an open source community.
Another key benefit of an open source system is visibility to source code, which is invaluable when troubleshooting or customizing. Accessibility to the entire user community allows users to help each other by sharing enhancements or bug fixes. Software releases are available as they are being developed, and users are able to provide influential feedback to aid with their development. Users have direct access to documentation on infrastructure issues, as well as direct access to users with expertise on the system and its issues. The open source community helps to advance each other by sharing technical information, product road maps and low-level planning through wikis and discussion forums. Additionally, the open source developers are often active participants in the community and project discussions, providing a valuable support resource.
Open source solutions have taken a dominant stand in the industry and are proving to provide better stability, faster performance, improved security and shorter implementation time. These advantages are all a direct result of the benefits of utilizing the vast knowledge and contributions of a large community. Open source ECM solutions have proven to be a testament to the benefit of collaboration on a massive scale and a prime example of the power of shared knowledge.