When Written: Aug 2003
verdict A mid priced content management system build on Cold Fusion, very flexible and fast, which allows considerable customising.
Content Management systems are a considerable growth area for software houses, with many new programs appearing almost every week. Many of these are very expensive, placing them in the realm of the larger corporates for the maintenance of their web sites. The subject of this review, SHADO is created by a New Zealand company that goes under the interesting title of Straker Interactive. For you followers of Gerry Anderson (Thunderbirds creator) series, you will be familiar with the SHADO Corporation headed by one Ed Straker in the series UFO, so donning our string vest and purple wig we will take a look at SHADO MX the content management solution!
The reason for the ‘MX’ suffix becomes obvious as soon as you discover that SHADO is built using Macromedia’s Cold Fusion. It is this approach to development that gives SHADO its main strengths, that of flexibility and a large already installed user base of programmers. The developers of SHADO decided at an early stage to allow programming ‘hooks’ on every possible event. This means that should some functionality be required, then a Cold Fusion programmer can add it quite easily. There is always a danger that the developers use this as an excuse for not providing all the necessary functionality ‘out of the box’. This is not the case with SHADO as it is a very versatile and well functioned product. My only real criticism in this area being that there is no way to limit the maximum file size that users can upload to a web site. Even products such as the £69 Contribute from Macromedia offer this and it is a worthwhile safeguard to stop users putting large images on your web site and consequentially damaging the performance of it. Of course you could always write some code to do this but…
Whilst checking through the specification of SHADO one is aware that many of the quoted ‘features’ are inherited from the fact that it is built on Cold Fusion, it is standards based, open platform, has a full text search engine and an easy Web Service capability. As all these come from Cold Fusion we shall take all that as read for this review and concentrate on what SHADO itself offers. The main reason for putting a Content Management System in place is so that you can allow other people to add and edit content to your web site in a controlled way. This control consists of an edit and approval system so that a user’s edited document is passed to a ‘publisher’ who can then approve or decline the edit, the document will then either be published on the web site or passed back to the user for re-editing.
Two other features of this type of work flow are a system of ‘rollback’ and an audit trail. Rollback allows a user to revert to a previous version of a page, very useful for those ‘oh whoops!’ moments! All these changes are tracked in the audit trail system which can provide reports showing the version history and the people involved in editing a particular document. This can be very important for companies who are working to a quality control standard. SHADO handles all this very well in an easily to use, well thought out user interface. The degree of versioning and approval control is limited compared to some other products, however Straker make an upgraded version for those who need it, the details of which are outside this review. With SHADO there are two main user roles, Content Editors and Content Publishers, there is also a ‘Super User’ who can bypass the approval system and publish documents instantly, which enables the webmaster to publish changes quickly without going through the approval process if necessary.
Users are added to groups and can be assigned permissions to allow editing to certain areas of the web site, which can be as granular as allowing editing to just a defined area of a page. The web site is displayed in a familiar ‘explorer tree’ form, so it is easy for users to navigate, with reusable library objects that users can drag and drop on to a page. Whilst using SHADO I was struck by how easy and versatile it is, the easy way that code can be added makes for some powerful customisation. However I did find myself asking the question, is that all there is for the money? Whilst SHADO is certainly a lower cost player in the market place, it is a market place that is swamped with very high priced products. The level of approval and editing control it offers is probably not enough for larger organisations, and the price still excludes it from the smaller players. In summary it is a nice product that works well and is very versatile, its just its price and its market position that leaves doubts.
Ease of Use 5/6
Value for Money 3/6
|CPU||Windows Pentium 400+|
Linux – Pentium 400+
|Pentium II 700+ recommended for Windows|
|Hard Drive Space||100MB||Total install package is around 10MB|
|Supported Operating Systems||Windows 2000|
|Linux Red Hat 7.3+|
|ColdFusion Server||ColdFusion Server MX(Professional/Enterprise)|
ColdFusionMX for SunONE
ColdFusionMX for Websphere
|Web Server Software||Internet Information Services|
IBM HTTP Server
|Database Server||Microsoft SQL Server 2000|
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton