The Economist’s Transition to Open Source Web Content Management

The Economist, the well-known print periodical that covers politics and global affairs from a fairly academic level, has maintained an online presence since 1996. However, until 2008, www.economist.com was regarded as a web-based companion to the print edition that offered some online-exclusive content but was more or less a requisite internet-hub for a journal with an established reputation.

However, in 2008, The Economist made a strategic decision to turn its online component into a more community-driven, content-rich, dynamic forum in which contributors, readers, and guests could shape quality debate about the topics with which the periodical is usually concerned. In order to accomplish this, The Economist had to make bold decisions with its web infrastructure.

First of all, The Economist developers involved in the transition (split across three teams around the globe) had to transition the site away from its proprietary content management system (CMS) and adopt Drupal instead. Drupal was chosen for its ability to handle the scale of changes that would be necessary to make the site more contributor-driven as well as for its comprehensive set of existing modules.

Second, the developers had to choose a methodology for effectively launching the upgraded site in a timely manner. They decided upon Agile project management with Scrum, which typically allows for rapid development that is balanced out with thorough code review and peer collaboration.

Finally, the developers were met with the challenge of transitioning the website in stages so that the legacy CMS could remain partially in place and be iteratively replaced by value-added features of the new system. This meant a change in hosting structure as at first the new features could be delivered via proxy and then gradually moved into sub domains until completion of the new system.

The results of all these efforts have been notable. The modern online version of The Economist is regarded as one of the best examples of Drupal engineering and receives 6.5 million unique visitors worldwide.

SQL Injection and Content Management Systems: What Webmasters Should Know

Content management systems (CMS) are amazing and convenient platforms for creating high-quality, customizable websites in a short amount of time. The leading CMS software projects, WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, all have built a great deal of useful technology on projects that started out small (for instance, Drupal evolved from a message board). They can be used to readily solve most of the common challenges faced by a fully-functioning website. However, the commonality of that technology means that CMS systems can become targets of well-known attack techniques. One such technique is SQL injection and it has especially become a common headache for WordPress site administrators.

SQL injection is a technique almost as old as databases. SQL can be considered the universal standard language for interacting with databases. It was created with the goal of making it easy to communicate with database systems without the need fo r programming. It was also made to resemble human language as much as possible (in fact in was originally called SEQUEL (Structured English Query Language). However, it has often been used by programmers to allow their programs to automatically communicate with databases as well. What often happens is that programmers take shortcuts with SQL that make development easier, but leave glaring security holes, and sometimes allow an attacker to insert entire queries to the database that overtake the system.

The popularity of WordPress has made it a common target for injection attacks. It is open source, written in PHP, and uses MySQL as its database. MySQL also happens to be one of the most used and well-known databases, meaning that its vulnerabilities are also well-known. Fortunately, the WordPress open source community generally works hard to provide updates and fix es to all compromised components whenever such a round of attacks occurs. This is why it is essential for a web administrator to constantly keep up with updates to all themes and plugins that are used to enhance WordPress and other CMS systems, and stay updated on the latest fixes needed to keep websites secure.

Document Management Systems Go To The Cloud

The concept of document management systems usually elicits thoughts of endless streams of text stored away in a massive online system. However, today’s content, especially when referenced in the enterprise world, can also indicate rich audiovisual presentations as well as digitized materials from just about every source.

According to MS Dynamics World, zettabytes of information, were created by the world. By 2020, it is projected that 50 times that amount will be produced. Storage of all of that information will certainly be a growing dilemma. So just where is all of this content going to be stored in a secure way where it can be accessed quickly and easily?

This is where the cloud can help enterprise content management. With a hybrid cloud storage, a combination of public and private storage solutions can be used to manage content. In this situation, file sharing capabilities are granted to employees for access to the content they need. Files in the cloud can be more easily managed since they all reside in one organized location rather than being fragmented in separate systems with their own security levels.  Content storage in the cloud allows for more efficient collaboration. Users can view, update, and share content from their desktops anywhere and anytime.

Many companies have caught onto content storage in the cloud. In a study by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), 42 percent of those companies surveyed have developed plans to deploy content to the cloud with 20 percent planning on moving all of their content.

It’s plain to see how cloud content management systems can help solve the information overload problem. They can be rapidly deployed at a reasonable cost, do not need capital funds since they are subscription-based, have pre-built applications, and the content is more secure.

It’s no wonder that analyst firm Gartner states that cloud providers to grow faster than on-premise enterprise content management software vendors

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