Ektron/EPiSERVER and Drupal often have two very different approaches to solving the same problems. From a fundamental level, the difference between a proprietary, licensed piece of software (EPiSERVER), versus an open source one (Drupal), means that each are going to find favor with those subscribing to different philosophies about which is best, most stable, and most secure.
This article is going to discuss what it means to convert your CMS from one platform to another and some considerations to make when doing so. We’re going to take a look specifically at an Ektron to Drupal conversion in this article, though many issues and considerations can apply to any CMS replatforming.
In January of 2015, Ektron was in version 9.x of its software, and it was announced that Accell-KKR, a private equity firm specializing in technology was combining Ektron and the Swedish company EPiSERVER into a single company and CMS platform.
In some ways this was good news. Ektron had higher penetration in the United States. EPiSERVER had higher usage outside the U.S., primarily in Europe, as well as a more sophisticated e-commerce platform and overall editing interface. The marriage of these two platforms would provide a large user base with a better product.
While this promise is still true, many Ektron users have been reluctant to upgrade to EPiSERVER, with often higher costs of licensing, and a general wariness of the true benefits of doing so. Ektron had long fallen behind in terms of its admin user interface and was regarded by many as behind the times when it came to making it easy to keep websites up to date.
Also, over the last several years, open source alternatives such as WordPress and Drupal had made major inroads in areas that had primarily shunned anything “open,” with everyone from governmental entities to financial services and other risk-averse organizations embracing the open source community instead of relying as much on proprietary, licensed software.
Issues to consider before a conversion
Content Migration is always a major consideration. There is a very specific and recommended way to do this using Ektron. Using the XLIFF (XML Localisation Interchange File Format) files available through the language export feature, you are able to get the current content of your site, even if you don’t have a multilingual one. Through a little manipulation, this makes the content migration process relatively straightforward, especially into a CMS like Drupal.
Another question to ask yourself is if you are doing a full website redesign, or simply changing the technology platform. Ektron had some very particular ways of handling template-level items such as responsive/adaptive, so in some cases you may find yourself doing a little bit of work from scratch to get the front-end templates just right. If you are doing a full redesign, you would need to do this anyway, however.
Existing technology infrastructure is another major consideration to make when doing a CMS replatforming. Many organizations currently using Ektron have a Windows infrastructure already. We’ve seen an Ektron to Drupal conversion work even for these organizations. Many times they adopt a Drupal-centric hosting platform like Acquia that takes the infrastructure maintenance off of their internal staff, and provides robust uptime and technical support when needed.
Of course, there are other CMS choices out there for you, even if you’re dead set on abandoning Ektron and the EPiServer upgrade pathway. You might also consider other .NET-based alternatives such as Kentico (a lower-priced alternative to EPiSERVER which has made great strides lately) or Sitecore. Obviously, you may also choose to upgrade to EPiSERVER as well. It certainly should be a consideration since you are already on the Ektron platform.
Benefits of a conversion
There are many benefits of converting to Drupal, in this author’s opinion. First, the open source Drupal community is an amazing resource. While WordPress boasts more users in its community, both the platform itself and its developer community do not provide the same level of support for the enterprise customer that Drupal has been courting heavily over the last decade, to much success.
Drupal balances being easy to use with allowing robust functionality and integration with other systems. An Ektron user is going to be amazed at how far CMS admin interfaces have come in the last decade upon first glance at Drupal. Drupal 8 takes this a step further, even, and should be a pleasant surprise to all.
Development costs and time should also decrease simply because of the ease of use of the Drupal platform, and the high availability of modules and integrations already available in the community.
If you are a big fan of Ektron’s eSync, you will want to choose a good Drupal hosting platform. Something like either Acquia or Pantheon will give you access to a literal drag and drop interface between Development, Staging and Production environments for content and code. This make it extremely easy to deploy for even non-technical users, and really takes eSync to a new level.
In general, even if you don’t upgrade to Drupal, you should choose a CMS which has an easier administration interface, and from there you will need to prioritize what is important for you. Take into account your internal technical resources and your long-term needs. Do you use all of the functionality within Ektron? Which features would youmiss if they were gone tomorrow? Make sure the CMS you are moving to has these features available.
Hopefully this article has both demonstrated how an Ektron to Drupal conversion can work, but also some of the considerations to make when performing this work. You can see that there are several benefits of moving to Drupal, should you choose that option. Good luck with your CMS conversion!