Open source web content management systems are starting to gain some traction in the enterprise as the ever growing need to be cost conscience continues.

Most organizations are looking for a single solution to manage multiple sites -- whether they be microsites for marketing campaigns or fully fledged websites. This means multi-site management capabilities are becoming a critical differentiator for Web CMS solutions.

But not all multi-site management capabilities are created equal. We took a look at the multi-site management capabilities of three of the most popular open source web content management systems and this is what we found.

Multi-site management has been a difficult aspect of content management to master for the open source community. And although this is changing with various recent releases and updates, it's not clear which of the popular options we considered -- Drupal, Joomla! or Plone -- is doing it better.

In a recent article on CMS Watch, Tony Byrne contrasts Joomla! and Drupal on the multi-site management front. But according to public comments on the article, the question has been raised as to whether or not Plone may be the better option.

Open Source Options for Multi-site Management

With the debate ongoing, a fresh look at each option and how it stacks up against the others is needed. That way your business will be able to determine which option will work best for your needs.

Keep in mind that as all three are open source platforms, third-party plug-ins will provide some if not all of the multi-site management functionality.

Plone Multi-site Management Capabilities

Plone (news, site) is an open source Web CMS with good standing in the industry. The Python- and Zope-based system runs on Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, FreeBSD and Solaris. It also integrates with LDAP, SQL, SOAP, Web Services (WSDL) and WebDAV.

With built-in workflows, quality security and scalability, Plone is a robust and mature open source web content management system.

In regards to multi-site management, Plone has what it takes. According to Scott Paley of the Plone Foundation and consulting firm Abstract Edge,

“Plone has the ability to set up sub-folders with their own workflows, user permissions, internal search and themes. Plone 3.3 is about to be released and will add features that allow you to set up separate navigations on a per-folder basis. In Plone, a folder can be set up as a sub-site. There is an add-on product available now called Lineage which makes this process really painless.

So, as of Plone 3.3 it will be very easy to set up a single Plone instance that will run any number of sub-sites, each with their own look-and-feel (this requires an add-on product), different navigations, different portlets, separate content for listing pages, separate internal search, separate workflows and permissions, and separate user dashboards. Each sub-site can truly be set up as 'separate', and this is easy to do.”

Lineage for Plone

Lineage, developed by Six Feet Up, is described as a microsite creation product for Plone. It allows sub-folders to act as independent Plone sites which can then be managed through the Plone interface.

The software creates what Six Feet Up calls a hub and spoke structure in which the parent site can access and view all child sites but child sites are restricted to their own content.