I’m working on 2 simultaneous project using WPMU. One is a BuddyPress implementation for the “university community” project. The other is using WPMU as CMS for an entire institution. This is what I’m going to briefly address here… I’ll also be documenting the process along the way.
Where we were:
When I took over 4 years ago the University web presence was 16k+ disjointed static pages using html “templates” with FrontPage as the software of choice. Various departmental staff were occasionally getting online and updating information. The result was a set of template files (images and all) for each department, broken links, and outdated Word and PDF documents where site managers had downloaded copies from another department into their site content rather than just pointing to the appropriate place. Though, in their defense, with every file being named XYZ-form-2005.ext it wouldn’t have mattered if they’d pointed to the right place, so what was the point? Oh yes, and until me there was NO dedicated web staff…nada.
From then until now:
There have been a couple of versions of things since then. I initially brought everything together using .asp includes for a quick and dirty unified template, installed a document repository to organize all of the .doc, .pdf, .xls, etc. documents together in one place, and took content control away from the departments. I needed to get a grasp on what was really out there, what was really needed, and do *something* while I researched more long-term solutions.
As is usually the situation in reactive institutions like mine, something happened that spurred a change. We had an orientation program come into being that was going to require a LOT of site updates. I chose to put that site in WordPress so I could train the appropriate staff to make the updates and free myself from the day to day responsibility. It worked beautifully…and someone found out. Long story short, I’ve been putting new departmental site builds in WP for a year and it’s been very well accepted. Most of the departmental staff again responsible for their site content have been very happy, easily trained, and not required much additional hand-holding. I’ve done software updates and the occasional support call…not bad. I did this knowing it was an interim step and I was essentially putting our site content in an exportable format for whatever CMS we chose in the future.
First, our internal systems weren’t WP friendly for a variety of reasons. We’re a Windows shop with limited resources, pretty crappy bandwidth and no real PHP/MySql expertise available to us. This led me to buy external hosting for testing purposes which ended up hosting the majority of our web presence when the WP wave hit. It wasn’t intended to go that way, but it did. Our IT dept. has been very gracious about it, but the director has always wanted these sites moved back on campus…and back onto the .edu.
Second, I’m running individual WP installs. When I started this WPMU wasn’t ready and couldn’t do what I needed it to do…or at least I wasn’t ready to figure it out completely.
Third, our .edu has to point to our primary Win server for a variety of reasons. There are still legacy .asp apps out there that serve a purpose, as well as a lot of /directories that can’t just disappear. Today the homepage and a few other key pages site on this machine, with links out to the rest of the site. IIS on this machine also does a whole lotta virtual directory redirecting.
In the last couple of years significant upgrades have been made to our IT infrastructure. We’ve upgraded our bandwidth, bolstered IT staff, setup virtual servers, and generally improved our ability to adequately serve and support the site(s). Today we’re in process of setting up a Linux virtual server, MySql server, and a duplicate test space upon which to install, test, and manage WMPU as a full CMS for the University.
The install will be on a subdomain, web.saumag.edu, with each site on a directory, web.saumag.edu/communications. I’ve been struggling with the state of the homepage, as there are some things I could much more easily achieve with WP, but a Windows install isn’t really the best option. I’m seriously thinking of making the primary WPMU blog the homepage, and just setting a permanent redirect on the Win box default.php page. This will only affect the “home” page while allowing the random .asp pages and faculty site directories to function normally.
I expect I’ll be installing WPMU in the next week or so, as soon as I get the access and go-ahead from ITS. I’ll post when I know how that goes.